Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Author: Jeff Crippen Page 1 of 63

Secrets, Secrets, Secrets

Psa 64:1-10 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from dread of the enemy. (2) Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers, (3) who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, (4) shooting from ambush at the blameless, shooting at him suddenly and without fear.

(5) They hold fast to their evil purpose; they talk of laying snares secretly, thinking, “Who can see them?” (6) They search out injustice, saying, “We have accomplished a diligent search.” For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep.

(7) But God shoots his arrow at them; they are wounded suddenly. (8) They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them; all who see them will wag their heads. (9) Then all mankind fears; they tell what God has brought about and ponder what he has done. (10) Let the righteous one rejoice in the LORD and take refuge in him! Let all the upright in heart exult!

One of the diabolic qualities of the RASN (reviler, abuser, sociopath, narcissist) is this business of secrecy. It enables their deceptions, their false disguise persona. Secrecy. This is a thing which drives them – that they not be known. Jesus told the Pharisees that outwardly they were a whitewashed tomb all clean and pretty, but inwardly full of death and corruption. Secrecy.

We often encounter people (sometimes we “know” them for years) who in fact do not want to be known. You know them, but you don’t really know them. This quest for anonymity is very intentional. You don’t know them because they do not want to be known.

If, over time, such a person begins to sense that you are seeing behind the mask, that you are starting to at least in part, know them for who they really are, trouble is not far ahead. Those who do not want to be known live in constant fear of being known – just as a normal person would be in a panic to be seen unclothed.

Experts in this field could describe the dynamics in far more detail than I can, but I just wanted to point out to you that there are people who do not want to be known, who you can “know” for years and yet if you give it some serious thought, you realize that you don’t know them at all. They don’t talk. They don’t enter into healthy interpersonal communication. They don’t want to know others and they do not want others to know them. These things are not just personality quirks, no – this kind of hiding is quite intentional and it is a warning sign that such a person is unsafe.

Now, I should also note carefully that there is another kind of person who does not want to be known in many cases. The victim of abuse. Sometimes abuse victims don’t talk. We write them off as someone who “just is quiet.” But so often what is really going on is that the victim is fearful of what might happen if anyone were to find out what is really happening to her at the hands of her abuser (or his abuser). So they are quiet. Withdrawn. We must be wise to this and realize that this can be a warning sign that a person is in trouble.

All of this to say, proceed cautiously with people who do not want to be known. People whose life is a secret. Something is wrong.

More Thoughts on the Danger of Victimhood

Heb 2:14-15 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, (15) and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

1Jn 5:4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

If you are a Christian, if you are born again through faith in Christ, then you are not destined to be a victim. You are an overcomer. You have been delivered from the ultimate abuser – the devil who held you in bondage until Christ set you free. Nothing the world can throw at you can overcome you – if you walk with Christ by faith.

Perpetual victimhood is a trap. Yes, domestic abusers victimize their targets. But that abuse does not define who you are in Christ. You are a child of God, a saint, an overcomer of the world, the flesh, and the devil. You are a citizen of heaven and that is where your real life is now. You are a new creation, indwelt and led by the Holy Spirit. You are not a victim in your essence.

Now, this cannot be emphasized too much. We must never fall into the trap of regarding ourselves as victims. When people do this, they adopt a mindset of defeat which soooo easily morphs into sin such as sinful anger, a sense of entitlement (everyone owes me), rejection of God’s promises, insisting that others walk carefully around you lest they set off some trigger in you…and on the list could go.

Being the victim of a crime is a terrible thing. And abuse is a crime in God’s sight and sometimes in the civil authorities’ sight. But if we choose to be perpetual victims in our being, we are not embracing by faith the great salvation and victory Christ has won for us. Worse, we will pass on that victimhood mentality to our children.

Does this mean we invent some fiction and deny all memory of what the wicked person has done to us? Does it mean that we should never talk to anyone about what happened to us? No. Absolutely it does not mean such things. But what the rejection of perpetual victimhood does is refuse to be identified by what some evil one has done. It is to take by faith that the Lord sees, the Lord knows, and one Day the Lord will distribute perfect justice:

2Ti 4:14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.

Why is Your RASN so much like Mine?

