Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Churches as Dysfunctional Families

1Co 5:1-2 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. (2) And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

1Co 5:11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

I grew up in a professing Christian, yet very dysfunctional family. Just how dysfunctional it was did not become clear to me until many years later – after all, those of us who were raised in such families think, “hey, this is normal.” It is anything but.

Now, one of the chief dysfunctions that characterized my family of origin was that the squeaky wheel got the grease while the wheel which function smoothly was ignored – or ordered to go get the grease gun and fix the other person’s squeak. When one of my siblings, as a teen and adult, rebelled and chose to associate with druggies and other wicked ones, it wasn’t long before she became like them. What a disaster. Drugs, beatings, pregnancies, huge grief laid on our parents, evil companions burglarizing their home…the list goes on.

So how did it all play out? Well, my parents looked to me to “fix” my sibling. And of course I was foolish enough to give it a go. No matter that my own family and children were healthy and walking with the Lord – that was ignored. The focus of my parents and other siblings was – the squeaky, druggy, tantrum-throwing, entitled one getting all the focus and resources. And how did the story wind up? What became of my efforts? Well, I became the villain. Why? Because I confronted my sibling’s sin. I call her out on it. I drew firm boundaries. When she chose to return to her drugged out companions, I told her I was not going to keep helping her. She threw hateful fits and over time my parents focused on her, rarely visited me and my family, and I could see in their expressions and hear in their tone of voice that they increasingly held me in contempt and derision. I became the problem. My parents revealed themselves to be dead in sin, unregenerate, deceived as to their salvation.

Now, what does a healthy, “right” family look like? Perfect? Hardly. But when a test comes….well, here is what happens:

Luk 15:11-13 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. (12) And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. (13) Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.

The father did not run after his sinning child. He let him go, even when the son was wallowing in the pig mire, the father waited at home. No doubt he prayed for his son. And the outcome was a happy one. The son came to his senses in that muck. I am AMAZED how many professing Christian parents will NOT obey the Lord in this regard. You can show them this very Scripture (I often have) and they will blow it off, disregard God’s own Word.

Now, let’s get to the main point here. Many local churches, and most (is “most” and exaggeration? I think not)…most professing Christians who make up those local church families, are dysfunctional. They do not function according to God’s command when sin comes in among them. How do they respond, for instance, when an abused wife comes to the church for help? Or how do they respond when a sexual child abuser is discovered among them? I can tell you. Very, very typically they will do exactly what happened in my dysfunctional family of origin. The sinning one gets all the attention. Victims are brushed aside. Even God Himself is disregarded. Why? Paul tells us. Listen again:

1Co 5:1-2 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. (2) And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

There it is. Arrogance. Pride. “Look at us! See how loving and merciful we are!” Paul hammers them for it. They should have been sickened by this wickedness among them and put it out from their assembly. But no, they boasted. And I can tell you that this is exactly the pattern in the typical local church today. Sinful dysfunction. Refusal to obey God’s command. No matter the victim. Oh no. In fact, the victim is going to get nailed if he/she doesn’t join in with the mercy crowd.

I have been on the receiving end of this very evil many times. And I can tell you, if feels horrible. You feel abandoned, disregarded, the evil done to you is minimized, and everyone’s focus turns to fixing the evil one…the poor, poor, misunderstood fellow who molested those children or abuses his wife while playing the holy saint role.

This thing surely must sicken the Lord and arouse his wrath.


A RASN is not a Christian


Walking on Eggshells – Becoming an Ally


  1. Susan Sanderson

    Wow! Thank you so much for generously sharing your own family experiences…so many of us can identify with you, and there is comfort in knowing that we are not the only ones!

  2. KayJay

    Absolutely, pastor! My soon to be ex is attending a church where he is coddled and cared for and even allowed to lead/teach Bible studies. They have no idea (certainly have never contacted me!) that he was an abusive bully to his family and a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s older, intelligent, still attractive for his age, and speaks fluent Christianese. What’s not to love? Ugh!

  3. Kate

    The grotesqueness of this form of familial abuse is sadly typical in most families today. Perhaps it’s always been so, but certainly in the past few generations.

    Adding to the above wisdom, I love when these abusers give chance after chance to these RASNs while refusing to see that they LOVE filth, evil, and the dark corners of society. We however, are taken for granted as we have “everything.” What they mean is that we have a conscience, although they may not be able to identify that as the reason. We can be manipulated via guilt, shame, and fear (unless we wake up and refuse to play) so we are tasked to carry the burden for all.

    If these RASNs are clean and sober or not having promiscuous sex for even a short amount of time, we are all supposed to forget about the evil they’ve done and celebrate/worship them. Until they do it again. Then of course we are supposed to pray for them, forgive them, all while denying the truth that they are exactly where they want to be; reveling in their debauchery. In the meantime, our “good behavior” is expected, and we are never allowed any missteps. If we falter or fail, we “deserve it” as we were so high and mighty (in their eyes).

    I recently found out that while my dad was dying several years ago, he took the chance to bad-mouth me one last time. A friend called him to say goodbye and with extreme maliciousness, he ranted how I was always the black sheep of the family and he hated me. He told this friend who called that when I was very young, he told my aunt (who was the one who led me to Christ) that he hated me because he couldn’t control me. Her response was that of the many children in our family, I was the one with the most tender heart, and that she would take me in after the divorce. Of course I was never told that I had somewhere else to go. I was terrified of being homeless as my dad had abandoned my mom in the divorce, and she was destitute. So I was extremely compliant. This would have been balm to my sad, terrified heart to know someone cared.

    What was the reality? I was the only Christian. All my siblings did drugs, drank, had sex early, and would fight and argue with him. Me? I was EXTREMELY shy, would hide when he was raging, and was too terrified to argue with him. (He LOVED when my siblings fought with him, sometimes even physically.) When I was a teen, I was extremely depressed and ended up moving out. I was never a rebel and I was treated with absolute hatred.

    I’m so grateful for hell. Personally, I think it’s God’s most just creation. Knowing just the glimpse I have of true evil (God sees it all), it’s the PERFECT place for those who are truly evil. They would rather go to hell than turn to Jesus….thank you Lord Jesus for the love you have for your children, and the just creation of hell. Not one who deserves it will escape it.

  4. Hello,

    Thank you for your wonderful and thought provoking content. 💕

    My family and I have come out of the IFB church movement and I can very much relate to what you are saying in this post. There is so much abuse – sexual and otherwise – but rather than ministering to the victims, it is the perpetrators that are being coddled. When victims do get the courage to speak up, they are told to remain silent, as their speaking up could ruin the ministry’s reputation. We witnessed this over and over again. It’s sick and it’s demonic. Also, we have seen an incredible amount of narcissism within our extended families, neighbors, the workplace, and some of these people are pastors, leaders in the “church”, and those running workshops on how to be a better Christian. Through all of our torturous dealings with these narcissistic and toxic individuals, God has shown us that to have anything to do with them is essentially partnering with them, and if we partner with them we will be partakes of their consequences. It’s like making a contract with death and it’s a very serious thing. So we walk away. We do not pray FOR them unless we see true repentance, but rather pray AGAINST them., asking God to deal with them as His own word declares.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *