A Cry For Justice

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

The Abusive Marriage Wrongly Seen as Pious Asceticism

UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


Colossians 2:16-23 ESV (16)  Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. (17)  These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (18)  Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, (19)  and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (20)  If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations– (21)  “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (22)  (referring to things that all perish as they are used)–according to human precepts and teachings? (23)  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

One of the reasons Christians so often pile a huge and even dangerous burden onto the victimized spouse of an abuser is the crazy notion that her suffering is somehow pleasing to God.  Asceticism is the “severe treatment of the body” that supposedly helps a person defeat their temptations and sins — whipping one’s back, crawling up stairs on one’s knees — that sort of thing.  Scripture counters any such notion — “they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”  When the Lord Himself brings trials into our lives, trials from which at the moment there is no escape, that is one thing.  He means this for our good and for His glory.  Paul’s thorn in the flesh, whatever that was, is an example.  Paul however would have escaped this thorn if the Lord had made it possible.

When a pastor or Christian or anyone maintains that God forbids divorce for the reason of abuse, they are really saying that asceticism is good.  That in some way, if the woman will stay in that marriage and endure, God is glorified through her suffering.  This is really no different then than telling someone to go back home, pull out a whip, and lash themselves bloody for “the glory of God.”  Such “advisors” demand that victims “submit to regulations” of man’s own devising, i.e., that divorce is never permitted, or that  it is only permitted for physical adultery and so on.  The Christian is not to submit to such regulations.  God’s Word plainly says so.  “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” are man-made laws that are, as Paul puts it, “human precepts and teachings.”

And notice what else the Apostle says in verse 23 — “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”  Man! That has GOT to be one of the most important verses in the Bible.  All of these man-made regulations about marriage, divorce, and re-marriage which are not agreed upon by Christians who continually debate them as if we were still separate schools of rabbis, are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.  They are not godly.  They are not holy.  The LOOK and SOUND like wisdom:  “Here in our church we have such a high esteem of the Lord and of marriage that we adhere to the permanence view and deny that divorce is ever permitted.”  Sounds pious, doesn’t it?  Has the appearance of being very wise and of something that honors the Lord.  But it isn’t, and it doesn’t.  It only promotes sin and it does so at the expense of the victim AND to the detriment of the glory of God.

So our Lord commands us:  “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, (19)  and not holding fast to the Head…”.  It’s true, isn’t it?  So often these kinds of man-made regulations being put off on us as supposedly the Word of God are in fact nothing more than the product of puffed up, fleshly minds.  And they are produced by people who fail to hold fast to Jesus our Head.


  1. Susan McKenzie (@SusanMcKenzieWY)

    Hi Jeff… you’re “spot on” once again! When my church elder husband began threatening my life, painting gory scenarios of how my demise would happen, at his hand, I sought help from our senior pastor…. who said, “Sue, I’m ashamed of you. Why can’t you have more grace?” My husband had apologized, saying he had his urges under control, so I guess I was supposed to forgive and have more grace. I followed that rule for a couple of years… but it only made things worse. I’m glad you are speaking up and writing… this subject is sorely needed to be discussed with clarity in most Christian circles!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you Susan. It still amazes me that Christians are in such disarray about the subject of marriage, divorce, and remarriage and yet individual churches and church leaders impose their own view on people knowing full well that many other Christians have a different view. I don’t mean that we should just let everyone divorce as they feel like without any regard to the Lord, but my point is that if I know that many sound Christians have concluded that divorce is permitted by God for adultery or desertion, and yet I embrace a different view and then authoritatively press that view upon a congregation, what is that all about? There has to be room here for the individual’s conscience and personal decision before God, and as long as that decision is within the realm of reasonableness, we should stay out of it. That circle or realm of reasonable cause for divorce, in my opinion, includes adultery, desertion, and abuse and in the end simply comes down to the hardened, persistent, unrepentant breaking of the marriage vows to love, protect, be faithful to, and provide for. We should inform people of these things and then it is between them and the Lord and we should honor their decision.

  2. speakingtruthinlove
  3. Persis

    Thank you for posting this. This helps clarify some of my misgivings over an atmosphere in some Christian circles that when a believer is wronged, it is wrong for them to seek justice. The confusion seems to be that seeking justice has become equated with vengeance and that the victim’s suffering is somehow salvific for themselves and for the person who wronged them. I did recently hear D. A. Carson give a talk where he counseled a woman in his congregation to seek divorce for mental abuse. He is the first prominent reformed preached that I have heard take that stand in public.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Alright! I would really like to hear Carson’s lecture. Do you know where I might find it?

  4. Jeff, we’ve talked for a while about how the church needs to reconsider it’s teaching about suffering, not least because the doctrine of suffering is so pertinent to the way we handle domestic abuse. I think you’ve found a key missing link here, with your thesis in this post. Congratulations. I’ve been chewing over the topic for years now, knowing there was more to say about it, but knowing I hadn’t found it yet. So thanks and thanks again, mate!

  5. Becky

    I remember feeling that way as a young Christian woman married to a very angry pastor husband. I thought it was my duty to graciously hold up under the nightmare my marriage had turned out to be. It never occurred to me I was encouraging my then-husband to sin all the more by trying so hard to be calm and loving no matter what he did. I was removing the consequences of his behavior. One day I had enough of his threats and his intimidation (he did not hit me, it never got that far) and I stood up to him. I told him any time he swore, raised his voice or tried to menace me by getting up in my face, the conversation was over. I was not going to put up with it anymore. This was no spiritual decision and I was shaking in my boots, it just came out of me, and the weird thing is it worked. Only for me though, he realized his reign of terror directly over me was over, so he turned on the kids, especially our youngest from that day.

