Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Author: Jeff Crippen Page 1 of 59

There is Just Something Missing…

1Co 13:2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

Have you ever sensed that some ingredient was missing in food you were eating, but you just couldn’t, as they say, “put your finger on it”? That is a bit how I feel right now in trying to explain what I want to explain.

When I went to seminary, there was something missing (I didn’t know it at the time). At many Christian conferences I have attended, something was missing. I have seen the same void in pastors and in very intelligent people who claim to be Christians and who have a real taste for theology.

I suppose I can best describe the missing ingredient as “the punch line.” In seminary, we studied theology and Greek and Hebrew, we diagrammed Scripture sentences and outlined books of the Bible. We studied church history, counseling, leadership, church organization, and on and on. But in most all of this, there was no punch line.

Let me give you an example of what I mean-

Mat 21:28-31 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ (29) And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. (30) And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. (31) Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.

“Truly I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” Punch line. Boom!

God’s Word is powerful, and one of the primary reasons that it is powerful is because God’s prophets, Apostles, and Jesus Himself of course, did not pull their punches. They preached and taught, but then they looked right at their hearers and said, “I am talking to YOU.” When Paul, for instance, was instructing Timothy about leading the local church, he did not leave what he said in the academic, generalized realm. He got specific. He got very pointed. He named names. He warned. He encouraged. That is to say, he made specific, current, very clear application of what he was teaching. Nathan told David, “Thou art the man!” Look through Jesus’ parables – you won’t find one that falls short of this.

In seminary, I never ONCE heard a professor say to these classes of future pastors, “it is very probable that some of you are not born again.” In most all cases, the Scriptures were kept in an elevated, theoretical realm which had application to the biblical personalities (Paul, Timothy, the Pharisees, Alexander, Peter, the Galatians), but never brought right down in the faces of those listening.

What has all of this to do with abusers and narcissists and other wolves hiding in the churches? It has everything to do with this subject. As long as evil is dealt with in a hypothetical, academic manner, as long as professors and pastors and theologians fail to look right into the eyes of those they are teaching and say ‘This Scripture is talking about YOU, and about the churches YOU are in,’ then evil is going to go right on hiding in the pews.

Why are the punches pulled? Why does no one say “Thou are the man!” Because most people don’t want to believe it or hear it. Bring it to light and a quiet, uncomfortable stillness that you can feel will envelop the audience. I know. I’ve done it. And I have felt it.

The Old Testament prophets were hated and killed. Jesus was hated and killed. The Apostles were hated and killed. Paul had to be let down the city wall in a basket. He was stoned. John was sentenced to exile on a rock called Patmos. Because they were whistleblowers about evil.

There just isn’t much whistleblowing going on today.

More Thoughts on Abusers as Trespassers

Rom 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

I have had the unfortunate experience more than once of being around professing Christians who are boundary violators. They want to control. They want to judge (condemn). They want to tell you what you did wrong. They act as if they were some kind of prophet (or prophetess) on a divine mission to deliver God’s will for me.

These kind typically fancy themselves to be eminent godly saints and they frequently hold some kind of leadership position in a church. They scrutinize you and then begin to instruct. “You are doing this wrong. This is what God wants you to be doing.” That kind of thing.

Way back in 2010 the Lord very obviously called me, as part of the teaching and preaching functions of a pastor, to zero in on the evil of domestic abusers hiding in the churches. Being protected by the churches even. And to help and vindicate their victims. It has been amazing. Here we are going on 13 years later and that ministry goes on. And yet, I have had pastors and other church officers, denominational leaders, and other tell me that this is not God’s will. That our church needs to be doing something else. That our online outreach to victims is not “church.”

What should be our response to such people? The verse quoted above is perfect: who are you to judge the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. In other words, “you are trespassing into an area of my life and calling that you have no permission to be in.”

Mark that verse down and remember it. Be prepared the next time one of these types crosses you fence.

Narcissists/Abusers do not Forgive

Mat 18:26-30 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ (27) And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. (28) But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ (29) So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ (30) He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.

One primary reason that the Lord tells us things like this:

Mat 6:14-15 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, (15) but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

…is because the genuine Christian, having received forgiveness of his own sins, will certainly be ready to forgive others who humbly repent and ask for forgiveness. Jesus does not say these things to us in the commonly abused sense of “you better forgive anyone who sins against you or else!” but rather to demonstrate that biblical forgiveness demonstrates a heart that has been born again by faith in Christ. Therefore, as the Lord says, if someone who claims to be a Christian refuses to forgive someone who asks for their forgiveness in humility and repentance, that hard-hearted person is shown to be a fake.

