A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

The Abuser’s Evil Demands for Forgiveness

Another common and wicked tactic of the “Christian” abuser is his insistence, on supposed biblical grounds, that his victim continually forgive him and love him.  Anyone who knows much at all about the nature of abuse will realize that abuse occurs in a cyclical manner which involves several stages.  The stage that comes right after the big blowup stage is commonly called the “honeymoon stage.” During this time, which can be short or long, the abuser can appear to be contrite, remorseful and even very kind.  He expresses remorse over what he has done and promises it will never happen again. He makes promises that he’ll change, that this time all will be different. He might buy presents for his victim, fulfill a few past promises made to her or even appear to take an interest in spiritual things. His promises are all nonsense, of course. In fact, because his supposed sorrow and repentance is FALSE (he even has himself deceived about it), the cycle WILL repeat itself.  After all, that is the nature of a “cycle,” right?

When the abuser “repents,” he always includes more or less flagrant demands that the victim needs to forgive him.  He will often throw in a couple of “false guilt/blaming” missiles about how his abuse was caused at least in part by the victim.  None of this is true repentance.  In fact, this is abuse itself.  The honeymoon period is within the cycle of abuse and is just another aspect of the abuse.  It contributes to the confusion of the victim and works to strengthen the abuser’s control over her.

Often the abuser will quote Scriptures that seem to support his demand that his victim forgive and love him.  Some of the commonly used ones are these:

Matthew 18:21-22 “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” (22) Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven….”

Matthew 18:35 “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

The abuser will distort these verses in this way, “Jesus says that even if I sin again and again and again against you, you are required to forgive me whenever I ask you to.”  

Of course, as we have just discussed, the abuser is NOT repentant.  He may say he is, but he is not.  Nevertheless, he insists that because he has said he is sorry, his victim is required by God to forgive him. By saying thus, he is twisting Jesus’ words. WE CAN PROVE THAT JESUS’ WORDS ASSUME THAT THE OFFENDER IS REPENTANT, when He tells us to forgive even seventy times seven.  Here is the proof –

  1. Jesus intentionally calls the offender our “brother.”  So He is speaking about a scenario in which one Christian sins against another Christian.  Genuine Christians repent.  Abusers do not.  (We can forgive unrepentant people, like our enemies – but that is another subject we will try to deal with in another article.  It is a subject that relates to the very nature of what forgiveness is.  We reject the idea that forgiveness must ALWAYS require repentance, or it cannot be given).
  2. An even clearer proof that we are NOT required to forgive the abuser even if he persists in his abuse time after time, comes from the context of Matthew 18.  If we go back to verse 15, here is what we find –

Matthew 18:15-20 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (16) But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. (17) If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (18) Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (19) Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. (20) For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

If he refuses to listen, tell the church. (That’s not gossip or slander, by the way).  And if he won’t listen to the church, he is to be put out of the church.  That is what we call ex-communication.  Does that sound like forgiving “seventy times seven” in the way that the abuser insists we forgive him just because he says he is sorry?  No way.  Abusers “refuse to listen” and the evidence of their unrepentance is that they keep on sinning seventy times seven!  But their repentance is false.  They do not “listen” when they are confronted.

The abuse victim is NOT required to forgive and reconcile with her abuser just because he says he is sorry.  His continued pattern of evil demonstrates that his “root” is evil.  In other words, he may be a man who says he loves God, but because he hates his victim, he is a liar.  He is not a Christian.  He is, in reality, the victim’s ENEMY.

How then, do we deal with an enemy?  Abusers might do some Scripture quoting in this regard as well.  Jesus said we are to love even our enemies – so surely victims must love their abuser, right?  Once more, the abuser shows he is of his father the devil in that he perverts the Word of God to his own evil ends.  Here is what the New Testament says (and the Old Testament as well) –

Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ (44) But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (45) so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (46) For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (47) And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (48) You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Romans 12:17-21 “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. (18) If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (19) Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (20) To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” (21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  [See Proverbs 25:21-22]

Let’s see if we can summarize what these verses are teaching us.

