Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Author: Jeff Crippen Page 1 of 57

“I Have Always been a Christian”

Dan 9:18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy.

I you were to be asked this question – “when ( how) did you come to know the Lord?” – what would your answer be? I don’t mean that you need to know the day and hour that the Lord regenerated your heart (some Christians do know). But how would you answer in respect to the journey the Lord took you on as He led you to Himself and to faith in Christ?

Some professing Christians (perhaps some of you) would quickly give the answer – “Oh, I grew up in a Christian family and I have always been in the church.” This kind of answer is quite common, and if the Lord had one of those loud buzzers that indicates a wrong answer on a game show, He surely would be sounding it when someone gives this kind of response.

We have said before that our only hope of persevering in that Narrow Way which leads to life, is to be born again. You must be born again. The faith the Lord gives us is our means of victory. Many of you are in very hard circumstances. Abusers, family courts, child custody, lies, betrayals – you know how it goes. Where is victory over these things? Christ. Our faith and trust in Christ. But this faith, this new birth does not come to anyone simply because they grew up in church.

I know abuse survivors who thought they were Christians for decades. They attended and served faithfully in church. But they were not born again. They were still dead in their sins. I say this again – no one has ever or will ever be saved by growing up in church, by being raised in a Christian family, or by following a formal, outward behavior code of do’s and don’ts. The Lord must save you. He must make you a brand new creation. Who you used to be must die with Christ. “Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner.”

This evening I heard a wonderful sermon by R.C. Sproul preached I believe about two years before the Lord took him home. It is called “The Curse Motif of the Atonement.” [See the link below] He was preaching to a large audience of pastors and toward the end of his message on the cross, He shocked his listeners by telling them that most probably many of them were not born again. Few are saved. The way is narrow, and few are they who find it. Jesus said that, not me.

Listen now – if anyone is going to survive in this fallen, wicked world, if we are going to endure the kind of suffering most of you have endured, then it will only be because Christ is our Shepherd. He is with His people even when they walk through the valley of the shadow of death. But if anyone is trusting in their own righteousness and is certain that their “Christian” upbringing and church world has made the acceptable to God, I can tell you – Christ is not your Shepherd and you are walking through that dark valley all by yourself.

Luk 18:13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

Some Thoughts on the Pharisee and the Tax-Collector

Luk 18:9-14 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: (10) “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. (11) The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. (12) I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ (13) But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (14) I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

“Who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.” There it is. I wonder what kind of husband this Pharisee was? Actually, we really don’t need to wonder, do we? He treated his wife with contempt all the while playing the hypocrite narcissist that he was.

See how the Pharisee in the temple stands

And justifies himself with lifted hands

While the poor publican with downcast eyes

Conscious of guilt to God for mercy cries.

(John Bunyan)

Jesus’ parable indicates to us that this kind is not rare in religious circles. He told this parable just because there were many of these hypocrites mixing it up in the visible church. The Lord points us to a man who was a Pharisee, who was in the temple, who prayed, fasted, and tithed. In other words, an eminent church member/leader who, no doubt, enjoyed a reputation for being the finest, most holy, most faithful saint a church could ask for. But in reality…

He held others with contempt. He stood far off from others while lifting up his hands to put on a display of his “godliness.” He just knew that he was God’s favorite – so pious and holy was he. His religion was designed to exalt and glorify himself. He had no mercy. No love. No empathy toward others. When a truly repentant sinner comes to the church seeking the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness, these kind of men look upon them with contempt and avoid them hoping they will just go away lest they contaminate. And yet, his true, wicked, self-consumed nature goes unnoticed by most. His facade was accepted. I once had a church member tell me, with a burdened look of anxiety and confusion on her face, that one such counterfeit in our church “was the godliest man she ever knew.”

Thus diverse were they in their appearance; the Pharisee, very good; the Publican, very bad. But as to the Law of God, which looked upon them with reference to the state of their spirits, and the nature of their actions, by that they were both found sinners; the Publican an open outside one, and the Pharisee a filthy inside one.