And these fakes abound in our churches!

Narcissists, abusers, sociopaths – wicked people parading as Christians, inevitably refuse to forgive. Most often the offense they refuse to forgive is not a sin at all, but a violation of the wicked man’s own rule system. But our point here is, that these kind do not forgive.

Why?

Because they have never known the forgiveness of God themselves. They are not born again. They claim to have received much from the Lord but in fact He has not gifted them with salvation due to their hardness of heart. And as a result, the first Scripture cited above applies to them. Their ending will be this:

Mat 18:32-34 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. (33) And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ (34) And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.

Debt re-instated. Loan forgiveness now denied. And how long will it take this wicked man to pay all his debt? Eternity. His sin, unforgiven, sends him to hell.

I believe that the majority of Scriptures which instruct us in this matter of forgiveness actually have primary application to the wicked who are counterfeit Christians, having crept in among us. A real Christian, having experienced the amazing grace and forgiveness of God in Christ, is a new creation who forgives those who humbly ask and who are genuinely repentant. Those who have received much understand that much is required of them. And they gladly and richly give this requirement. Even when those who have sinned grievously against us refuse to repent, we earnestly desire that they come to repentance and we are most certainly willing to forgive if they should do so.

But these evil ones who are gods to themselves (the abusers and narcissists we deal with in this blog) and who demand that others worship them – do not repent. And they do not forgive. You might be tempted at times to go reason with them and plead with them to see and own their sin so that they might be forgiven. But it will be to no avail. They will only use your efforts against you.

Abusers/Narcissists/Sociopaths are Trespassers

I should come up with an acronym of some kind to stand for the various labels of abusers. Hmmm. ANS. But then that’s not a word. Looks like “answer.” Oh well, I’ll try it out here.

We recently had some property surveyed at our church. We changed some boundaries and now the paperwork is at the courthouse to be finalized. Boundaries. Fence lines. Borders. These things all go along with private property – or even a nation’s boundaries. Unless you are the owner, then you need permission to cross the boundary. To fail to do so makes you a trespasser.

And that is what ANS are. They are trespassers. The country they trespass on is YOU. Your person. Your identity. Your right to be who you are, to think what you think (your own thoughts), to be your own person ultimately known and owned and directed by the Lord. But these ANS trespass. They don’t respect your property lines. They climb right over your fences and do all they can to rob you of your private personhood.

  • They tell you what to think and what you are not permitted to think
  • They tell you what you can buy and what you cannot buy
  • They tell you what you can read and what you cannot read
  • They tell you what you are thinking and what your motives are
  • They dictate to you about your body
  • They tell you and tell you and tell you, and whenever you start to exercise your own property rights, they launch their attacks.

If you live with this kind of thing long enough, guess what? Well, here is an illustration. As I understand it, if you own some property and if you let a neighbor use some part of your property (let’s say a driveway) for a certain number of years, that part of your property becomes his – at least for his use. There is some legal name for that, but you get the idea.

Now, if you let an ANS trespass upon your personhood long enough, what do you suppose is going to happen to you as a person? YOU are going to fade and fade and fade until you hardly recognize yourself anymore. And this is precisely what happens to us if we permit this trespassing to go on. Which is easy to do since it is so sneaky and deceptive – you often don’t really understand what is happening.

But these wicked people, including Revilers (have to work that R in somehow), have no hesitation in trespassing this way. They do not respect your boundaries, which is just another way of saying that they do not respect your rights. That is the same thing a tyrant ruler does.

So, what we have to do is learn about this trespassing so that we can recognize these trespassers more readily and then understand that it is right and good for us to have borders/boundaries/fences and to enforce those boundaries.

As a pastor I have had to deal with these creeps many times – only I didn’t really understand what they were for a long, long time (and they can still sneak up on me if I’m not on guard). I remember one time in a church board meeting one such guy started to accuse me of “abandoning the flock” because my wife and I were able to buy our own home and would not longer be living in the parsonage next door to the church building. He never missed a chance to do this kind of thing. ANS types want to control, to have power, to have ownership and to do so they have no hesitation about trespassing upon your personal boundaries.

No one except the Lord owns us. And when He sets boundaries for us (like the Law), He does so for our own good, so we won’t perish in hell. But the wicked trespassers only want to use us for their own glory – just like their father the devil. “Stop! You are trespassing. You have no right to be where you are now. Get off my land.”