  1. Enemy, neighbor, brother – these are not interchangeable terms.  Love for our enemy is NOT going to look quite the same as love for our brother in Christ.  We are not going to be reconciled and have an ongoing relationship with our enemy!  If we could, he would not be our enemy!   Our neighbor, as Jesus taught in the parable of the Good Samaritan, is anyone – especially if they are in need – but that isn’t calling us to an on-going, intimate, relationship with those who abuse us.
  2. Loving our enemy means, a) not taking vengeance upon him, and b) doing good to him such as feeding him if he is hungry.  We don’t render evil to him as he has done to us.  We do good to him.  We can greet him and not curse him.  But this does not mean reconciliation has occurred!  He  is still our enemy, unless he repents.  Therefore our relationship with him will be quite different than our relationship with our brother in Christ.

We must be very wise then when it comes to speaking of loving and forgiving the abuser.  The abuse victim is being the most loving toward her abuser (and her children) when she refuses to tolerate his evil any longer.  While Christ does require us to forgive, that forgiveness in its essence means not hating nor seeking vengeance, but leaving vengeance to the Lord.  It does not necessarily include the maintaining of a relationship or marriage to the abuser.


23 Comments

  1. Just a comment on the cycle of abuse terminology. I know there are various depictions / diagrams of this cycle, and each has some validity.
    The expression “honeymoon period” captures some qualities of that stage of the cycle, but to me it can also be a bit of a put-down (maybe that’s just me being hypersensitive to any whiff of victim-blaming?)
    “Honeymoon period” might imply that we victims are all such dippy, silly creatures that we lap up the romance of the honeymoon stuff and ignore the abuse because we are stupid.
    So I prefer to call that period the ‘buy-back’ stage. Buy-back directly names what the abuser is doing: trying to buy back the affection and loyalty of the one he has hurt. It captures the manipulative aspect of what’s going on.

    While a victim (especially in the early years of the abuse) may feel ‘honeymoon’ feelings at those times, she’s being conned. It’s a travesty of a true honeymoon. I suspect the term ‘honeymoon period’ was coined by some superior therapists who rather looked down on their clients.
    [ Oops. Hope I haven’t offended any therapists! ]

  2. stillhere

    I am currently in a 3 year long court battle with a man who is supposedly repentent for his evil deeds coming straight from prison demanding a child who did not know him, love him and forgive his 10 years of non-parenting and now abuse upon entering her life.
    He has the backing of false religion. A pastor who has collected tithings for years without ever being truley ordained yet he lies about his ordainment, civilly sued to be removed from a large church as a senior pastor and a formerly licensed professional counselor who’s credentials have been removed with some remaining in question.
    This abuser has inflicted the most heinous abuse on a child. I watched the light and the joy of the lord be removed from her life by this man in forced supervised vistation. He harmed her heart and demanded her forgiveness while using the threat of her health and the wrath God himself would put on this child if she did not forgive her “bio-father”. He is a cruel man. I am struggling with his complete disregard of the damage he has caused. He appears to be Godly on outward appearances and has supposed “christians” backing him.
    He has acquired unbelievable employment straight out of prison which affords him the ability to continue his war through the courts but as usual he has gained a “life” now and is becoming bored with battle and now more willing to keep his money and time to himself and leave us alone.
    The damage to our lives is so deep, I struggle with forgiveness as he is so smug with his religiosity and tells the child to pull the bitter root from her eye. She responds well by letting him know she has never in her life hated prior to him. She has never known hate in heart prior to him. Her own father has hurt her so much not by abandoning her originally but by returning to inflict emotional pain I cannot even imagine. He wears his Jesus shirts and prays in her face while accusing her of being who she never has.
    The child turns away from religion and God now but I believe this will pass.
    As I write this, I know what the truth is. I realize no matter how good it looks or speaks scripture does not make it real.
    I struggle with how to help this child with God being used as a weapon. I struggle with the damage this has put into our lives. The foundation which we built our lives has been broken but we will heal. It’s going to take time. Abusers are what they are and they will use whatever means handy to them to secure their works. While twisting our hearts and minds away from what we know to be true they will not truly repent.
    There’s a bitter root in my eye too. I told the child, it’s not for him to “tell” you to remove the bitter root from your eye when he’s the one who crammed it in there. That root will be removed with love and kindness. It always amazes me how abusers can in essence slug you in the face and while your face is broken but their fist is not, tell you to “shake it off” or “get over it”. So easily said as they will take advantage of every one of the seventy-seven times they “expect” forgiveness. I will let God handle this one.