John Bunyan

Professing “christians” just like this Pharisee are not a rare item. Many are in positions of leadership in churches. And on that Day when Christ returns, the wrath they have been building up on their heads is going to pour down from heaven upon them.

Why Does the Lord Allow His People to Suffer?

2Co 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, (4) who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (5) For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (6) If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. (7) Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

The primary purpose of this blog is to expose evil and to encourage Christ’s true people in the midst of their sufferings. We focus primarily upon the evil of domestic abuse (particularly as it hides in the church), but there is always application for us in regard to suffering at the hands of other kinds of evildoers.

Why does the Lord, who is our Good Shepherd, permit suffering to come upon us? Why does He allow a wicked, conscienceless sociopath of a spouse to persecute his target with economic, social, psychological, physical, alienating and isolating tactics of abuse? There are no doubt more than one reason, and some of those reasons are given to us in the Bible.

You have this, for example:

2Th 1:5-8 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— (6) since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, (7) and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels (8) in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

See it? The Lord permits us to be in the fires to refine us, to purify and sanctify us, weeding out the chaff. He also allows this persecution from those who do not obey Him in order to, as we might say, fill up the cup of wrath which will be poured out upon them when Christ comes to judge the world. For the glory of His glorious justice.

In our current study of Revelation, we are at chapter 11 where the church is pictured as a temple, and as two witnesses. The church proclaims the gospel to the world and is persecuted and hated for it. The fundamental reason believers experience the suffering of persecution is because we are in a fallen, wicked world that hates Christ and all who follow Him. We have a mission, and that mission is warfare. We exist in this life in a battle zone where the enemy’s missiles are incoming.

But in the first Scripture quoted above, from 2 Corinthians, we see still another reason that the righteous are permitted to suffer. In our sufferings, we experience the comfort of Christ. (Remember, you must be born again. Just because you are or have been married to an abuser does not mean necessarily that you know Christ. We must examine ourselves to see if we really are in the faith). But Christ’s true people, in suffering, experience as Paul says, the comfort of the Lord. It is mystical and connected with the presence of the Holy Spirit in us who often takes the Word of God and opens our eyes to its truth, bringing inner comfort and peace to us as we rest in the certainty of His promises.

And there is more. As WE are comforted by the Lord, so then we are able to take that same comfort and share it with others who are suffering. You know this to be true. You know that it is primarily those who have experienced the same sufferings you are experiencing who can really understand and help. Others may aid us to a degree, but not to the extent that a fellow suffering brother or sister in Christ can.

And that is still another reason for this blog. To connect Christ’s people with one another so that we can share the comfort the Lord comforts us with, with others. The suffering is training in the school of comforting.

2Th 1:3-4 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. (4) Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.

Aloneness – the Common Experience of Christ’s People

2Ti 4:16-18 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! (17) But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. (18) The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

A good friend recently reminded me of these verses and I referred to them last Sunday in my sermon on the cost of following Christ. When you belong to Christ, you will at one time or another experience loneliness. Being alone. Being deserted. Targets of evil are not popular with the world, you know.

Standing for Christ often means exposing evil. Jesus said that we are the light of the world and the fact is, darkness hates the light because its deeds are evil. Jesus said so. So when you shine for Christ, most people, including many/most professing Christians, are going to distance themselves from you. They don’t want to pay the price of shining.

The result? Aloneness. If you think carefully through the Bible, thinking of the Lord’s true people – Moses, Elijah, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Paul, and of course the Lord Jesus Himself, what do you find? Largely, they stood alone, hated by the world.

And this is why Christ’s true church is so important. Nowadays we have quite a hard time finding it, but I suppose that has always been the case. Trying to seek out the true people of God is a hard business and often we are met with disappointments when we thought we finally connected and it turns out what we thought was gold was in fact lead with gold paint. Nevertheless, we pray that the Lord would enable us to connect with His real people.

Notice thought hat Paul gives us great encouragement with the encouragement he experienced in his aloneness: “But the Lord stood by me.” Ultimatley, there is our comfort. The truth is, if we know Christ, if we are really born again, we are never really alone.

The Emotional Vacuum of the Wicked

Mat 23:27-28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. (28) So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Dead bones. That is what is inside of the wicked who are of the genre of the Pharisees. In this blog we focus on a particular (and far too common) class of wickedness – the narcissist, the sociopath, the psychopath. And I want to suggest some points for your consideration in regard to the vacuum of positive emotion in these types. Virtually all domestic abusers (especially the kind who claim to be Christians) are characterized by this vacuum.

Human beings, even those who are still dead in their sins and without Christ, are still possessed of positive emotions. By positive, I mean, for example, some ability to love, to experience real grief, to show and feel empathy toward others. They have some sense of the moral law of God and can feel a degree of righteous anger toward that which is wrong. If you are sorrowing, for example, over the loss of a loved one, your unsaved neighbor might well feel some sorrow for you and bring you flowers or a card or prepare a meal for you. And these things are done by them in some sense, from the heart. That is to say, they are not faking it. They are sincere.

But narcissists/sociopaths/abusers have a vacuum within them in respect to positive emotions. If they bring a meal over to you, it is not out of a heartfelt genuine sharing in your grief. It is outward, and can only be outward for them because inside they are dead emotionally. It is pretend. Fake. Counterfeit. It is an imitation they have picked up by watching “normal” people. And it is all meant to deceive.

Now, such people do possess negative emotions. They are capable of intense hatred and anger, of shame which underlies that anger. They can shed buckets of “crocodile tears” which are either just plain fake or nothing more than an expression of rage.

Spiritually then, we see that this class of evil persons cannot be real Christians. When we are born again, we love Christ from the heart. We love one another from the heart. We hate evil. We weep with those who weep and we do so genuinely. We sorrow over the state of the world and have a genuine zeal to see the lost come to Christ. Like the Good Samaritan, we really do want to help those who are suffering. But none of these emotions are present in the abuser. Anything that looks like positive emotion is just an act. A real act, the script of which is picked up by studying normal people and then aping their behavior (apologies to primates).

So don’t be duped. Be wise about wickedness.

Cold-Blooded Anger

Rom 3:13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”

You have heard the phrase many times – cold-blooded murder. He killed him in cold blood. It’s an interesting figure of speech. It means the opposite of hot-blooded, overt, outward rage that bursts out in a moment. Cold-blooded evil is far more…well, evil.

Psychopaths and sociopaths and their kindred can often be capable of raging – in cold blood. They can sound so logical, so under control. And yet they are expressing incredible anger, seeking vengeance, and at the same time convincing the gullible that they are not angry at all. The thing is extremely deceptive. Their throat really is an open grave and venom really is under their lips as they use their tongues to deceive.

There is something devilish about the ability to rage “calmly.” To pour out anger on the target without seeming to even raise their voice. And this is why we must be wise or we will surely be taken in by this kind. To use words that are like a knife in their effect and yet do so with apparent calm is just like using a literal knife to stab someone and do it with coolness. This is pure evil from the pit.

Those of you who have been targeted by the domestic abuser have in many cases experienced this very thing. It made you feel like you were the guilty one and that you deserved the words being fired out you. After all, they were coming from such a calm mouth. Right?

There is nothing more wicked than rage which is camouflaged in coolness. Those who are characterized by its use will one day find themselves bettered by the Judge of all the earth. On that Day, their mouths will be closed.

Easy-Believism Introduces Evil into the Church

Jas 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

I noticed this past week, since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, how quickly and easily certain Christian leaders are to pronounce someone a “fine Christian.” Franklin Graham did so in regard to the Queen. Franklin’s son was interviewed and quite a thing was made about how the new King, Charles III, mentioned “Almighty God” in one of his first addresses as King.

Now, obviously I don’t mix it up familiarly with royalty. I never had a chat with Queen Elizabeth about the gospel. But I do know that Billy Graham and his association very quickly and easily labeled people as “Christians” who in no way held to the gospel of Christ. Martyn Lloyd-Jones confronted Graham on this point when Graham asked MLJ to support a series of evangelistic meetings in England. MLJ responded by telling Graham that if he would stop having leaders in false churches (Rome and some portions of the Church of England) on the platform with him, MLJ could support the meetings. Graham would not comply.

The Queen/King of England holds the position of being the head of the Church of England (a duality of office which the Bible does not endorse) and, ever since the days of wicked King Henry VIII, the English monarch has held the title “Defender of the Faith.”

Now, why should we be thrilled that King Charles III bears this “Defender of the Faith” title? Because there have been few, if any, English monarchs who have defended the faith! Just what faith is it that is to be defended? Biblically, it would be the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the doctrines Christ declared, as recorded in Holy Scripture. But this certainly is not the “faith” England’s royalty are known to defend.

What would true “defending of the faith” look like? Well, something like this:

Gal 1:6-9 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— (7) not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (8) But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. (9) As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

But is it not fair to question that the English “Defenders of the Faith” ever spoke as the Apostle Paul did here? The Church of England is only a half-step away from the apostate “church” of Rome – and in the case of some of its theologians and clergy, not even a half-step. Where is the monarch? Have you ever heard of the King or Queen of England insisting that false teachers and ministers be expelled from the church? I haven’t.

Here is the point I am getting at. This business of pronouncing people to be Christians so readily and easily introduces evil into Christ’s church. The same spirit is what pronounces the abusers of so many of you to be fine saints and leaves them in the church to keep right on wearing their disguise. English Royalty does not enjoy a stellar reputation for Christian holiness. Scandals are no stranger to Buckingham Palace. And yet I have very little doubt that just because they were baptized as infants and are members of the Church of England, many people would be quite irate at any implication that such people are not true Christians.

One final point suggested here for your consideration. Think biblically. Think about how Moses, the OT prophets, Jesus, and the Apostles related to Kings and Queens of their day. Were they popular and well-respected by royalty? In a few cases, I think so (Isaiah and King Uzziah for instance. David and Samuel). But for the largest part, these godly ones, including and especially the Son of God, were hated by the rulers of the age. Why, then, was Billy Graham so popular with so many world rulers? It is a fair question and is asked as a result of comparing what we see with what the Word of God says. After all, the Scripture does say this:

1Co 2:7-8 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. (8) None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Getting the Log Out First

Mat 7:3-4 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (4) Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?

The Lord Jesus addressed these words (as verse 5 will show) to hypocrites who judged others in a condemning spirit all the while having huge sin in their own lives. They projected to others a speck of the very sin that they themselves were walking in.

I am not applying these verses to hypocrites as such, but I cite them to illustrate how vital it is that we look to ourselves before rushing off to instruct others. Let me explain.

With some frequency, survivors of abuse or of some other kind of evil will tell me, with great enthusiasm, that they have a great desire to help others who are victims of the same wickedness that they have been through. This happened to me recently when a lady came up to me (I didn’t know her and I am not sure why she picked me out) and began telling me how she had started a podcast with the mission of exposing child abuse hiding in churches. She said that her husband had molested her children (she had 3 and another on the way). And she went on and on (preaching, you could say) about this evil that is pervasive, how it is demonic….and she focused on the subject of spiritual warfare, tearing down fortresses, and so on. I literally could not get a word in.

Now, I don’t question her sincerity, but I do question her ability. I could tell that her understanding of this subject was flawed and that the advice she would be giving others would also necessarily be flawed. I finally was able to respond (I actually had to interrupt her in order to speak). I told her that her husband was not going to change (she objected to that idea) and that most probably she was going to end up going back to him. He would then, after convincing her that he had had a “spiritual awakening” and was now healed by the Lord…he would then molest the children again. She would not have that and objected to my counsel.

But here is my point. It takes time for us to grow wise. To get the log out of our own eye. And until we gain the Lord’s wisdom, we are not ready to launch out in some ministry of instructing others. Just think about how deceptive evil is. How your abuser had you duped for so long. How he (or she) convinced you of so many lies and how coming to see these things took a long time.