Go on over to Light for Dark Times and find out the answer to this question. You can find the post here. [I am using RASN regularly now as an acronym for Revilers, Abusers, Sociopaths, and Narcissists]

Evil Disregards its own Sins

Mal 2:17 You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

Mal 1:6b-7 …But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ (7) By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised.

All through the book of Malachi we see this same pattern. Sinful, wicked, unfaithful people disregarding and denying their own sins and blaming God – accusing Him as the guilty party. This is a very common and characteristic trait of the wicked.

Your abuser, for example, typically set aside his own mountain of evil deeds and put blame on you. Here he has done a mass of wickedness, but all of it is set aside, denied, and disregarded and instead all prosecutorial focus is put upon you. It is more than a denial of guilt – it is a slate wiped clean as if all of that wicked abuse were a fiction and never happened.

You see the thing in criminal trials. Here is this evil murderer or child abuser charged with heinous crimes. What does he do – as represented by the defense? Point to the supposed errors or wrongdoings of the victim.

If you, for instance, talk to someone – with the goal of seeking help or validation for yourself – …if you talk to someone about the evils done to you by the reviler/abuser/sociopath/narcissist (RASN = raisin), why are you talking about those things to someone? Because they are real. Because those crimes or sins have been committed. But what did you find happened if the wicked one learned that you revealed his sins? Suddenly ALL those evils are swept away and the only “crime” on the table now is YOU. What YOU did. What YOU said. No matter that the real culprit’s crimes are too numerous to even list. No, all that matters is what YOU have done.

And this is what Malachi was charging the Israelites with. They who had a longstanding pattern of rebellious disobedience to God suddenly had spiritual amnesia about their own sins and only desired to blame and accuse God as the real problem.

This is what evil does. This is what the unrepentant guilty do.

Sin Must be Snipped as Soon as it Buds – or else….

Jas 1:14-15 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (15) Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

We are able to see from these Words from God Himself that sin is like a living thing. And that it develops if allowed to do so. Desire – Conception – birth – Growth – death of the sinner. James’ intent is to give us sober warning. Do not permit sin to grow. Put it to death by the Spirit before it can even be conceived in us, let alone, born.

Sin grows. It develops. I think we can rightly conclude this from James’ words. Sin, when it is fully grown…

I point this out because I suspect that many of us have wondered – was the reviler/abuser/sociopath/narcissist who did me so much harm, always who he is now? We know that we are all born into this world in sin, sinners by nature, fallen creatures who are dead to God. But we do not all become narcissists who we know and…do not love.

I would suggest that the RASN (pronounced “raisin,” see the bold list above for the words behind this acronym) started his or her journey in evil at some point with a seed. Who planted the seed or why was it planted? We normally cannot answer these questions. But somehow, sometime, a sin-seed was sown by a type of resolve – “No one will ever shame me again.” “I will be superior to everyone else.” “I deserve.” And then, instead of repenting of that wicked seed and rooting it out so that it died, it was cultivated. It was a permitted sinful desire cherished in the mind and heart.

And it grew, and grew, and grew.

Until finally, it was born.

What emerged in this diabolic birth? Sin. Full-grown sin. The seed, the desire, became that RASN who causes its target grief and torment.

This pattern, in my opinion, this desire – birth – growth, is what we see in so many people. Perhaps in earlier years the reason you didn’t see the narcissism is because it was only present in seed form, but it had been planted and over the years it grew and grew and grew. [I hope we all see here the vital need for Godly discipline by parents toward their children]. So that finally, fully grown, that self-entitled cruel arrogance fully engulfs the one in whom it was conceived.

Was my abuser always conspiring against me? Was he from the very start seeing me as just a supply whose purpose was to feed his self-glorying? Or was this horrid thing we call pride present in him as a seed, growing and growing and growing until….?

To such questions I suppose no one can always provide a certain answer. But I do know that we must watch ourselves and watch our children and watch one another in the body of Christ so that when we see a seed of sin planted, just beginning to sprout, we put it to death by the Spirit long before it can grow and bear fruit and give birth to – here is the ironic thing – before it can be born and produce death.

Be sure to read this post at Light for Dark Times

Here is a link to a post I published today over at my blog, Light for Dark Times. It concerns an important subject – what does it mean when an observed persona does not match the perceived person? I call those moments – “aha moments” and it is vital that we understand them.