    • Laurie

      StillHere…let her know, in no uncertain terms, that this is not Jesus, but satan. Jesus would never do what this man does. Let her know that the Bible says there is another “gospel” out there, but it is not the Gospel of Jesus. Satan disguises himself as an angel of “light” and this man is obviously under his control. Many are.

  3. This is such a great explanation of the cycle of abuse and how the abuser continues to abuse even after he/she may stop the initial abuse. It is also a warning that the abuse may happen again.

    I would like to add as well that the damage as the result of abuse (PTSD especially) may require for a person to distance themselves from another person for the healing of their souls after such a difficult time in their lives!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Absolutely! Getting in the car wreck over and over only re-traumatizes. Good words.

  4. Nick

    I’m not a religious person but this article is spot on. I recently had a confrontation with my dad. He demands forgiveness and wants to be in my life. He says he loves me and my siblings and an hour later tells me how he wants to kill me and smash my head against the wall.
    I don’t know what is wrong with some people. I will never forgive him for what he has done to me, my siblings and my mother. He cant even accept that he did something wrong. Its always someones else fault that he use to beat us and use to cheat on my mother.

    • I’m glad you found our post affirming, Nick. Now you have ‘met’ us here, maybe you might like to check out the Christian gospel a bit more. 🙂 not to twist your arm or anything, but having been a non-religious person myself and then having Jesus revealed to me, I can affirm that knowing and following Jesus is the best think that ever happened to me. Greetings from where I am in springtime Australia. 🙂

    • arwen2002

      Thank you so much for your comment Nick. I can SO relate! God bless.

  5. Grace

    The abuse victim is NOT required to forgive and reconcile with her abuser just because he says he is sorry. His continued pattern of evil demonstrates that his “root” is evil. In other words, he may be a man who says he loves God, but because he hates his victim, he is a liar. He is not a Christian. He is, in reality, the victim’s ENEMY.

    Just WOW… There is SO much truth in this!! I had to take out a Temporary Order of Protection against him, and when the time had almost expired, I required a Civil No Contact Order. His stipulation was that he would ONLY sign it if I would talk to him. Thankfully, the attorneys involved realized that it was unethical to make me face my abuser, and his blackmail was stopped in its tracks.

    And then because I wouldn’t talk to him, he turned to social media – because it all HAD to be very public. At first, it was all about how sorry he was for “anything he may have done wrong” and that he had “found God” and quote scriptures – a couple of which you had in this article. So to the outsider, he sounded completely contrite and remorseful; and like HE was the victim. Because how could his wife possibly just up and leave him like that?!

    It took about a month before the comments and “likes” began to subside, the more he whined and pled for me to “just talk to him,” and people started to realize that perhaps there was more to this story. (I had removed myself from social media when I left, so he didn’t know where I was, and even once he did, so there wouldn’t be as much drama in my life; I had enough drama for a lifetime as it was.) And of course, no where did he mention that we have a No Contact Order in place.

    He always blamed me for everything, and my leaving was certainly no exception. On multiple occasions on social media, he said that I abandoned God when I abandoned him, and that I must not have meant my vows, and of course quoted scripture in an efford to support his position. And yet, the entire time we were together, he tried his best to stifle my passion for God. He did everything in his power to discourage me – subtly of course – of going to Church, being in a Bible study, or going to any kind of Christian gathering. He even cut me off from my Christian friends, but isolating me.

