Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Lord, Do Not Forgive Them, For They Know Exactly What They Are Doing

Nehemiah 4:1-5   Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?”  Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building–if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.

Christ prayed from the cross that His Father might forgive those who crucified Him.  That was probably a pretty good sized crowd, by the way.  All the mockers and  scorners there.  Later on the Day of Pentecost, Peter would tell the crowd that they crucified Christ by the hands of wicked men.  And then it was from that crowd that some 3,000 were saved.  I suspect this would not have happened had not Christ prayed for His elect from the cross. He prayed for them — for they know not what they do.  Similarly, Paul told Timothy that the Lord showed him mercy because he acted ignorantly in unbelief when he persecuted Christ’s church.

But here in Nehemiah 4, another godly man is being jeered and persecuted by wicked men.  And he prays for them as well.  Only his prayer is much different – Return their reproach on their own heads…give them up for plunder…do not forgive their iniquity and let not their sin be blotted out before You….  What is this all about?  Maybe Nehemiah was being too human and thus unkind and unforgiving?


Nehemiah’s prayer was a good and righteous prayer.  The context makes that clear.  When wicked, evil people set out to destroy the work of the Lord, and they do so knowing full well that it is the work of the Lord, it is right to pray that the Lord judge them.  Nehemiah’s prayer was just like the many imprecatory Psalms that are prayers calling upon the Lord to destroy His enemies.  And I would maintain that victims of abusers have every right before God to pray these very kinds of prayers when they feel moved to do so.  We should ALL be praying these kinds of prayers regularly.  Let’s face up to it — evil people abound within our churches.  They hide behind their facades while they carry out their wickedness unseen.  Sexual abusers of children.  Abusers of their spouses.  Power and control hungry Diotrephes types looking to lure the whole flock into following them.  The Word of God has some pretty rough words for these kind:

Jude 1:12-13,” These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; (13) wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.”

There are people who are worse than your average sinner.  Without conscience.  Charming.  And very dangerous to our souls.

So why is it not quite appropriate then for all of us, including pastors in their pastoral prayers in the worship service, to be praying — “Lord, do not forgive such people who lurk about as hidden reefs in the fellowship of Your people.  Rise up, O Lord!  Expose them and bring them to nothing.  Bring their evil down upon their own heads and give us the wisdom to recognize it when You do so.”?  We should all pray for our churches that the Light of the world would bring hidden things to light.

We sing “Shine, Jesus, Shine!”  Do we really understand the implications of that prayer?  When the Light of Christ shines among us, it has a way of turning things upside down.


Slapping you with The Gossip Card


We All Begin in Naivete About Evil — But We Must Not Stay There


  1. Gabi

    Hi, I have been wanting to get in touch with you and maybe in the future stop by. It has been almost 2 years since I escaped my ex of 30 years personafies the Jude scripture above. He is still teaching at a pulpit. I was kicked out and villified, while he is playing the victim. I still struggle with anxiety attacks, fear, etc. He took all .. physically, emotionally and materially. But I have the Lord and He has sustained and is building me back up. I pray for healing for myself and for evil to be exposed and for the Lord to open the eyes of the ones he is deceving but the Lord has impressed upon me not to pray for him anymore I have prayed but my eyes are now to be on the Lord. I struggle with that but we have to let go after we have prayed and put the person in God’s hands. Disciplining our minds and move forward..hard.. difficult.. painful but not impossible with God. Blessings Gab

    • Jeff Crippen

      Gabi – You are courageous. Thank you for commenting. We would love to have you visit. We begin Sundays at 9:30am and then the worship service at 11am. It is hard to let them go, for sure but you are correct in what you say here. 30 years of being subjected to a wolf in wool has lingering effects that do not disappear overnight, so we understand. The anxiety attacks, the vilification – we know them all too well. But Christ is our Healer and Sustainer.

    • Lynn

      Thank you for sharing Gabi. I’m sorry that you’ve had to go through so much pain from someone who was supposed to love you and model Christ to his flock.

      You don’t have to pray for his salvation. His unrepentant behavior reveals the true nature of his heart. If you do feel led to pray for him, I’d encourage you to pray something similar to what Nehemiah prayed. You can also search this site for insights into imprecatory prayer. Pastor Crippen posted a template I wrote that may be of help if you are looking for a bit more structure when praying imprecatory prayers.

