Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Do we Really Want to be Well?

Gen 12:1-4 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. (2) And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. (3) I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (4) So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

I want to talk today about a subject that is very easily misunderstood – and I do not want you to misunderstand. I know very well, very, very well, that leaving an abuser or other evil relationship is not only not easy, it is often for the moment not even possible. What I am about to say here is NOT meant to guilt-trip any victim whose doors to escape are for the present time not open.

But what I do want to say is as in the title above – “do you want to be made well?” That is to say, do you want to leave the bondage? Do you want to leave Egypt? Or in the end, is your choice to stay in Egypt eating those leeks and garlic that the enemy has duped you into thinking look pretty good in contrast to the unknown of walking by faith through the Red Sea?

I have worked with many, many victims of domestic abusers and others who are targets of some other evil family member, employer, church leader, etc. While the majority hesitate to leave for a time because they really haven’t come to realize what abuse is and what is really happening to them, there are some who, having seen the abuse with clarity, choose to stay in it. These are the ones who do not want to be made well.

Why do such people choose to stay? There are numbers of reasons. Financial security is a common one I have seen. These people are married to a wealthy person and they are living pretty well. They don’t want to leave because it will mean giving up the money. I had one such person tell me, “I would be a fool to leave all of this.” And that just after pleading with me to help her deal with her abusive “christian” husband. By the way – if you pour your energy into trying to help this kind, in the end I guarantee you, they will hate you. YOU will be the guilty one for myriads of reasons they dream up.

Another reason for refusing to leave in cases like this is related to the money, but it has to do with reputation. Image. Being married to their abuser who happens to be a big man in the community means the “name” will rub off onto her (or sometimes him). And another “by the way,” – eventually anyone who tries to help such a victim will also end up being the bad guy because the counterfeit nature of the reputation will begin to be exposed.

You know, the Lord Jesus had this to say to us:

Mat 10:34-39 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. (35) For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. (36) And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. (37) Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (38) And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (39) Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

So, to abuse victims who want to leave and when they eventually can leave, This is the challenge. Will you obey Christ and follow HIM? Are you willing to pay the price to enter into His freedom? Or will you choose to stay back in Egypt chewing on onions and garlic and telling yourself you are eating filet mignon? Will you believe the Lord, or will you yield to unbelief and choose to reject His good promises?


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  1. AGain, also not wanting to victim blame either, however, could there be an element of DARVO in the situation described of the one who gets mad at you for helping? That the culture has got the victim & the abuser swapped in their minds? Bob Hamp of tdacad is right now doing a weekly you-tube series on this very idea; I think it was the topic last Tuesday – He was about on week 4 this week so there have been a few sessions already that i found really helpful.

  2. Carol

    Oh Jeff you do understand this, that we are obeying Christ when we leave our abuser. I was one of those who didn’t leave, even after devastating physical abuse and continuing emotional and psychological abuse, until 40 years later.
    I didn’t want to leave my ex husband for all the reasons you mentioned above , and maybe even more so, that I would be disobeying God if I did leave. How wrong I was, for a very long time!

    • Susan

      Me too Carol! I had it all backwards in my mind: “Leaving (divorce) = disobedience to God, “Staying” (learning how to yield my ‘selfish’ feelings) = obedience. I did leave (after 20 years) and I even sensed that God had made the way for me to do that, but I guess I always thought of it as his “permissive will,” and that I was still guilty of divorcing and needed forgiveness. It took many, many more years to hear the truth: I HAD in fact depended on God for my escape, which it turns out was counted as “laying down my life for Christ.” After thinking the wrong way for so long, I almost had to be “deprogrammed.” After 3 1/2 years of listening to the truth (2018 to present) through this website, and, more importantly, through gaining a proper understanding of the scriptures, I now marvel at how I got it so wrong! It’s still exciting to me that I have been strongly affirmed in my decision to leave! There is an aging pastor’s wife that is still stuck in the wrong “theology” and my heart aches that she seems so strongly committed to staying and being abused rather that experience the freedom and joy Jesus wants to give her. My prayers are for her and for all who keep choosing the wrong path, thinking they will be credited one day for the suffering they endure with a soul-destroying abuser.

  3. Be free….. be well

    Thank you for this post Pastor Crippen, it is timely – particularly as we approach Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, two holidays I would have gladly skipped for many years because of the idolatry experienced around both days.

    Included in that I know the hell of being with an abuser that consumes your life in a life-sucking way instead of life-enhancing way, and basically demands their worship. They compete with God in their world and even liken themselves to God and demand your worship and silent submission to their roller coaster of whims. Covertly the marriage becomes an idol and the dance begins…. the believer tries to refuse this and is punished by the abuser, and before you know it you are quietly being tossed back and forth between the silent rules of the abuser, the church, the abuser allies, friend circles, family, etc. who idolize the marriage to the “charming” abuser…. and all this is behind their claim to love the Lord above all else…..