Evil People are not Rare in the World OR in the Visible Church

Act 20:28-30 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (29) I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; (30) and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

The church, the true church, the real body of Christ is holy and righteous. It consists of people who are the Lord’s flock, people He knows. And a local, visible church that is a true church consists primarily of just such people, although there may be some in the pews who are not born again. Local churches in this present world – even the best of them – will not be absolutely pure. But where the Word of God is truly preached and taught and believed, where the Lord’s Table and Baptism are observed, and where church discipline (real, righteous and just discipline) is practiced, you have a true church. Sadly, in our day, such true churches seem to be getting harder and harder to find.

Whenever you have unbiblical preaching, a watered down “gospel,” an improper exercise of the sacraments (ordinances) or a sinful neglect of biblical discipline – what are you going to have? Well, I propose that what you are going to have is what we have today! More and more local churches that are full of counterfeits who honor the Lord with their lips but their hearts are far from Him.

When you read the New Testament (and the Old for that matter), think about it – how often do you read things like:

  • Descriptions of evil people to watch for
  • Descriptions of the tactics of evil, false shepherds or members
  • Rebukes for toleration of evil in the church
  • Instruction for church discipline, why? Because evil in the church must be dealt with.
  • Threatenings from the Lord for a church’s refusal to put evil out or to separate from it.

Get the idea? The problem of wicked ones coming in among Christ’s people is not some rare phenomenon. It is, in fact, typical. Think of how many of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 received no rebuke from the Lord and in several cases the rebuke was for “tolerating that woman Jezebel” or “the Nicolaitan” heretics. Evil within is not rare. It is always at the door and it would seem that it very often is receiving a warm welcome.

What then is the point? It is that we must stop buying into this nonsense that “everyone is welcome in the church.” Or, “we are to love everyone, just love them to Jesus no matter who they are.” Or, “we must not doubt that anyone who professes to be a Christian really is a Christian.” You’ve heard all of these lies before I am sure.

No, we are to have the Lord’s armor on. We are to be watchful. We are to be on guard for ourselves and for the flock. Because, well, because:

1Pe 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Up Against the Red Sea

2Co 1:9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

There it is. The hardest lesson to learn. In the middle of trials and perhaps even more importantly, in the midst of the “good times,” to learn to stop putting our faith in ourselves, but rather in the Lord.

Pro 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. (6) In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Leaning on my own understanding. There is the problem. How often do we “pray” but in fact what we are doing is telling the Lord what we want Him to do? Writing the script and saying to Him – “here you go, this is the plan”?

All of us who know Him have been or are presently in trials – often some pretty severe trials. We either were in one, or we are in one, or we are headed for one. The real issue in it all is – will we trust the Lord and believe His promises, following Him where He leads us? Or, will we keep “leaning on our own understanding” as Proverbs puts it?

The Lord is good to His people. His promises never fail. If we are going to follow Him, then we are going to have to deny ourselves, die to ourselves, and go where He takes us. If we belong to Him, He is going to keep bringing us up to the Red Sea with no visible way out, until we learn the lesson of faith.

2Co 5:6-7 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, (7) for we walk by faith, not by sight.

Trust Him. Believe Him. Give Him the reins – hand them over. Only then will we experience the peace He is waiting to give us.

Hard-Hearted and Heartless

Rev 2:1-5 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. (2) “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. (3) I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. (4) But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. (5) Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

I am reformed in my theology. I love the historic reformed confessions of faith. They have been a great help and encouragement to me.

However, I have experienced more than once a real stronghold (and not a good one) among pastors, Christians, and denominations that are “reformed.” I agree with the sound doctrine found among most of them (a few exceptions), but over the years as I have tried to join them in fellowship – for example, our church joining a reformed denomination – one recurring obstacle has reared its ugly head. What shall I call it? Well, I will call it “the Ephesian church sin.” You can see it in the scripture above, our Lord’s letter to the church at Ephesus.

He commends them for their faithful adherence to sound doctrine. They were faithful in testing so-called “apostles” who were wolves in wool.