What I am saying I suppose is this: Until we are healed ourselves, we are not ready to help others. The physician who has not yet seen his own disease should not be opening up his own clinic.

When a person, like the lady who approached me, when such a person launches out and starts to instruct others – no matter how sincere their intent might be – when they do this while still having the log in their own eye, inevitably their “ministry to others” is really about themselves. You will see it in the online articles they write. You can hear it in their words. And while thinking that their goal is to help others, the fact is that they end up focusing largely upon themselves. This is not helpful to them or to anyone else.

It is true that the Lord most typically uses people who have been through the fire to help others who are still in that same fire. But, as he did with Moses, He first takes us into the wilderness until in His time and in His way, He is ready to use us.

What Goes on in the Mind of the Wicked?

Pro 23:7 For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you.

Thoughts are rather easy to conceal. To some extent, that is a good thing. You would not want to know everything that goes on in my head, nor I yours. But the discrepancy between the inner thoughts of a wicked person and his outward persona is a favorite tool of evil.

2Co 11:14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

As a person thinks…that is who the person really is. What goes on in the mind of the person who wears an “eminent, holy, Christian” mask? What is he or she thinking? The remarkable thing is that such a person probably doesn’t fully know their own thoughts! I doubt that Mr. Domestic Abuser walks into church on Sunday actively thinking, “I will act and speak in such and such a manner in order to dupe these people and hide who I really am.” Nevertheless, his thought machine is still operating. He knows that his holy front will bring him rewards.

I suspect that this “thinking” I am speaking of is a kind of automatic, sub-conscious thing. As the Proverb says, it is who he is. His thoughts are always about himself. How he can be praised. How he can benefit. How he can put others down. How he will get revenge. His sin is a program that constantly runs in his mind and it is always about self, self, self.

Certainly we all are born into this world as sinners and our minds at that time were pre-programed to think in such a way that our words and actions always sought to benefit, ME. When Christ grabbed hold of us, showed us our sin and terrified us with the demands of His Law, He put us to death with Him on the cross. He erased, you might say, that original program of sin and made us new creations. While we still battle the sin that strives to reclaim us, the fact is that our new minds have new thoughts. As a Christian thinks in his heart, so is he. Self is no longer on the throne. Christ is. We love others rather than use and abuse them. And when we sin, we are cut to the core and we repent.

Not so the evil man. Confront him with his hypocrisy. Show him his sin. Expose his wicked thoughts. What will be the result? Gnashing of teeth. Murderous hatred. It is who he is. A child of the evil one.

More Thoughts on Alexander

I have written before on the following scripture and would like to share some more thoughts which I believe will be helpful:

2Ti 4:14-15 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. (15) Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message.

Many of you have experienced additional suffering when one of your friends (questionable) or family continued to associate with the evil person who abused you. Perhaps you left the wicked one and various acquaintances expressed their sympathy, but then you learn that they are remaining on good terms with your oppressor.

Now, think about Paul and Alexander and Timothy. We don’t know exactly what Alexander had done to do Paul great harm. But it was great harm and Alexander did it zealously (he “strongly opposed” the gospel Paul preached). In fact his evil was so deep that Paul says that the Lord is going to pay him for what he has done on the Day when Christ comes again.

So, after that warning to Timothy (so that Timothy isn’t taken in by Alexander and harmed himself) what if….

…what if Timothy decided he could do better than Paul and so he sets out to go pay Alexander a friendly visit and see if he could work things out? Or what if Timothy simply decided that he wanted to stay on good terms with Alexander himself? For whatever reason, ask yourself this – how would such behavior by Timothy have affected Paul? Not only would he have been angry with Timothy for disregarding him, he would have been just plain hurt that Timothy had seen fit to keep associating with a man who had done so much evil toward Paul.

So, anyone out there who is choosing to keep right on associating with someone who harmed or abused a person who you claim is a friend of yours, you had better just put on the brakes, blow the puffed up air out of your pride, and consider just what your actions are doing to this person you claim is your friend, or brother, or daughter…. Just maybe you will realize that you are socializing with Alexander the Coppersmith.

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