    After I finally unhooked the claws of the abuser and got away for good, I was stunned at the depth of the roots of the abuse. Having been raised catholic I finally could see not only was I raised to idolize the church, but also the catholic family, particularly the parents – you simply did not choose Christ over the religion or the family of origin, no matter how horribly toxic the whole mess was and is. So, essentially, I was raised to idolize the marriage and abuser as well.

    Here’s where it changes….. Once you see it for all that is, you will never be able to return to what life was before. If you stay in the abusive relationship(s) it will tear your entire being apart living contradictory to what you are made to do. If you seek to remove yourself from these relationships it will most likely be the hardest thing ever. The part I can attest to is, the hardest thing ever will become the best thing ever.

    It doesn’t mean there won’t be moments of ache, it just means that is not your baseline life. In choosing Christ, it means setting the idols aside, moving forward from them, even when it’s very hard – yet….it is lighter within your acceptance of his freedom. If you stay no one will be free, if you move forward you will be free, and others will see it can be done… and know they too can be free.

    How you move forward is different for each person. Some variations exist – some have to move forward in ways only they and the Lord know or understand.

    For those of us that cut the physical ties, it was the emotional ones that took the additional time, patience and a prayer life in a whole new form.

    Regardless, in our Lord’s shining way, he takes the freedom path with us, and you never, ever again feel that you will have to walk it alone. It’s a comfort and one-day-at-a-time assurance only he can bring.

    It is posts like this one that you did, and others in your forum, particularly Lynn, that have been added lights for me as I continue to unhook residual claws of idols that are no more. Thank you again for your message and insight.

    In choosing Christ, all will be well. It doesn’t mean perfect, but it does mean very well in his freedom.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Be free…Be well – Thank you!! This is wisdom and I really appreciate you taking the time to write. Those who choose the easy way will find out that it isn’t the way of life, and it really isn’t easy at all. It is enslavement. I also know very well what you mean about those emotional ties. They come sweeping back over us with shocking suddenness and accuse us, we second guess, – all of it is designed to get us to go back to Egypt.

    • Lynn

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Be free… be well.

      I’m glad to be a part of helping you get free. Freedom and healing is a process, a journey that many may not want to embark on for fear of what it will cost them. They like the money, the status, and the perks that come from the life they have, fearing that if they leave they will have to start over from nothing. This mentality shows a distorted weak view of God and elevates the temporary pleasures of this life above that which is eternal.

      But if you are a follower of Christ, creating a smart, safe plan to leave your abuser and then following through is part of the sacrifice. I know because I’ve lived it. Christ must be preeminent. Not ourselves. Not our families. Not our spouses. Not our jobs.

      Too many times in today’s church do we see idols being made out of marriage and family. The abuser doesn’t really have to do much other than say they’re sorry with the expectation that all is forgiven, all is reconciled, and they can continue on with their abusive behavior. This is wickedness. We are not helping ourselves and the abuser by enabling their bad behavior. Choosing to stay in an abusive relationship once you are made aware of it without planning an exit strategy is not loving or Christlike.

      As someone who’s more than 3 years free from my abusive family, I can tell you that it does get better. Not all at once, but over time, as God graciously reveals the distortions that were holding me back in bondage to the traditions of men masquerading as precepts of God. He strips away the lies and invites us into the truth bit by bit so that when we look back we can say, “Thank you, Jesus, that I am not where I used to be. I long for the day that I will be fully free from the pains of this life. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”

      For whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

    • Such a vital comment. Thank you

      Abusive religious families really do want you to choose the religion and them over Christ

      They hardcore discourage a personal relationship with the Lord because it threatens their control

  4. Notlongnow

    I have thought about these things a lot since l left. When I left my life got much harder in a practical sense. I endured homelessness, poverty, serious sickness with no one to drive me to appointments and those struggles continue years after leaving. When I was with him, I had a husband that provided for me, I had a nice house, but there was the abuse and adultery.

    There have been times in dark moments where I have really struggled with if it was the best thing to leave, since my life has been so hard on a practical level since leaving.

    But I know that eventually that life, although seemingly easier on a physical level, would have slowly tightened more like a boa constrictor, where the emotional and spiritual price I was paying, would have eventually outweighed the ‘comforts’ I had.

    It is like living in a gilded cage, and once you know the truth that you are being abused and are married to a wicked man intent on destroying you, it’s almost like giving your soul in exchange for earthly riches. Whereas believers we are meant to have a more eternal outlook. We are also never to be partners with someone who is evil, and inevitably even living with someone that evil contaminates us and our children in ways we don’t even realise.

    The ultimate crossroads we come to reminds me of this verse: ‘Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’

    • Jeff Crippen

      Very well put! Thank you for a real, honest and truthful account of your struggle to freedom.

    • Sarah

      “It is like living in a gilded cage, and once you know the truth that you are being abused and are married to a wicked man intent on destroying you, it’s almost like giving your soul in exchange for earthly riches.”

      Yes! Exactly. Unfortunately, there are also folks who think (or are told) they can contain or redirect the evil from others by being a willing scarifice – wrong ! The abuser abuses those whom tolerate/allow (accept?) their abuse.


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