A Cry For Justice

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

The Holy Spirit Enables Christians to Discern Truth from Error: So Why Aren’t They?

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.

***

They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.  (John 4:5-6)

We have been seeing lately, in our own church, that many professing Christians seem to have little or no ability to discern truth from error, or as we might also phrase it, evil from good. And yet the Bible is quite plain that all Christians are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ who is also known as the Spirit of truth. The Spirit enables the Christian to hear the Shepherd’s voice, to listen to and recognize God’s Word, and to reject all counterfeits.

When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”  (John 10:4-5)

Abusers are of the evil one. For all of their amazing deceptions and disguises, ultimately they cannot deceive Christ’s people because the Spirit in us reveals to us who they really are. And yet we are seeing many who profess to know Christ stumble at all this. Evil is exposed. False teachers who abuse others and work to bring them into bondage are rebuked. Scriptures that speak to these very things are taught and preached regularly. Yet, we see many simply fail to “get it.” Why?

Most abuse victims and survivors will tell you that it took a long, long time for the lights to come on so that they finally realized over time just what this thing was that was happening to them. They started to see the real person that their abuser was. They will tell you how the Lord opened their eyes to see it. But they saw it. Eventually, they saw it. They knew.

Why then, we ask once more, are so many people who claim to be Christians not only remaining blind to the evil of abuse right in their own pews, but actively opposing its exposure? Why are they refusing to believe victims, and why are they enabling and protecting the wicked?

Could it just perhaps be that they do not have the capacity to hear the Good Shepherd’s voice? Could it be that they are still of the world, and march to the world’s drum rather than Christ’s?

Nothing exposes the real nature of a church and its members than how they respond to the cries of the downtrodden.

102 Comments

  1. Forrest

    Excellent question, Jeff.

    From my own experience, I would also suggest that there are those who get it but who, through fear of the consequences, decide to stay quiet and not do anything about it.

    • I agree Forrest.
      And btw, I always appreciate your comments on this blog. It sounds like you know about abuse because you’ve experienced and seen it up close and personal.

      • Forrest

        Thank you, Barbara.

        Some experience in my own life and some in the lives of those close to me. Add in some experience in providing support through a hotline and you start to recognise patterns of behaviour in both victims and abusers.

  2. I am wondering this too. I think it possible to be a Christian and still quench the Spirit to the point where you can’t discern things very well. But – indefinitely? you continue to ignore the cries of the oppressed all around you, on a consistent basis? Something very wrong there.

  3. Randy Stephenson

    Jeff C,

    those are excellent and difficult questions. I don’t know what motivates people. But I do know that 1) abuse is difficult from every angle, 2) people are weak, compromising, and gravitate to the path of least resistance, and 3) the most vulnerable suffer as a result.

    This one is an absolute keeper:
    “Nothing exposes the real nature of a church and its members than how they respond to the cries of the downtrodden.”

    Thank you.

  4. Heather 2

    Thank you, Jeff. Whenever I still doubt my past marriage and the man I loved not being who I thought he was, the Lord sends me information and confirmation from an outside source. It never fails! Your words today remind me that we often take many many years to wake up and see. I am not the only one. Those from our churches and within our sphere question us as to why we didn’t say something sooner, why we didn’t leave sooner. In my case they saw the wonderful Christian wife facade and therefore believed all was well. But when I finally broke and was pretty much acting out of character they then chose to label me as unforgiving, and worse. The one thing no one ever did for me was ask why, to my face. Not one of them reached out to comfort me, believe me, support me without judgments. I suppose it is easier to wash ones hands when you don’t “know.” Pilate did that too. He was guilty because he knew Jesus was innocent but worried about his own position, reputation, and mob rule.

    Sometimes all we can do is entrust our abusers to God. And never allow another to stand all alone when they are hurting and condemned by others.

    I have never known so many critical, self righteous, judgmental people as are in the church. I myself was one of them before the bottom fell out of my life. I can honestly say that I thank God for allowing this into my life. I am a better person for it. I like myself better. The pill was bitter, but The Lord in His grace has allowed good to come from it.

  5. Jeff, I think there are many cases exactly as you’ve described, where the church leadership is either willfully blind (too caught up in their own prideful self-righteousness to consider that they may need to adopt a new perspective) or actively abusive, themselves.

    However, there are many other cases where church leadership is simply too naive and inexperienced…where their heart really is in the right place, but they lack training, experience, and understanding.

    A new lamb born into the flock is a part of the flock from the moment of its birth. Learning the voice of the shepherd, though, takes time and practice. And learning the dangers of wolves and mis-steps also takes time and practice.

    The mark of the true believer is continually growing in faith, humility, and love.

  6. Lisa

    Yes it could be and thank you for this. My own family sides with my abuser and thru claim to be believers but I know if the Holy Spirit was in them, they could and would discern. They seem to be far from listening to God’s voice. Thx again!

  7. Amy

    Another great post and one that really hit home with me.
    I was in an abusive marriage for 20 years. Halfway in we both became believers and were baptized. For the next 10 years of that marriage before he walked on me, I could never truly figure out how someone claiming to be a follower of Christ could continue in such wicked ways, and just.not.care.

    When he walked out four years ago, the pastor at the church I attended at the time really tried to stay neutral, working hard not to take sides. He felt bad for me, but also tried to lay the burden of reconciliation on my shoulders. Needless to say, I left that church and found another one shortly after…the same church I now attend with my wonderful husband of almost two years.

    One and a half years after my ex walked out, and after the first meeting with the pastor of my former church, I met with the pastor to let him know that I had finally filed divorce papers but things were still not final yet. I remember him looking at me and asking, “why are you not divorced yet? If you were my daughter I would not want you in a relationship like that.”
    Wow, really??? I was stunned and didn’t really have an answer except that I had been so scared of what my ex would do if I filed that I kept putting it off.

    Today I would be able to confidently tell that pastor that the main reason it took me so long to file was because of all the Christians, including him, who didn’t seem able to discern the truth from evil. Instead they only furthered my doubts and guilt by trying to lay the burden of my ex changing and us reconciling on my shoulders, and they let me know over and over how disappointed God would be in me if I divorced. Pretty heavy load to carry.

    And through it all, I could never understand how as Christians no one seemed to be able to see Satan working in my ex. But now I see how the false teaching of God hating divorce and the sanctity of marriage taking precedence over the people in it, blind people to the truth of the evil happening. They cling so hard to the false gospel that they cannot hear the Spirit or ignore it.

    Thank goodness for this site which can help to open the eyes of Christians to the reality of abuse in marriage.

    • Amy –

      Pondering your story and what your pastor told you AFTER you told him you were divorcing…

      I wonder…how many times does a pastor secretly hope an abuse victim will divorce but won’t say so, because they don’t want to “counsel” someone to divorce…they don’t want to be the “cause” of a marriage ending?

      They may even, as in your case, be very supportive of your divorce, once the decision is made, yet hesitate about ever “advising” anyone to divorce…all because they still buy into the false teaching that “divorce is sin.”

      I wonder…

      • That’s very astute, Joe.

      • JJ

        Joe, I think you’re spot on. No one wants to be the one to advocate for divorce.

        But really. Come on, now. Do pastors & Christian leaders honestly think the idea of divorce has not yet crossed the mind of the abused spouse? Marriage is so idolized, it’s essentially sacrilegious to even whisper about divorce. Maybe separation, sure, as long as the abused spouse will go along with the idea that reconciliation is a possibility.

  8. Joy V.

    I think part of why it takes so long for us to realize it, is we are taught to turn the other cheek as well as overlook faults of others. I also believe we want to believe the best of everyone, no matter how evil they are. We are told to pray for our enemies. Eventually there comes a time when we realize that no matter what we do, they are not going to be good, only evil.

  9. Ang

    It took me a long time, nine years, to ‘see the light’ as you say. My husband had died, I had health issues and I had moved my elderly parents in with me because of their health problems to take care of them. I changed churches. I thought I was welcomed and loved. Yes, there were some good people there. They were deceived just as I was. The deception and cover-up of the lies by some of the pastors, elders, ‘apostles’, ‘prophets’, etc. was unimaginable. I have never before seen such corruption; I always thought that was something you heard about, not in the church I was going to.

    After seeing the truth, others who know what happened with me (and some are still asking me if the pastors have ‘made things right with me’) continue to live with their blinders on and are still in that church.

    http://www.SpiritOfError.org/2013/09/victimized-by-the-nar-angies-story/4054

    • Ang, that is sickening what that church did to you. The church should not be involved in such things, and in truth the true church is not. Every time someone finds out the hard way, it is heartbreaking 😦

  10. I think your last comment applies to the vast majority of cases, Jeff. Church today is more of a social club with established rules of appearance and conduct that do not necessarily correlate to Scriptural standards. In the “growing” churches, how many of them do we find the leadership actually challenging the membership to true holiness and confronting actual sin in very specific terms? Not many. Those pastors don’t get the huge followings, which are indicators of success and vicariously, of God’s “blessings”.

    In other words, if you want a large church that appears to be blessed by God, don’t preach anything that might even appear to be negative and sweep any negativity right under that old rug. Be a real shepherd and you are preaching to a small remnant, which is not what attracts people to the popular “spiritual” theater of the senses.

    • Forrest

      You nailed it for a lot of “churches”, Wendell.

  11. Barnabasintraining

    Then there are the churches that want their bread buttered on both sides (I was kind of in this camp myself at one time). They agree that God hates abuse and abuse cannot be tolerated. But they also believe God hates divorce so they don’t see that as an option.

    There is also the lack of available evidence. By that I mean so much of the abusing goes on behind closed doors and out of the sight of others. I had no idea what was happening until I saw the abuser in action, quite unexpectedly I might add. I knew she wasn’t always happy with him, but had the victim I know tried to tell me what was actually going on before that I’m not sure if I would have been able to take her word for it or not, nor would I have known what to do about it in the long term.

    God did finally lead me along to the divorce for abuse view, but for ages I took the view that God must have some other way than divorce for dealing with abuse in marriage and I fully expected Him to do so. I had no idea what to do with the cases where He didn’t fix it.

    However, I never did see tolerating or submitting to abuse as the right thing to require.

    • Thanks for this account, BIT. It’s good to hear the mental journey of a bystander Christian who has good will and genuine concern for a victim’s plight.

    • “…for ages I took the view that God must have some other way than divorce for dealing with abuse in marriage and I fully expected Him to do so. I had no idea what to do with the cases where He didn’t fix it.”

      BIT – Thank you for sharing this. I know this was my view for many years, and I suspect that many others are the same way. The concept that God might not “fix it” was simply beyond my comprehension. I know that sounds sort of crazy, now, but at the time, it simply didn’t fit my perspective of who God is and how things work.

      So, when I found myself in an abusive marriage, it took me a lot of years to even recognize how bad it was, and once recognized, I thought the solution was to simply pray, trust and love. When that didn’t “fix things”, I worked to prayed more fervently, trust more deeply, and love more caringly.

      Of course you see the problem with where this thinking leads. It places the full responsibility for the relationship on the innocent party. It fails to hold the abuser accountable. It allows the abuse to continue. AND, it fails to deal with the very real possibility that the relationship might not ever improve…and by not dealing with that possibility, the denial and false expectations simply continue.

      Perhaps most importantly, it fails to see God for who He really is. It fails to recognize how God really works in this fallen world populated largely by sinful people. It fails to recognize that God holds human free will sacred, and that while He will chase and pursue He will not force anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. So praying for an abuser to change, while not innefective, will only change the circumstances to the extent that the abuser wants to change…and most abusers do NOT want to change.

      Holding onto stale mantras such as “God hates divorce” fails to recognize that God works His perfect will within this fallen world, through the hearts and minds of His children…and that many times God’s perfect will in a given situation is divorce…as clearly illustrated in Jeremiah 3:8.

      Okay…enough preaching…

      Thank you, for helping put words to all of this…

      • Barnabasintraining

        Of course you see the problem with where this thinking leads. It places the full responsibility for the relationship on the innocent party. It fails to hold the abuser accountable. It allows the abuse to continue. AND, it fails to deal with the very real possibility that the relationship might not ever improve…and by not dealing with that possibility, the denial and false expectations simply continue.

        I think this will inevitably happen unless the assessor deliberately rejects it. I know that’s how it was for me. I was all for placing blame where it rightly belonged but was not at all for putting it where it didn’t. But that did introduce an amount of stress because the fact is, though blaming the victim is quick and dirty in one sense, it is tidy in another. It provides the desired closure. It sets a course — albeit the wrong course — for correction. But you can see there is something wrong with it because, let’s be real here, at the end of the day no matter what faults the victim may have, the abuser is never compelled to be abusive. Anyone using a full grey cell can see this…if they care to do the work and shoulder the stress of lacking closure when they would like it.

        How valuable is truth to you and how much do you really trust that God is COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY righteous, and not just conveniently so because YOU need an answer now? I address that question to those outside the situation: pastors, counselors, friends, etc. Are you willing to wait for God to speak, like Habbakuk did, or are you going to put words in His mouth like the false prophets did? Are you going to wait until you see His righteousness IN TOTAL and not just try to cram the information into the box that reads “God hates divorce” as if that were the ONLY thing He really hated and the ONLY thing He is going to defend? Or are you going to seek God’s COMPREHENSIVE righteousness, remembering that He hates hands that shed innocent blood and all other forms of evil and oppression too?

        As for myself, I was not satisfied with anything less than a solution where I saw GOD and His righteousness and justice, and truth, and His whole morally perfect character. I think that was Him sort of “driving” me on. He would not let me settle for anything less than that. The problem was the divorce for abuse view, while perfectly obvious on one hand, seemed to lack any verses that said so plainly. But the side with all the verses lacked the righteous character of God in their interpretation, especially when children were involved. They demanded human sacrifice on a doctrinal whim and that is just not our Shepherd. But, that being the case, where was the verse? Just one even!

        One side had to give a satisfactory response to the complaints of the other side, because both had valid objections.

        In the end, it was David Instone- Brewer’s work that caused me to see it. His easier work Divorce and Remarriage in the Church got me going but I was not fully satisfied until I read his scholarly work Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible. That nailed it for me. I could not find fault with his interpretive method nor his interpretation. Between those books and a few of his articles he ironed out all the wrinkles. I also found his demeanor and gentle and gracious spirit toward his detractors to be a benefit to him. (And yes, I know I should learn something from that myself. 🙂 ) There were lots of other secondary leadings, like this blog and the various testimonies of survivors. But that was the final satisfying piece.

        Then to just supplement that was Jeff and Anna’s book. Plus Barbara’s work.

        So I am satisfied. While granting relief to victims of unhealable marriages, our position also has room for God to heal any healable marriage so we can rejoice when a seriously damaged marriage is repaired and made healthy. But theirs still does not have grace or provision for the people victimized in marriages to evil people who do not want to repent of their evil. All they can do is wring their hands and say “God hates divorce” and blame the victim for not trying hard enough or claim it is “God’s will” for the victim to suffer in the context of the covenant He provided… for the welfare and not the harm of mankind.

        Whazupwitdat???

        OK. Long enough here. 🙂

      • JJ

        I find it mind-boggling the number of Christians (friends, family, pastors) who told me, either directly or implied, that God would fix my marriage if only I’d pray & believe. They’d quote me the “move mountains” and “mustard seed” verses. I was instructed to read & journal in the “Power of a Praying Wife” book (which I did, but he was still an abuser afterwards). I’d hear the “God has plans to prosper you, he knows the plans he has for you” stuff. Even people who KNEW what he did, who had seen the pictures I found, who had been present and witnessed him abusing the children, would still counsel me to pray it away. Take no action other than change myself and bend over backwards and twist myself into an emotional pretzel to accommodate his abuse and sweep it under the rug, do anything to appease him so he wouldn’t get angry, and pray for God to make it okay.

        Idol worship at it’s finest, I say. All of us, including and most especially me, put marriage on the altar and made it our idol. I sacrificed myself on the altar, I sacrificed my children on the altar.

        I had a conversation with a family member this summer, someone who knew what was happening, emotionally supported me in the divorce process, had witnessed the abuse, but was STILL counseling me to pray pray pray. As we sat at my kitchen table I told her I was worried about finances (I have no job, have been looking for work for a year, things are grim) and didn’t know what direction God wanted me to go (job? or finish out a degree?). To my shock she immediately began speaking Christianese. She’s prone to it anyway, but I thought she knew that I didn’t speak Christianese any longer as it pertains to marriage or certain philosophies. She was telling me to claim God’s promises to prosper me (name it & claim it!), that worrying was a sin, my worry showed my lack of faith, that God was just waiting to bless me in my new life if I’d only just pray and yadda yadda yadda…

        So I let her have it. Told her that I was done praying. If her hair could have stood on end it would have. She tried to twist that statement into me not having faith or risking my salvation. I told her no, I have plenty of faith, I look to God always for my direction & salvation. But what I really needed now was ACTION. I needed to take action. I needed a boots-on-the-ground plan of action for my life, not a passive agenda of continued prayer, meditation & journaling. Praying wasn’t going to pay my bills (if you only would believe, money will show up!). Praying wasn’t going to hire me (if you would just pray, God will move an employer to call!). It’s all well & good to refer me to the shining examples of people who had faith & had miracles happen daily to keep their bellies full & gas in the car. But since my life so far hasn’t ever even remotely been anything like that, I think I need to DO something. So this person just was convinced that I wasn’t a true Christian since I was repeatedly stating that I needed to do something. I was so sad that she just automatically defaulted to the Christianese programming.

        It was the same thing when my husband & I were still together. Christians just told me to pray it away. But when it comes time for action? Oh my, now you’re risking your salvation, now you don’t have faith, now you’re putting yourself in God’s place, because God can fix this if you’d just get out of the way and let him.

        Since when was Christianity about being utterly passive? Just as I practice GOYB parenting (Get Off Your Bu__), I practice GOYB Christianity. Why don’t more Christians have faith that they should take action along with their prayers? Why do people think that God fixing it entails just God doing it? Why do people think that if we take action, we’re getting in God’s way?

      • Why do people think that if we take action, we’re getting in God’s way?

        Here’s my two bob’s worth: Their claim that if we take action we’re “getting in God’s way” is actually a super-spiro excuse for their own fear of getting their hands dirty. If the surgeon is going to cut out the boil or the tumor, he has to incise the skin and all the yucky blood and pus will burst out. And unexpected messes and complications and ugliness may be revealed when he probes around in that diseased flesh.

        It’s much easier to just administer the narcotic that relieves the pain (Christianese aphorisms) but does not treat the underlying disease.

      • Jeff Crippen

        “Much easier” is putting it mildly. Not easier for the victim of course but for everyone else. There is soooo much evil hidden in most churches that if it were exposed as it should be the whole house of cards would come down. When evil is exposed it bares its hateful fangs and will do all it can to destroy the light and anyone shining it.

      • Forrest

        Way to go, JJ!

      • JJ – It’s really in the same spirit as those who refuse medical care for a sick child, isn’t it? As though God never intended us to use the tools He gave use…our hands, our feet our brains…to solve problems and find solutions.

        And when it comes to the topic of marriage and divorce, it becomes much harder. The false teaching that “God hates divorce” and “divorce is sin” serves to prevent us from taking effective action, even when we want to. The only recourse left is, to try to pray more fervently, believe more deeply, love more caringly…and maybe try marriage counseling…which doesn’t fix anything unless both parties truly want to change…and most abusers DON’T.

        These days, one of my most frequent private prayers is, “God give me wisdom in this situation. Help me to see things clearly and to know what action to take.”

      • BIT – The more I get to know you the more I like and respect you.

        Well stated!

      • JJ

        BTW, I love this: “Perhaps most importantly, it fails to see God for who He really is. It fails to recognize how God really works in this fallen world populated largely by sinful people. It fails to recognize that God holds human free will sacred, and that while He will chase and pursue He will not force anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. So praying for an abuser to change, while not innefective, will only change the circumstances to the extent that the abuser wants to change…and most abusers do NOT want to change.”

      • Heather 2

        JJ, I just want you to know that your posts have made me cry, giggle, and want to give you a hug! There is certainly nothing wrong with your discernment meter!

        Let me say that I love you best today!!!!!

      • Barnabasintraining

        BIT – The more I get to know you the more I like and respect you.

        Thanks, Joe! I feel the same about you. 🙂

  12. IamMyBeloved's

    I cannot get it in my brain or heart, that if someone is truly a Christian, that they can believe that living a sinful life is still okay. If the Holy Spirit dwells in us at our Salvation, which He does, then why isn’t the job He does fit for everyone? If we are promised to be “new creations in Christ”, then why do we insist that we just do behavior modification, over lengthy amounts of time – say years and years, when the Spirit is fit to teach, train and change us, because we have been given new and clean hearts that desire to do what God asks of us? I know we fail, but how do we fail? Murder? Rape? Abuse? I don’t think so and as Paul would say, I have the Spirit too. Why do some continue to think that abuse is just like a “bad habit” that needs change, not a lifestyle of sin? If the Word is true, which it is, and it says that we cannot live a life of sin and be Christ’s, then who is right? I know we can quench the Spirit, but in order to do that, we still have to “hear” Him and just ignore Him. What true Christian does that for long? Yep, we mess up, but if Christ has transformed our hearts, then we repent and strive to cease from sinning and to pay more attention to His voice. If a Christian man was about to abuse his wife, doesn’t it just make sense to think that he would flee and run away from her, before he actually did it? I know that David was guilty of adultery and murder, but he also lived in a time where the Spirit did not indwell mankind. That is why we were given the Spirit, to enable us to walk in the Spirit and not after the flesh, but it takes motivation and if Christ is not enough to motivate us, then what is there that will motivate us? Maybe we just have people who claim to have Christ’s Salvation, but don’t. The funny thing here, is that I know lots of unsaved men who do not abuse their wives or families, nor would they think it was okay for others to do so.

    • JJ

      I’ve asked variants of this same question to people and pastors at my church. How is it possible that my husband, who claims to be a Jesus-following Christian, who has sat through years of weekly men’s Bible studies, attended Christian men’s retreats, takes Communion, who takes such great pains to pray elaborate prayers with the children, how is it possible for him to do these things and also be such an abusive man (as well as a sexual deviant)? How can he get away with Communion on Sunday and screaming in my face on Monday that he hopes God damns me to Hell because I ___insert some problem du jour here____? How come I was filled with guilt & self-recrimination when I’d share with my parents the wrongdoing he’d committed against me (because I was speaking against my husband), but he apparently wasn’t filled with guilt & self-recrimination for the wrongdoing? How come when I filed for divorce in secret and was making secret plans to escape with the children I was almost incapable of functioning and fearful I was offending God for what I was planning, yet my husband was seemingly fine with committing adultery in a plethora of ways and lying to my face when I asked him what was going on? Why is he able to continue to bear false witness against me during our separation and even perjure himself on the witness stand during our divorce trial without any consequence?

      • preach it, sister! Very good questions! and I can guess what your church’s answer (non-answer) was. 😦

    • A point of clarification: not all theologians agree that the Holy Spirit did not permanently indwell believers in the Old Testament. Reformed Theology (to the best of my knowledge knowledge) believes the Holy Spirit indwells believers in both the Old and New Testaments.

      I do believe Christians are capable of great transgressions because of our battle with the flesh just like David; however, like David, the true Christian will respond with genuine repentance when his sin is pointed out. David accepted the consequences of his actions, which were great, and did not insist that God pass over justice in the name of reconciliation.

      • Forrest

        Paul speaks of this conflict between the two natures that exist in every believer:

        Romans 7:14-20 “For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”

        If we are real believers then we will sin, we will have sorrow and that sorrow will lead to repentance. Most abusers never get to the stage of repenting.

      • IamMyBeloved's

        I don’t understand how that can be, when Christ said that if He did not depart, the Comforter or Spirit, would not come. I believe the Holy Spirit came on people in the OT, but did not indwell them. I don’t find Scriptures to support that the Spirit indwelt people in the OT. Do you have any Jeff S.? I know that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit, even from the womb, but again, that is NT.

        I also don’t see in the NT where true Christians fell into great sin, but I do see an example where someone claimed to have Christ and tried to purchase the Holy Spirit’s work and was deemed as one who was not even a Christian and did not have Christ or His Spirit. In fact, it is written over and over again in the NT, that we are not to have great sin in our lives and that there are sins that are not to even be named among us. I also think that in some ways, the Bible has replaced the Holy Spirit in some circles. The Bible is our map for life, but it is not the Holy Spirit. We need the Spirit, just to understand the Word, but we are commanded to follow and walk in the Spirit. I am not diminishing the authority or inspiration of the Scriptures in anyway. Just my thoughts. This is a safe place to learn, so please share your thoughts –

      • Heather 2

        IAMB,

        One thing I’d like to address is the guilt that some victims feel when they have transgressed. I found that my conditioning and a perfect storm brought me to a place of sin. I fell and was filled with such pain and shame that no matter how I repented and knew my Father forgave me I have trouble still
        with forgiving myself.
        I am a very strong Christian woman, filled with discernment and mature in my faith. But when it came to the emotional abuse, abandonment, and adultery from my ex I was unable to follow my own advice. Does that mean I was not saved? No, just a child who fell.

        I think victims are easily guilted and when others hit them over the head with the Word of God or condemn them by suggesting they may not be saved, thry are devastated unnecessarily. I come from a Calvinist background and some of the people I knew were very quick to judge and condemn. It is a battle that I am still fighting in my own mind. I am so grateful for the mercy of God, for my husband who walks this valley with me, and for others who understand and still love me. I know others can say the same thing, especially the members of A Cry for Justice.

        I just wanted to share that. 🙂

      • Jeff Crippen

        Heather 2 – You said “I am a very strong Christian woman, filled with discernment and mature in my faith. But when it came to the emotional abuse, abandonment, and adultery from my ex I was unable to follow my own advice. Does that mean I was not saved? No, just a child who fell.”

        I just wanted to be certain that everyone understands that this article on the Holy Spirit enabling Christians to discern was aimed at professing Christians who are bystanders, not at the victims themselves. What we have seen over and over again, as in your case, is that genuine Christians who have been victimized by abusers were initially, and maybe for years, deceived by it and believed that their abuser was even a Christian, as he claimed. But eventually the lights came on. That is why we are finding that it is the Christians who have been abused and who have come to see it for what it is are our strongest voices shouting out to expose this evil. But there are so many other professing Christians who never see it and in fact enable it. Your repentance and now your ability to see the reality of what happened to you evidences your genuine faith.

      • Heather 2

        Thank you, Jeff. I know how easily it is for victims to heap guilt on themselves. I wanted to bring that out.

        We can have the Holy Spirit and still sin, just as Paul described the battle between the flesh and the spirit. Abusers lack the Holy Spirit. They may show sadness, guilt, remorse, etc. but they do not change. People in churches who claim to be believers often show great lack of discernment, which I think was the original focus of this thread. That’s the part we leave in God’s hands to judge, since He alone sees the heart.

      • Thank you Heather2;
        love your transparency.

      • IamMyBeloved's

        I think for me, the point is what type of sin. I don’t believe that Paul was guilty here of murder, or rape or abuse. He was prior to his conversion, but I don’t see where he was now guilty of those same sins. His sin was different and I think that is the point of conversion. Not that we become free from committing sin, but that the type of sin we commit changes. Naturally, under the blood of Christ, we are set free from sin and its consequences, but we still sin – it should just look differently. AND, we are commanded to put away our sin, which means we have been given the power to put it away and work toward being Christ-like and that we should be putting forth effort to live a life of righteousness. Again, just my thoughts.

      • I think the case could be made that even David’s sin did look different from an unbeliever. It was gross and to a terrible degree, but it was clearly not indicative of his general lifestyle. The text points out right from the beginning that he stayed home rather than go out to battle, which was his normal behavior and what would have been expected. He was clearly falling into sinful behavior even before he encountered Bathsheba, but we only know this by how in contest this segment is to the rest of his life.

        Can a believer fall into gross sin? I think he or she can, but it will be marked by the contrast to the rest of his or her life. The difference between David and a wife abuser is that we KNOW David was a righteous man. Abusers trick other people into believing they are righteous. David repented, but he did not escape the full consequence of his sin.

      • I understand where both views come from regarding the Holy Spirit. The Reformed view is heavily based on the idea that the process of salvation and sanctification hasn’t essentially changed between the OT and NT. A person is saved by faith exactly the same way in the OT as the NT, we just understand the content of that saving faith better now that we are looking back rather than forward. Under this assumption there’s no reason to think that anything has changed regarding the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

        Reformed theologians will distinguish between special outpourings of the Holy Spirit; however. All believers are indwelt with the Holy Spirit, but in the OT special people were given a special anointing for a special purpose. So David had a special anointing of the Holy Spirit when he was King, and this is what led him to plead that God would not take the Holy Spirit from him. In the NT we see this kind of anointing being poured out differently- not just prophets, priests, and kings, but ALL believers can receive this (see Pentecost).

        I’m not really setting out to defend this- just pointing out that not all believers would say that David was not indwelt with the Holy Spirit. In fact, from his pleading that God would not take the Holy Spirit from him, it appears under either view that he had the Holy Spirit indwelling him at the time of his sin with Bathsheba.

        One further note about John the Baptist- while his birth was recorded in the New Testament, it was before the work of Christ so he belongs to the Old Testament (or Old Covenant).

        I think a big difference between the OT and NT is that the OT records a lot more events and a lot more history. The NT has far more teaching and the historical records are limited to the Gospels and Acts, so we have more opportunity for observing massive failures in the OT. David WAS regarded as a man after God’s own heart, so I think it’s fair to see him as an example of a believer who has fallen into great sin. But note the degree and the way in which he repented- to me, THAT is the key.

      • “What we have seen over and over again, as in your case, is that genuine Christians who have been victimized by abusers were initially, and maybe for years, deceived by it and believed that their abuser was even a Christian, as he claimed. But eventually the lights came on.”

        Jeff C. – I think it is very important to keep this in mind when we are dealing with Christian bystanders…those who aren’t in abusive relationships themselves and haven’t become intimately involved in the lives of those who have been in abusive relationships.

        Think about how long it takes most abuse victims to understand the situation. We lived it on a daily basis, and yet it took most of us years to see through the smoke-screen, to recognize the recurring patterns, to name the abuse for what it is, and to realize the abuser was never going to change…but only pretend to change as part of the abuse pattern.

        As long as it has taken those of us who have intimately experienced it, we need to have a lot of grace for how long it takes those who are further removed from it. And we need to remember that most of us, prior to experiencing abuse ourselves, probably knew someone in an abusive relationship that we failed to recognize for what it was.

        I’m not saying we shouldn’t continue to combat the false teachings that feed the lack of action…we absolutely should. I’m not saying that some supposed Christians don’t knowingly turn a blind eye for various reasons…they do.

        I’m just saying we need to also remember that people who haven’t dealt with abuse are easily decieved in the area of abuse…and we need to have grace as we continue to educate.

      • Jeff Crippen

        I agree Joe. The main issue I was trying to address in this post is the professing Christian who never gets it, who resists getting it, and who habitually over time shows no empathy for the abuse victim. The kind of person who knows it all and refuses to learn, and instead clings to their errors and enslaves victims to those errors.

        It seems to me that in talking to pastors, there are at least a couple of categories even among those who hold that abuse is not grounds for divorce. There is the category of person who is arrogant, condemning, and insists that they possess the ultimate truth on the matter and could not be wrong. Then there is the pastor who is willing to listen, who may not yet change his mind, but who agrees that it is a difficult subject and perhaps he needs to study it further. The second category I have hope for.

      • we need to also remember that people who haven’t dealt with abuse are easily decieved in the area of abuse…and we need to have grace as we continue to educate.

        I completely agree.

      • Jeff C. –

        That makes sense, and I completely agree.

        Legalism, arrogance, self-righteousness, and hard-heartedness are not the marks of a true believer. So, when they all repeatedly occur in a given pastor’s “ministry”, something is bad wrong!

      • IamMyBeloved's

        Heather 2-Just to clarify, I am speaking in my comments here, about the abuser who continues abusing, all the while claiming he is a Christian – and my thoughts are that true Christians are convicted of their sin and repent – and repentance brings change and that is accomplished via the Holy Spirit. Sorry if I was confusing there.

      • Heather 2

        IAMB,
        Thank you. I understand what you were saying and agree about ongoing unrepented sin. I only wanted to be clear in the event that victims who go to guilt understood it didn’t refer them. 🙂

        What a difficult road this is for all of us! But this topic has brought out so many thoughts and the discussion has been excellent!

      • More questions on this, I just had this discussion again at church:
        If true Christians are capable of great sin – are they also capable of walking in chronic, unrepentant sin like sexual abuse of another person – and still be saved?
        Let’s consider that Paul was constantly battling with his flesh over a desire to sexually abuse children — what?
        really?
        It seems like again, there is “sin leveling” here. Paul listed a bunch of sins like sexual immorality and theiving and all manner of sins against other people – and said “And such WERE some of you” before Christ. (can’t remember verse off top of my head)

        There is a dividing line here, and it’s really hard to find it.

        this is a really tangled topic that is worthy of some PhD -level dissertations. 🙂

      • Jeff Crippen

        Katy- read 1 John and you will have your answer.

      • We don’t have an example in scripture of a true believer walking in unrepentant sin. Would David have continued without being called out? Maybe- I don’t know. What I do know is his response to being called out. He didn’t sin level or blame anyone else.

      • Jeff – I have pointed out things from 1 John many times (that he who makes a practice of sin is not of God) and I have gotten in return “but I’ve been a believer for many years and I still struggle with my sin on a daily basis and we are all still capable of terrible sin and and and”
        it’s sort of like being on a merry go round where there’s no clear point of entry or exit. Every time you think – HERE! is the dividing line – then someone will say “well so-and-so is a committed believer and he still struggles with XYZ” – so therefore ???
        and then there’s the companion belief that we can’t make distinctions between any sin because Jesus said that if you lust in your heart it’s the same as committing adultery.
        There is a line somewhere, but nobody can agree on where the line is. What degree of struggle with heinous sin is compatible with life in Jesus.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Katy- People who respond to you with that answer are either naive or are being intentionally evasive. John uses present tense Greek verbs which simply describes ongoing, regular, habitual action. And in this case, action that does not end via repentance. John isn’t talking about a struggle with sin. He is talking about no struggle with it:) A struggle means Galatians 5, the dynamic between the Spirit and the flesh is happening and that battle is in every Christian. It actually is not that difficult to discern if a person (once we get past the fog of confusion evil people like to throw around themselves), is characterized (that’s the key word) by sin or by righteousness. What is the normal, characteristic, habitual walk of a person’s life? Light or darkness? Righteousness or unrighteousness? Lawlessness or obedience? Look for repentance. Is it there? As in the case of the abuser who is faking Christianity, we know that he is never wrong. Never. There is no repentance.

      • I don’t think when Jesus equated lust to adultery that he was engaging in a form of sin leveling. That whole sermon was designed to point out the legalism of the Pharisees. They were thinking they were “safe” and righteous because they were faithful to the letter of the law, not the spirit. I think it’s safe to say they felt no guilt or shame for their lust filled hearts.

        We don’t consider “anger with a brother” on par with murder, or at least I don’t. But I DO realize that inappropriate anger IS a sin.

        As for where the line is, ultimately it’s kind of fuzzy, I think. Because it really isn’t about where the line is, but if we are in a process of sanctification. Are we struggling? Are we fighting and having victory in some areas? Or are we giving lip service to struggling and winking at our sin? Those are two very different “struggles”.

        The other question is what exactly the definition of “lust” is. I don’t think finding a member of the opposite sex attractive is lust. Pornography, however is beyond lust and actively using other people for sexual gratification. “Lust” is probably somewhere in between these two poles, but I’m not sure where.

      • I don’t think when Jesus equated lust to adultery that he was engaging in a form of sin leveling. That whole sermon was designed to point out the legalism of the Pharisees.

        Yes. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was not giving case law. We can understand that sermon if we paraphrase a bit of it into a modern idiom:
        “You have heard it said, by the likes of John Piper, that the chief purpose of marriage is to illustrate the covenant-keeping love of God. But I say unto you that marriage is for partnership and companionship, for the raising of children and the prevention of lust; and whoever says its primary purpose is illustrative is guilty of idolatry.”

      • Heather 2

        Amen Barb. One of my children is a big fan of his. I have to wonder if she has absorbed that lie. Maybe that’s why she remains distant.

      • What is the normal, characteristic, habitual walk of a person’s life?
        thank you!!
        it’s much clearer when you look at it that way. Maybe I will try this next time. I know that I will get Paul in response (Romans 7:15)

      • IamMyBeloved's

        So, in light of all of this, what about the abuser who can say that he/she is sorry, but then continues abusing, crying and saying how sorry they are, repeatedly? Is that just their struggle? I don’t think that changes that the victim needs to escape and separate or divorce. What about how Esau sought repentance with tears, and could not find it. Does that fit this situation and how would you know?

      • Jeff Crippen

        IAMB- It’s fake. Totally fake. That is not repentance at all. In fact, that kind of pattern is evidence of no change except for the worse. Is such a person an Esau? I suppose only the Lord knows for sure, but what WE can know for certain is that a million “I’m sorry’s” and gallons of tears mean nothing. Here is the London Confession of Faith of 1689, chapter 15, on true repentance:

        …saving repentance is an evangelical grace, whereby a person, being by the Holy Spirit made sensible of the manifold evils of his sin, does, by faith in Christ, humble himself for it with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self-abhorrency, praying for pardon and strength of grace, with a purpose and endeavour, by supplies of the Spirit, to walk before God unto all well-pleasing in all things.
        ( Zechariah 12:10; Acts 11:18; Ezekiel 36:31; 2 Corinthians 7:11; Psalms 119:6; Psalms 119:128 )

      • joepote01

        For a biblical example, contrast the life of King Saul to the life of King David.

        Both were chosen by God to be anointed king of Israel. Both came from humble origins. Both were used of God in mighty ways. Both were guilty of great sins.

        But the similarities end there.

        David’s overall life was characterized by a pursuit of godliness, a deep love for God, and a strong commitment to his covenant relationships. His moments of sin were temporary, and he repented quickly, asking God to renew his heart.

        Saul’s life was characterized by disobedience, arrogance, hatred, murder, betrayal, and abuse. The times of apparent remorse and faith were the exception, rather than the rule.

      • What brilliant examples Joe, they perfectly illustrate the point we are making. Thanks so much!

      • joepote01

        Barbara – as they say here in Arkansas…even a blind hog finds an acorn, now and then! 😉

      • what a great idiom! )

  13. JJ

    There are many reasons why Christians won’t stand up against domestic violence, and I think they stem from fear & ignorance. Where shall I start?

    No one wants to be the one who encourages divorce, since we all know that what God has joined together let no man put asunder. That stops most Christians right there. No church wants to be known as the church that helps you get a divorce.

    Also, many Christians suffer from an endless supply of false hope, victim blaming and magic thinking. They keep wanting this evil not to be true because perhaps the abuser professes to be a Christian, too. Perhaps the victim misunderstood. Perhaps the victim needs to forgive seventy times seven. Since emotional/verbal abuse isn’t specifically named by Jesus, maybe it isn’t that big a deal, especially if the abuser hasn’t ever hit the victim. Maybe if we just pray harder, or pray with faith. Maybe if we just claim this miraculous change of heart in Jesus’ name, then the abuser will see the light, change his ways, and the divorce won’t happen. Maybe this is all a test from God to see if we’ll remain faithful. Maybe if we only hang in there a little bit longer, God will reward us because he’ll see our faithfulness. Maybe if the victim keeps trying, tries harder, her husband will come around and they can be a transformed couple in a transformed marriage and be trotted out once a year or so as “that couple who almost divorced but now look at how much in love they are” thanks to faith & miracles & the power of prayer.

    Then there’s the messy part. What if the church helps a woman end her husband? What then? It takes a long time. She may need to get a job after years of being a SAHM. She may need counseling. She may need a place to live, or transportation, or food. She may need an attorney. She may need health insurance or have medical bills to pay. What if the church gives her spiritual support & courage to end her marriage, is the church then obligated to help her get on her feet? If so, how far should the church go and who will pay for it? Or what if the abuser shows up and commits an act of violence to pay the church back for their assistance to his victim?

    Just as judges in the family court system need better education about domestic violence and custody issues, pastors and leaders in the church need better education about the same issues. Pastors & lay leaders are often the first people approached. How they respond can be the difference between condemning the victim (and her children) to more years of suffering and another generation of permanent spiritual damage OR hope of a regenerated life with the freedom to be the wonderful creatures God created them to be.

    • Heather 2

      JJ, I couldn’t agree with you more…..I have voiced many of these things as well…..Thank you for confirming my own thoughts and fears.

    • IamMyBeloved's

      “Since emotional/verbal abuse isn’t specifically named by Jesus, maybe it isn’t that big a deal…”

      The Bible says that revilers have no place in the Kingdom of God. Reviler means verbal abuser. I also think the Bible talks about this more than once. It may not be from Jesus’ lips directly, but all Scripture is inspired by God, so those words are His words. Just didn’t know if you knew this was there JJ.

      • Forrest

        Big sins and little sins:

        Jesus dealt with how big sins and little sins are viewed by Him:

        Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

        The Corinthians were guilty of some pretty big sins but Paul still wrote to them as brethren.

        The fact of continuing sin without conscience is the issue with abusers rather than the “size” of the sin. Believers can commit big sins but they will be convicted and repent. Abusers may be sorry but they don’t repent.

        It is in this area where those taking a legal approach will condemn inappropriately.

      • The Corinthians were guilty of some pretty big sins but Paul still wrote to them as brethren.

        Yes, and as brethren, he admonished the haughty and arrogant members of the congregation severely. I think we tend to forget that Paul was addressing a church composed of individuals, some of whom were arrogant, schismatic, apathetic about heinous sin in their midst, uncharitable or insensitive to the lower status members of the congregation, etc, but some of whom (e.g. the house of Chloe and the house of Stephanas) were honest, humble, servant-hearted believers, who, it seems, were trying to set the ship of the Corinthian church on a better course. And there would, no doubt, have been the wafters who were unsure which group to follow and gullible to whatever wind caught their sail.

      • Yes.

        … God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10, ESV)

    • LorenHaas

      JJ, Wow, I have heard the magical thinking mythology perpetuated so many times. Thanks for saying this out loud. The fact is that even the power of Jesus is not enough to overcome the willful sinfulness of someone unwilling to submit. Sacrificing a spouse and children cannot augment Christ’s blood. Sometimes you have to leave them behind to their own consequences.

  14. JJ

    If you don’t mind me adding another comment about my experience with those in Christian leadership positions…

    My husband is a sex addict. I know that label is controversial, so use whatever label you find most comfortable to describe a man with a many decades-long obsession with extreme porn, prostitutes, and sexual deviancies that are far into the paraphilia section of the DSM. We battled tooth & nail in the early years of our marriage over porn, but eventually I submitted to his obsession with it in the hopes that one day he would change due to the fervent prayers being sent to Heaven from me & a few of my family members I confided in. There are worse things he was/is also into, but for the sake of the public nature of this blog I’ll not describe them here.

    A couple of years ago I finally had one too many “discovery days” of yet more deviant porn as well as a love letter he’d written to another woman. I immediately recognized that my defining moment had arrived. I contacted his Men’s Minister to spill the beans and also got myself into counseling immediately. This wonderful Christian counselor immediately believed what I told her and was willing to set aside the stock Christian responses all of us abuse victims have heard ad nauseum. I thank God for her and am still with her for counseling to this day. She is the one who helped me see the light that abuse isn’t something to tolerate for the sake of Christianity. She has walked with me every step of the way.

    Anyway, she quickly helped me develop the courage to approach my husband with what I’d discovered and lay down some boundaries. He was none to pleased with any of them, but one that particularly stuck in his craw was my insistence he get involved with a sex addiction group. Any group, I didn’t care, just as long as it was a group IRL focused on helping sex addicts recover. This was my ultimatum. Get help or we’re getting divorced. After over a month of me holding firm to that ultimatum he finally joined a Christian sex addicts group that was for men only.

    I think he totally snowed the group and group leader(s).

    I say this because as the months went by nothing about him changed. I continued to make discoveries, he only got meaner & more abusive towards me. Eventually I made another discovery of horrifying porn (featuring HIM) that the children could have easily found (for all I know they did but haven’t been able to tell me yet). That was it for me. I knew in that moment that if I didn’t divorce him I would be handed a millstone to put around MY neck for not protecting my children from him.

    In secret I began the divorce proceedings. While I waited for the paperwork to be signed by the judge I wanted to prepare to flee town with the children. I approached my church about the problem. This church was/is not the church I’ve mentioned above that only ever counseled me to pray. This church believed me. I wanted to let the pastors know what was happening because I wanted them to be able to step up and counsel my husband when he was served. I knew that my husband was not expecting me to divorce him & throw him out of the house, so I knew he would be shocked. I had hoped that if the pastors were able to counsel him, he would be comforted and perhaps even finally repent. I also hoped that they might help my husband contain his anger & wrath, since I was afraid he would kill me & the children. My desire was to serve my husband the divorce papers myself with the pastors there in the room. My pastors knew that my husband was involved with this Christian sex addict support group, so they suggested that perhaps I should involve the leaders of that group and have them present instead. I thought that sounded reasonable, so I contact that support group.

    THAT is where I was met with such fierce resistance, I could hardly believe it was real. First of all, none of the leaders of his group wanted to talk to me. I kept explaining I wanted them to help my husband, not me. Finally I ended up speaking to the regional leader of this group. His condescension was crazy-making. He kept implying that I was doing the wrong thing. He said I needed to pray (that again???). That I needed to make sure my motivations were pure (how would he know they weren’t? what made him think I didn’t already know this about myself?). I told him that I needed his group’s help because of my husband’s violent anger. He said he didn’t want to put his men in harm’s way. I said that me & the kids were already in harm’s way, I needed Godly men for back-up this time. Then he said that he wouldn’t talk to me anymore until I talked to his wife. His wife was the leader or director of the women’s group that was aligned with this men’s sex addict group. The women’s group was for the wives of sex addicts. So I called her and had yet another futile conversation. She insisted that I needed to join her support group, that I must not try and walk this path alone. I told her that I wasn’t alone, I had my church support and a Christian counselor. She continued to insist that I MUST join her group & attend the weekly meetings. I told her I didn’t have time for weekly meetings, nor did I have the funds to pay for babysitters while I went to weekly meetings. I didn’t want to join a support group for women who were still married to sex addicts, I didn’t want to join a group that was going to tell me what to do with my life when I already knew what needed to be done.

    Then I called the men’s group director guy back. It took several days to reach him personally. I told him that I’d done what he asked, I’d spoken to his wife, now I was asking him for help again to support my husband when I served him with the papers. He told me that sure, he’d help, but it was going to be on HIS timetable and according to HIS rules. I was to submit myself to his leadership and do nothing further until he told me. And you know what? I said yes! ARGH! I said yes, okay, I’ll wait and do what you say. Even though my spirit & gut cried out to me NOOOOOOOOOO, I said yes. I was, after all, accustomed to being abused, devalued, and unsure of my own mind.

    Thankfully I was unable to rest easy with that decision. A few days later I was absolutely frantic of what this man was planning. He was refusing to communicate with me, I was terrified he was going to approach my husband before me & the children were out of town. I was in fear for my life. I realized that no, I don’t need to let another man be in charge of me, I don’t need to submit to a man I don’t even know. I am an adult, I am capable, I know what I’m doing is right, I’M IN CHARGE. So I called him back and, since he still wouldn’t talk to me, I left a message on his voicemail telling him thanks but no thanks, I don’t want his help, his help is not help. He never called me back.

    In the end I didn’t serve my husband the papers. I had a process server do the deed after me & the kids were out of town. My pastors were wonderful, they contacted my husband and tried to counsel him. It was then that they finally saw a crack in the Christian mask that my husband wore so well. They then could see who the abuser was and who was the victim. My church has unfailingly supported me ever since, asking me for clarification when they needed to understand, believing me when I told them additional truths & discoveries. They’ve never made me feel like I was losing my salvation because I chose to divorce. They’ve not shunned me, shamed me or blamed me.

    As for the Christian men’s only sex addict support group? Who knows.

    • Jeff Crippen

      JJ- you were fortunate in regard to your church. Very, very fortunate. Give those pastors kudos from us!

    • JJ – Thank you for sharing your story. I am SO thankful you are now free of that abusive marriage! Thankful for the wise counsel you found along the way…

      Praising God with you!

    • JJ what a magnificent story to illustrate how the Holy Spirit gives Christians the ability to discern truth from error — for that’s what He gave you, and you heard him and acted! Bravo!

      Since you story deals directly with sexual abuse, would you mind also putting it into the comments thread at our post Do You Tell Others About the Sexual Abuse?

  15. LorenHaas

    JJ, do you feel you can reveal the name of the Christian sex addicts group your husband was part of? They sound patriarchal and I would like to check out their beliefs.

    • JJ

      I would share it privately, Loren.

      • JJ, email it to me and I’ll forward it to Loren.
        barbara@notunderbondage.com

      • JJ

        Barbara, I sent the email,

      • IamMyBeloved's

        If it is okay, I would like to know this too. It does sound like a patriarchal sham.

    • The very THOUGHT that a sex addict group for men would be led by patriarchal men is horrifying.
      And of course the wife buying into it, trying to force the wives of sex addicts to stay the course and submit to their “head” – I think I’m going to explode
      JJ you are amazing that you had the strength to stand up and say you didn’t need any man to tell you what to do — I was so unsure of myself in that time period that I was BEGGING my counselor (a man) to tell me what to do and he wouldn’t! He made me make the decision myself and it was so hard, I can’t even tell you the crisis I was having over that.