    So in the end, I had to leave him to stop his sin against them. If I had stayed and “suffered” by having to witness the suffering of my beloved children, I would have been allowing him to to continue to mistreat them. This was no easy decision and I felt there was no way to avoid sinning, so I chose the wrong of leaving him over the wrong he was doing every day to them. It was still a mess though, and it took me years to work through the guilt and the grief of having to do that. Even with a pastor who agreed abuse was not tolerable (my former husband was an associate pastor and by then had lost his position due to losing his temper at work) I still felt the weight of years and years of books, articles, people coming up to me and telling me what I should do, praying over me, sometimes even trying to cast demons away from me to straighten me up.

    Anyway, sorry for going on and on. You really struck a chord in me. I wish I had known your point of view on this scripture when I was going through that then.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Becky- Thank you for telling your story. You exercised real courage and wisdom and you did so in spite of the fact that so many people were giving you wrong and damaging information. Ultimately leaving your abuser was the righteous thing to do. As a pastor, I have felt a bit of that “weight” you are talking about — having people who love to control tell me what I “should” do, and what I “should not” be doing, laying on false guilt and discouragement, and all the while acting as if they are the Lord’s representatives! I hope that now you have been enabled to see that the guilt for the end of your marriage lays upon your ex-husband, not upon you, and that what you did was not sin but was absolutely right. The “Christian” abuser is the worst kind, and the “Christian pastor” abuser is the worst of those! No need to apologize for telling your story and in fact if you would like to tell more, feel free! You can do so here in the comments, or you can email Barbara or myself directly. Our email addresses are on the “About Us” page.

  6. Kay

    Becky: My story is much like yours. I endured emotional, verbal, sexual, spiritual abuse from my husband for over 30 years. Because of wrong counsel from Christian leaders and friends, I couldn’t leave, but when I started standing up to his sin and he was turning more of his verbal and physical abuse to our children, I left! I know now, after 3 years of living in peace and freedom, I did a righteous act by walking away from the evil he was bringing into our lives. My children are flourishing and becoming the people God created them to be.

    • That’s great to hear, Kay. So many of us have similar stories. I dread to think how messed up my daughter would be now if I had stayed with her father. As it is, he tried his best to mess her up on access visits, and was pretty successful until I pulled the plug on access because he stepped over THE LINE big time. Can’t talk about it explicitly here, but you can make educated guesses…

  7. Jeff S

    Wow, this absolutely nails it. I remember having a conversation with a very conservative evangelical friend about my then-impending divorce and abuse/neglect as a valid reason. He is at least theologically of the “no divorce ever” camp, though he has allowed me to challenge this view and has been quite genuinely empathetic to the point I was comfortable having such discussions with him.

    At any rate, we got around to the topic that EVEN IF the scripture opened the door for divorce, he could never see himself taking it, as he would prefer to endure suffering for the sake of the Gospel. I wish, wish, wish I’d read this entry and had reasoned with him from the scripture; instead I used a plain analogy of a person imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp enduring suffering and then having the gate opened and offered to be set free. Surely, I reasoned, no one would remain in the suffering position if given the option to leave it. “Well, Paul did”, was his response, which just floors me. I cannot imagine that anyone of sound mind (or doctrine) would remain in a tortured situation without a clear directive from the Lord to do so.

    It is interesting to note that while there are plenty of examples of suffering in the scripture, not once does any person call another person to suffering. Paul may have remained in prison, but he did that of his on volition and it seems an inspired rather than principal directed choice. Beyond that, while there have been many Christian martyers throughout the ages, true Christian martyrdom is chosen by the individual, not a task assigned by the church.

    And yes, I got the speech that my struggle was no different that missionaries being tortured for the sake of the Gospel- that it was a difficult thing but in Christ I could endure (and I would if I loved Jesus).

    Great, great post.

    • Jeff Crippen

      The fact is that Christians can talk this sort of pious and virtually “meritorious” suffering that your friend was pressuring you to pursue, but when it comes right down to it most of them would indeed walk out of the prison camp. The people I know who actually do take this piety of suffering approach to life are most often, as I have observed, morbidly introspective. They thing that they deserve to suffer because they are such rotten, filthy sinners. Of course if a person really does know Christ, Scripture never once calls such a person a sinner. Saint, son, heir, beloved, brethren – but not a sinner. Suffering as a calling that Christ brings us into for our good and His glory is quite another thing.

    • Paul chose to remain in suffering even when given the option to leave it?
      If I screw up my eyes tightly enough and peer through the interstices of scripture, I can see that your friend was probably referring to Acts 25:11 where Paul appealed to Caesar, and Acts 26:32 where Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” (am I right?)
      It’s such a long shot, to argue that. For one thing, Paul may not have known that the Roman officials were likely to set him free; he could have felt they were going to keep holding him in prison indefinitely, and he might well have thought that an appeal to Caesar was the best way to force the case to a final decision. Secondly, if the Roman authorities had released him from the Caesarean jail where he was held, he would have been in immediate danger because many hard-line Jews were still after his blood. Remaining in prison makes some sense, when there is more danger outside the jail walls than inside. (Which many victims of abuse know only too well:– when victims try to leave their abusers, their risk of being murdered doubles.)
      Moreover, in an earlier stage of his apostleship, Paul let his friends put him over the wall in a basket to escape the persecution that was brewing in Damascus. In other words, Paul followed the biblical principal of fleeing from persecution that Jesus had given his disciples in Matthew 10:23 – “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next.”

      I think your friend was clutching at straws.

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