    But the funny thing is, ever since I left, I have become closer to God than I have been in YEARS. Praise be to God, my Rescuer.

  6. Anewanon

    In the main article or post,you mention … (We can forgive unrepentant people, like our enemies – but that is another subject we will try to deal with in another article. It is a subject that relates to the very nature of what forgiveness is. We reject the idea that forgiveness must ALWAYS require repentance, or it cannot be given).

    Did this ever get addressed in another article? If so, can you please direct me? Thankyou

    • I’ll handball that one to TWBTC, if you don’t mind. I think we have probably addressed it in various posts by now, but to find them will take a bit of work. Also, the chapter on forgiveness in Steve Tracey’s book Mending the Soul is top notch.

    • healingInHim

      Anewanon – I noticed your question and Barb’s reply.
      Above the ACFJ banner refer to TAGS; “E-G” there is a Forgiveness page. https://cryingoutforjustice.blog/tag/forgiveness/
      I have found the forgiveness and “true repentance” issue to be something that many within the church want to soften.

    • twbtc

      Anewanon,

      Forgiveness can be a confusing topic, especially when others have twisted scripture to assume that forgiveness looks the same for everyone and that it includes reconciliation. For instance, does scripture tell us to forgive our enemies? In one sense, no, because our enemy hasn’t repented (hence they are our enemies) but in another sense, yes. Yes, in that “Forgiveness is a decision made by the person offended (the victim) to not seek personal vengeance against the offender, thus not insisting that the debt incurred by the offender’s sin be paid. It is a resolve to not hate the offender, but to love him and do good to him when opportunity to do so arises. And that is ALL. It does not include in its essence, reconciliation.” (quote of Pastor Crippen)

      We have several posts regarding forgiveness: what does it look like – what doesn’t it look like. Another reader pointed you to the TAGS at the top menu bar where we have the tag “forgiveness” which will show you a lengthy list of posts dealing with the subject of forgiveness. That’s a good place to start, and Barb’s recommendation of Tracy’s book, Mending the Soul, has an excellent chapter on forgiveness – chapter 10.

      So you aren’t overwhelmed I have listed a few posts that you could start with:

      Christians are very confused about forgiveness

      What does forgiveness require?

      Forgiveness with Boundaries

      Distinguishing enemies from brothers and how we deal differently with each

      I hope this helps.

    • twbtc

      I hope I’m not overwhelming you with info, but also wanted to let you and our readers know that the resource page What does Scripture Really Say? also has some links to articles regarding forgiveness.

  7. Isurvivedabuse

    Evil prevails behind a pulpit. Beware of any Pastor or their leadership who try to intimidate, play the guilt trip, threaten with their power tactics. They use scripture to induce fear in the wife, and typically back up the husband who is the abuser! I have been in a spiritual battle with the enemy… It’s not the neighbor across the street who you need to fear! It’s the power and control freak who calls himself called by god. I use the little “g” here for a specific reason here.
    They are wolves in sheep clothing.
    In this case.. Jeans and a nice shirt.
    I have lost much in standing up and speaking truth!
    May God close the door to so and so church.
    I pray in Jesus name.

  8. BreatheAgain

    I suppose in some ways h. has made it easier for me because he has never professed to be changed, as he’s not admitted guilt in the first place. His behavior still runs the gamut which makes it confusing. And professed to love me when it looked like everything was over. But doesn’t say it now….I am learning. Next time it will be over. I know from reading here it often takes several tries for a woman to get free of the abuse, so that gives me some hope that I will eventually. This site helps a lot in clearing the fog and the fears and doubts.

    • His Banner, many of us have found that ‘asking’ the abuser for a separation is ineffective— well, it’s ineffective in that the abuser did not consent to our requests. And in many/most cases, when a victim asks the abuser for a separation, the abuser simply excalates his control control tactics.

      The way he escalates his tactics can be quite deceiving… for example, some abusers say “Yes, okay, I’ll look for another place to live and as soon as I find one I’ll move out.” But they are lying; the victim is initially relieved that the abuser has said “Yes,” and she waits and waits patiently for him to find another place to live…. and it never happens. Meanwhile, the abuser is often machinating the bank accounts and finances so that if and when the victim leaves him, he has more control of the marital assets and she comes to realise that he has hogged them all and she is now facing poverty.

      This is to warn you about those possibilities. If you were thinking of asking your abuser for a separation, you might want to reconsider. It might be safer for you to just arrange the separation yourself without giving him prior notice. But every victim’s case is different, and you know your circumstances better than we can.

      This is one reason why we keep emphasising Safety Planning (you can make a safety plan even while you are still living with the abuser). And why we encourage victims to seek help from secular DV professionals, who can help you personalise and customise your safety plan and can give you information about the resources in the community (like shelters) which you might want to avail yourself of, in the process of separation. Also we encourage victims to research the legal options for victims of domestic abuse in their place (which differ from state to state and country to country.

      So I urge you to dig into our Resources page, for those things (safety planning, legal resources, DV hotlines, financial abuse, etc).

      In the past, when you have asked your abuser for something you want, has he typically consented to your request? Probably not. So why is he likely to consent to your request for a separation?

      But if I misunderstood your comment, just discard whatever I’ve said here that doesn’t apply to you! 🙂

  9. Finding Answers

    Not one of my abusers ever apologized with words. My “dad” would occasionally do a one-time buy-back – it never worked. (Funny. I saw the buy-back pattern, but not the abuse.)

    None of my abusers demanded forgiveness.

    I eventually learned to forgive them, though not in person.

    As far as I know, none of them believe they did anything wrong.

    Sometimes it hurts me, not understanding why I can’t let go of the pain.

  10. Ibrahim

    Forgiveness can not be demanded. Since forgiveness usually must be given by the victim of wrongdoing, which is a form of oppression, demanding forgiveness is a continuation of this oppression. To make it even worse, there are some wrongdoers who use forgiveness to continue the cycle of oppression, throwing moral guilt at the victim when demanding forgiveness, as if the victim has to forgive! These kind of wrongdoers who appeal on moral or religious grounds to make demands of forgiveness should never be forgiven, as such would only escalate the wrongdoing and recycle it.

    Demands are usually a form of oppression when there is no equity to permit it in the first place. For instance, I may not demand that you buy me a lunch; I may not demand that you get off your seat and let me sit in it; I may not demand that you sign off your paycheck to make. Demands are not justified unless some equity is involved. When we wrongdo someone, we violate their right to be free from our harm. When we do, we owe them a duty to compensate them. While total compensation is almost often impossible, we have no right that our victim forgive us, but if our victim gracefully forgives us and pardons our wrongdoing, that is only grace on their part.

    Demanding forgiveness is beligerent and oppressive because it is an attempt to claim a right to hurt other people and a run away from being accountable. Forgiveness could only be given when the victim is made whole and in superior position as to grant forgiveness and when the victim is protected against future wrongdoing. False promises or false repentance are not sufficient to meet the prerequisite for forgiveness.

    • Thanks Ibrahim, and welcome to the blog. What you have said is spot on when it come to interpersonal (relational) forgiveness; the situation where the mistreated person is considering whether to forgive the the person who abused them.

      There are other types of forgiveness — divine (judicial) forgiveness, which is between God and man, and psychological forgiveness which is where the mistreated person chooses to renounce taking vengeance on the person who mistreated them.

      If you want to read more about this here is the article I wrote about it: Three kinds of forgiveness.

      Your might also like to dig into our FAQ page called What About Forgiveness?

      We like to encourage all new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      And after reading the New Users’ Info page, you might like to look at ourFAQ page.

Trackbacks

  1. Recommended: The Abuser’s Evil Demands for Forgiveness by Jeff Crippen and Anna Wood « Thoroughly Christian Divorce

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