BUT, the Lord tells them that He has something against them. He charges them with a serious, sinful offense against Him. What is it? They had left their first love. What does that mean?

I think it means the very thing that happens to “champions of the faith” who focus on jot and tittle but who forget mercy.

Luk 11:42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

These are the kind of people who crave position and power in churches and denominations. They CRAVE it. God’s real chosen leaders don’t even want the job! (Think of Moses’ reaction when the Lord called him, as an example). These evil men rise to power while the sheep foolishly let it happen. And WOE to anyone who dares oppose or even differ with them. They have left their first love – love for Christ, love for His people. Gone. Abandoned. Jot and tittle are the only thing now.

What does Jesus say to them? “Repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”

We saw this very thing when we for a short time were association with ARBCA (Association of Reformed Baptist Churches in America). It looked very good at first and there were indeed real brothers and sisters in Christ in its ranks. But there was evil cancer under the surface. Diotrephes type power-hungry men had risen to power and they loved that power. In addition, they covered up for one of their own for many years until his crimes were exposed (he is in prison now). God removed His presence from among them. The denomination is now a ghost town of what it was.

I do not judge any church or pastor or church member who chooses to be part of a denomination or other association of churches. For all of its flaws (which we all have) I have been very blessed by Ligonier Ministries and the ministry of R.C. Sproul who, as he grew older, became increasingly outspoken to his audiences (some of whom were all pastors) – “Many of you here right now are not born again and you are an inch from passing into an eternity in hell.”

But, for myself, I will never again formally join a denomination and it is my opinion that those places provide a seedbed for little popes to arise. I mean, think about it – where did Rome originate? It started when the bishop of Rome began to think of himself as better than the other bishops and THEY bought into his arrogance!! Where ever there is a “career ladder to climb,” you can expect Diotrephes (see 3 John) to show up and start climbing it. And he will turn those who follow him into heartless, loveless places which Christ ultimately departs from.

Tender-hearted, Forgiving, Believing the Best

Eph 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Col 3:12-14 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, (13) bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (14) And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

We necessarily talk much here about how the wicked twist Scriptures on the subject of forgiveness. And we talk about righteous anger and how it is right and good to yearn for the Lord’s justice upon evildoers.

But what I would like us to think about here is how we as real Christians must relate to one another. Especially when we have differences or when we sin or perceive that we have been sinned against by a fellow believer.

You know the feeling. That pit in your stomach when you are afraid that you have offended a friend by something you said or did that perhaps was wrongly perceived. This fear can be the result of being blamed, shamed, accused, alienated, and isolated by someone like a reviler/abuser/sociopath/narcissist. It has happened so often, right? Relationships destroyed. Dumped. Abandoned. Rejected. Blamed. By family members, children, one-time friends. These things are the work of the evil ones who want to isolate us and control us and punish us for not adequately worshipping them.

But with this kind of toxic history, we can easily become relationship “gun-shy.” When is the next person going to turn and abandon us? When are we going to say or do something “wrong” and that’s the end of that? This thing can haunt us. It’s one reason abuse victims often habitually say, “sorry, I’m sorry….sorry…sorry.”

When we who are real, authentic Christians think that another believer has said something that seemed hurtful, or has done something that offended us, we need to be slow to take offense. I hope that whenever I write something in this blog that offends a reader, or that when I say something in a sermon or Bible study that rubs someone the wrong way, that they will not just convict and dump me. We have all had waaaayyy too much of that dumping, right?

In the best of relationships between real brothers and sisters in Christ, there will sometimes be friction, or most of the time perceived friction because of something said or done or not done. I mean, I can mention that I enjoy hunting and fishing and shooting and……whatever – and suddenly someone is done with me. Or I can mention that I approach the book of Revelation through an amillennial lens, and another person casts me away for being a “liberal.” I can say something I think is funny, but someone is offended – and once again the dump truck dumps the relationship. These things ought not to be among brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a terrible crippling thing to have to live in the fear of waiting for the next rejection blow to fall and we must do everything we can to help one another conquer that fear by extending safety in Christ to one another.

We who are in Christ ought not to have to fear these things from one another. We should be able to be comfortable in Christ’s flock – even when we receive some valid criticism which is meant for our good. Because, after all –

Col 3:12-13 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, (13) bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

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