      While my abuse didn’t come from being married, I do understand the pain and heartache of nearly 4 decades of abuse from the hands of my entire family before going no contact, and multiple abusive situations with regards to people who’ve professed to be Christians. I know it’s a challenge to overcome the physiological responses that we carry as a result of being abused, but it can be done. In scripture, we are called to renew our minds. While I heartily agree that learning how to study scripture so we can grow in wisdom and not remain baby Christians is vital, I also believe there is a psychological component that needs to be addressed to help our bodies learn how to stop being triggered so that we feel like we are stuck in fight, flight, or freeze. The overstimulation of our body being stuck in fight/flight/freeze causes us to get sick, feel anxious, and live in an unhealthy state of fear.

      For me learning how to resolve internal conflicts, replace limiting beliefs that my subconscious was holding onto because that was all it knew has helped me to continue to heal my mind. Science has discovered that your subconscious mind controls 95% of your actions and reactions. So if our subconscious minds are holding onto lies and negative behavioral patterns that were inflicted on us as a result of chronic abuse, we have to rewrite those scripts in order to heal. And we can.

      Look for a trauma-informed therapist that is focused on more body-based work. Learning how to breathe deeply can help with anxiety, panic attacks, and trauma-related stress. Neuro-Linguistic Programming has a couple of techniques that I’ve found to be useful. They are a limiting belief change exercise and a resolving internal conflict exercise.

      You’re doing the right thing, Gabi. Even when it hurts. Even if others in your family or church don’t get it. I get it. God gets it and is proud of you for taking that stand for righteousness and saying no more. Let the scriptures comfort and guide you as you continue to heal. There is wisdom, healing, and hope for you. Just keep persevering. God will make everything beautiful in His time, even the hell we’ve endured.

      Be blessed.

  2. Molly

    How many times do leaders and individuals of the church read through those books and passages, yet the truth of it gets glossed over and goes right over their/our heads? I know I have. Relearning these passages have been a real eyeopener for me. We are taught to take it to mean those in the world outside of the church but never that it could very easily be the worshiper right beside us or behind the pulpit. We are taught to never call out a person in the church because, well, if they are going to church it must be because they desire to grow closer to God, just like you! So, we are told to “mind your own log because we are all sinners” and ignore the evil behind the curtain.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Absolutely true! It seems to be the unpardonable sin in churches to ever doubt that a person is the Christian they claim to be. And yet the Bible commands us to test the spirits because there are antichrists all around.

  3. Be free…..

    Thank you Pastor Crippen for clearing this up. I cannot even begin to tell you the agony of the spiritual abuse at hands of those who used Jesus’s words as swords to gut me following the evil choices of the abuser – and all those that backed him as he sought to destroy me and rally their wicked “Christian” support of such a charming “Christian” abuser – yes, a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    Thank you, with every ounce of my river of tears, thank you.

  4. Innoscent

    Recently I was listening to a pastor’s sermon on video when he quoted from a psalm by David, totally agreeing with the words. As he kept on reading where the psalmist switched to an imprecatory resquest, what a surprise to hear the pastor declare that David was now speaking “in the flesh”.
    What.. ??!
    He quickly brushed it aside and kept “preaching” (words holier than David, right?).

    Imprecatory prayer is another subject left aside, untaught at the theological seminary… let alone in churches. They don’t want to go there because it means they’d have to study Evil, Abuse, Discipline, Justice, Truth, and also to stand for the victims. The Laodicean scales would have to fall off their eyes.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yes. Very typical. So I bet this preacher says it is sin for us to call on the Lord to bring His fury down upon Putin. Just love him, you know.

  5. Jacob

    Amen! Why is it so hard for people to understand that without repentance there is no redemption? People who know the truth, who were once enlightened, and tasted the heavenly gifts, who were partakers of The Holy Spirit, and the Power of Lord God almighty and refuse to repent are Reprobate! Sin against the Holy Spirit of the living God will not be forgiven in this age or the age to come.

    Hebrews 6
    Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.
    For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
    For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.


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