Innocent of Evil does not mean Ignorance of Evil

Be sure and go on over to our other blog (which typically posts on Fridays) and read this important post there.

Here is the link.

The Man in the Iron Cage

We are currently reading through John Bunyan’s great classic, Pilgrim’s Progress, in the first hour on Sunday mornings. You can find videos of those sessions on our Youtube channel (Light for Dark Times) and at sermonaudio.com/crc. We livestream these classes on Sunday mornings at 9:30 on both Facebook and Sermon Audio.

One of the most powerful, sobering, and memorable portions the allegory comes when Christian is in the house of the Interpreter. Interpreter gives him lessons which will serve to preserve him on the Way to the Celestial City and protect him from the many wicked ones who will try to attack and deceive him. One of those lessons is a powerful scene where Christian sees a miserable, hopeless man locked up in an iron cage. This man is an Esau for whom repentance is now impossible (see Hebrews 12). He has despised the blood of Christ, returned to his own vomit after having made a claim to be an earnest Christian, which, it turns out, he never was.

Another powerful article (or sermon) which Bunyan wrote on the same topic is titled “The Barren Fig Tree” and is an exposition upon Luke 13:6-9,

Luk 13:6-9 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. (7) And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ (8) And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. (9) Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

[I plan to preach a series of sermons soon on this same text and use Bunyan’s great insights as a help. Those sermons will also be livestreamed on Sunday mornings at 11am PST and then uploaded to our same channels listed above]

Now, here is the point for this post. People who claim to be Christians, like so many of the abusers we learn about, but who never produce any good fruit which the Spirit will inevitably produce in the Christian’s life, one day reach a point at which the Lord says, “cut him down.” That is to say, the Lord is finished with him. The day of grace is over for him. He has sinned against much light repeatedly, trampled underfoot the blood of the Cross, but kept right on wallowing in the pig-sty mud of sin. He often continues to live his earthly life out, but the day of salvation will never come to him again. He is the man in the iron cage, except unlike that man, he takes delight in himself. When he departs this life however, he will find himself in that iron cage where the Lord will keep him until that Great Day when Christ comes to judge the world.

And this, I am convinced, is why we never see these “Christian” abusers repent. It is why I always say, “abusers never change” and “a marriage to an abuser does not need to be fixed, it needs to be ended.” I have known many such evil ones in these 40 years I have been a pastor, and not a single one has ever repented. They are barren fig trees, the seed that quickly sprouted (Matthew 13) but had no root. They were never born again.

When you first see the man in the iron cage revealed for what and who he really is, you feel a real jolting, confusing, shock. That evil one who has been covertly pretending, shows himself. This exposure may only be a brief flash before he puts his mask back on, or it may last longer – but it is a shock. You see this person you thought you knew for what he really is – and it can still be difficult to believe.

How many times have we actually even defended this man (or woman) to others? “He really is a godly person, he just has his glitches.” That sort of thing. But when the exposure is so blinding that we can no longer deny the evil nature that has been there all along, as I say, it is a real shock and sets your head spinning. Such is the deception of Satan who comes as an angel of light.

The Lord Does not Need a Majority

1Sa 14:6 Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the LORD will work for us, for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few.”

As we have all been reminded recently, to win an election we must gain a majority – and the bigger that number, the better. This is not true in regard to the Lord. When He decrees, it is done. And He delights in using the small things, the few in number, the weak things, to accomplish His works.

1Co 1:26-29 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. (27) But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; (28) God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, (29) so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

When we are targets of evil, we can be pretty lonesome, as most all of you know. There aren’t many allies to be found when standing with the oppressed requires paying a price. But it is in these times when we need to get our heads put on straight by the truth of God’s Word. The fact is, as it was in Luther’s day (and really always has been), the Lord does not need a mighty army to gain victory. He really doesn’t even need ONE person, though it does appear that He chooses so often to raise up one or a few to accomplish His purposes.

So, you can have the courts against you, your abuser against you, a church against you, family members against you, with hardly any (if any at all) to “have your back,” if the Lord is with you then you must put your trust in Him, believe His promises, and know that though the wicked rage against Him and His people, He who sits in the heavens laughs.

Deu 32:35-36 Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.’ (36) For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free.

Do You Need Permission from Your Church to Divorce Your Abuser?

Here is a link to a post published today at our other blog, Light for Dark Times. It addresses the question in this headline.

How “Expository” Preaching can go Wrong

2Ti 4:1-2 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: (2) preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

I went to a conservative seminary, conservative theologically. [I would hope it still is, but a written doctrinal statement does not necessarily mean that the doctrine is actually taught and practiced]. Seminaries and other Christian organizations seem to always drift from their original anchorage.

Like others attending such seminaries, I was taught to be sure to “preach the Word.” By that instruction was meant – “preach expositionally.” An exposition is, as the dictionary puts it, “a setting forth of the meaning or purpose” of some writing or communication. The point is that students are instructed to teach and preach the Bible by examining it carefully so as to accurately communicate the actual message God intended. The immediate (adjoining verses) and broader (the rest of the Bible) context is to be consulted so that our conclusions agree with other parts of scripture which speak to the same subject.

Now, this is all good and necessary, but in this article I want to call attention to a very common and damaging error which typically parades under the heading of “expository preaching.” Here is Jesus exposing this error:

Mat 23:23-24 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (24) You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

Quite often this microscopic, gnat-straining dealing with Scripture (parsing individual words, examining original language meanings, detailed diagraming of sentences, consulting various commentaries and opinions, looking into variant readings in Greek manuscripts, etc) ends up leading us to that old error – missing the forest for the trees.

Many of you have been harmed by this very thing. Why? Because one main “forest” that is missed when the camel is swallowed while the focus in on the gnat, is “mercy.” God’s mercy. God’s faithfulness. God’s justice. In other words, the question that is so often not asked in Bible study is this – “Does the character of God agree with my findings?” “Is my application of this Scripture a conclusion that we see lived out in Jesus?”

These warnings are for the liberal as well as the conservative Bible student. “God loves and forgives everyone”?? Really? Did Jesus love and forgive anyone and everyone no matter what? Better go back to the Bible drawing board on that one. “God does not permit divorce for any reason.” Or, “God does not permit divorce for abuse – Jesus only listed adultery.” Sooo, no matter what an evil spouse does to his or her spouse, the victim is required by God to remain married, to stay enslaved in Egypt and to suffer for the Lord? “But I have carefully done a detailed word study on ‘adultery’ (“porneia”) and there is no question that my conclusions are correct. I, above any other Bible scholar, have reached the truth here and all must obey my teaching on this or be at odds with God.” Really? How does that camel taste?

And still another form of this error concerns proper application of correct results. If we fail to rightly apply what the Scripture says, then we are still not handling the Word of God correctly. This error extends from not making application at all, to creating applications that do not properly grow from the Scripture we are studying. I heard R.C. Sproul recently say toward the end of a sermon on the subject of salvation, “this means that very probably in an audience this large, some if not many of you are not born again.” That is proper application – and it tends to thin out the pews!

So, when I hear someone say “I want expository preaching,” I don’t quickly assume that we are talking about the same thing. It may be that we are dealing with a gnat strainer who is all caught up in staring at one single tree – maybe even one twig on one branch on one tree – while the forest around him is burning.

If We Confess Our Sins – but the Narcissist Will Not

1Jn 1:9-10 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

These are very familiar verses to us and greatly encourage the real Christian. The Lord is willing to forgive us, to cleanse and wash us from the stain of our sins…if we confess our sins to Him. He faithfully forgives and He does so in full agreement with His justice…because of Christ and the Cross.

But have you ever wondered about the negative part of this Scripture – “If we say we have not sinned”? I mean, who would do that? Even the common unsaved person will, if pressed, acknowledge he or she has sinned (though they usually try to minimize the gravity of their sin). But who says “I have not sinned”?

The narcissist. The abuser. The sociopath. And if you have been the target of such people, you know very well that this is true. They are never wrong. Never to blame. It’s never their fault. YOU! You’re the one who sinned, who wronged them. In other words, as the Scripture says, they say they have not sinned. They will not confess their sin.

I have seen this in action soooo many times. Meeting with people who insist that they are eminent Christians and yet who refuse – even in meetings lasting for hours (meetings which I stopped having long ago) – they REFUSE to acknowledge their sin. So, guess what? Their sin is not forgiven by the Lord. IF we confess – but they will not confess. They are calling God (as John says) a liar. The Lord says to us “you have sinned.” But this kind of wicked person denies it – “No, God, you are wrong. I have not sinned.” “Yes you have.” “No I haven’t.”

Therefore they remain in their sins, covered with the mire of their wickedness, and if they persist in this denial (which these kind inevitably do), they will perish in their sins.

Joh 8:44-45 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (45) But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.

Page 1 of 59