  16. Forrest

    Thank you everyone for your contributions. I have found this a very helpful informative discussion. There is a lot of confusion out there over elements of the truth and discussions such as this help put these things into their proper context.

  17. Oh wow, where do I begin… I have been beating myself up for not seeing the abuse for what it was (EVIL),and that it took years to see. Here I am, a born again, mature Christian woman who couldn’t see abuse or my abuser, behind the mask of an ordained minister of God. The verbal and mental abuse has me crazy right now. I was still wondering if I was at fault somehow and have been searching my heart for sin and blaming myself. I’m still thinking I can pray, and if I believe hard enough, he will change.
    Went to the senior pastor with the abuse and he basically told me in a round about way, God would move me out of the way (take me home) if I didn’t submit to my husbands leadership. Said he didn’t want to scare me, but God moved his first two wives out of the way of his ministry and now they are dead. God have mercy, what have I gotten in to. I quit going to church there but still live with my husband.
    The abuse got worse after he started going to this church about four years ago and got ordained. I’m just now waking up and doubt my ability to hear from God anymore. Thank you for this blog. It has helped more than anything else I’ve read so far.

    • Dear justwakingup, your story left me almost breathless. I just want to sit you with and hold you hand, and tell you You are Not Crazy. But it does sound like you are in a horrible situation and could be in serious danger. I’d like to encourage you to consider consulting a domestic abuse support service; the advocates there can help you develop a personalised safety plan. And you could also look at our Resources pages for links about Safety Planning, if you wish.

      What that senior pastor said is vile! He ‘didn’t want to scare you’ eh? What rot! What a crazy-making statement! He intentionally scared you by telling your that his first two wives were ‘moved out of the way of his ministry and now they are dead’. Gadzooks! That’s hideous. Even if it is only partly true, it’s appalling. But my guess is, he was interweaving a small amount of truth with a large amount of falsehood (as all abusers do, and can easily achieve by not telling the whole truth, just part of it) to make himself look great and his victims look terrible.

      Please don’t be too hard on yourself for how long it took you to wake up. Most of us took a long time to wake up. And some of us got into abusive relationships twice over, and even on the second one it took a long time to wake up. You are not alone. One major reason why it takes us so long to wake up is because the abusers can be so very shrewd with their covert aggression and manipulation; and another reason it takes us so long is that the church’s teaching and our aspirations to Christian virtue mean we turn the other cheek and make allowances for the abuser much longer than a non-religious victim might. (Some research shows that Christian victims stay years longer in abusive marriages than non-Christians.)

      I’m so glad you’ve come to the blog. Hugs from Barb.

    • IamMyBeloved's

      “…but God moved his first two wives out of the way of his ministry and now they are dead.

      That is an incredibly loaded statement. How arrogant! Exactly “how” did God bring about their death? This guy has got to be at the very least, somewhat crazy, just for making such a ridiculous and stupid statement. It is as if he is saying that he is so superior and important to God, that He slayed not one, but two of his wives, because they were causing him some trouble! Yikes! You are right to stay far away from him.

      I am so sorry for what you are going through. You will find lots of help and support here. Don’t continue to blame yourself, even though it is difficult, and don’t believe the false teachings about headship and submission. I believe there is an article on this blog about what real headship and submission look like and you may want to read through that.

    • Justwakingup – Oh, that makes me mad, what your senior pastor told you! Makes me wish I could have been there to shove his arrogant, self-righteous, thinly veiled threat right back down his lying throat!

      It reminds me of the pastor of a church my family attended when I was in high school. He made some audacious statements from the pulpit, one Sunday, with no biblical reference whatsoever. My parents openly disagreed with him, out of concern for the harm his statements might have to some in the congregation. He interrupted them to “plead” with them (in a very commanding tone) to not oppose him, because he was “under the annointing of the spirit,” then made reference to Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5).

      The whole thing struck be as bizarre at the time. It wasn’t until years later that I came to realize how manipulative and controlling that pastor was. The very clear message was that anyone who disagreed with him was risking both physical and spiritual death. Thankfully, my parents left the church after a couple of years. However, for those who stayed, the pastor constantly manipulated their lives, demanding complete obedience with zero disagreement. He would frequently tell the congregation how many other larger churches would love to have him as their pastor, how much he would rather be at any church but that one and only his obedience to God kept him there…and most importantly, how very privileged we were to have such an awesome man of god as himself as our pastor.

      Bunk! Lies! Arrogance! Deception! Manipulation!

      These are not the marks of a Christian, but of the deceiver.

      Praying for you, now! Hoping you’ll heed Barbara’s advice to find help and protection. You are not in a safe place. Cling to God as your protector as you flee the evil threats of self-righteous godless men!

    • Ang

      Justwakingup, Do not beat yourself up. You cannot take responsibility for the evil doings of others. It is not your fault. And nothing you do can change another person.

      Please get help now. I’m praying for you.

    • Heather 2

      Bruised reed, you are in a place of danger. Please take the advice offered here, especially by Barb. When I read your post I felt what the others have felt. We will pray for you but you must make a plan and seek safety above all else at this time. Do NOT listen to anyone who would cause you to doubt and question yourself. It will only cause you more confusion. Once you are safe you can get appropriate counsel to help you develop clarity about your circumstances.

      Your former pastor will answer to God one day. I would not want to be in his shoes.

      Praying The Lord protects you and guides you.

    • Barnabasintraining

      Went to the senior pastor with the abuse and he basically told me in a round about way, God would move me out of the way (take me home) if I didn’t submit to my husbands leadership. Said he didn’t want to scare me, but God moved his first two wives out of the way of his ministry and now they are dead.

      Good grief!! 😦

  18. God would move me out of the way (take me home) if I didn’t submit to my husbands leadership. Said he didn’t want to scare me, but God moved his first two wives out of the way of his ministry and now they are dead.

    (I wonder if he killed his first two wives. seems like such a convenient coincidence for him, doesn’t it?) 😦

  19. Thank you all for your support. I have been to three meetings at my local spouse abuse program and have been telling all my friends and family about the abuse. They were shocked, but they believe me. I left my husband for a few days last month but returned when he said he would do whatever it took to get me home. We are in the “buy back” stage in the cycle and I am waiting for the abuse to return.
    I refuse to go to church with him but haven’t told him why. I don’t feel like my life is in danger right now but I do realize that could change. The abuse so far has been verbal, mental, and in a sense sexual (groping and demanding sex as his God given right).
    The pastor of his church is really sick, but he didn’t kill his ex-wives, they died of illnesses long after they divorced him. He used that example for me because I mentioned once that the people in my family had a history of dieing before the age of fifty, and how blessed I felt to get passed fifty. I guess he thought I feared death and preyed on that perceived weakness. He even asked if I had been feeling well lately (how wicked is that?). “The blind leading the blind, and abusers leading abusers.”
    Again, thank you, this blog has been my lifeline in the fog of extreme insanity and deception of the evil one.
    Barbara, this is round two for me too. Thanks for the hug…it made me cry. (HUGS)

    • IamMyBeloved's

      Just waking up, I think it is common to believe that the abuses you mention that have happened to you, aren’t as dangerous as let’s say physical abuse, but that is just not true. There are studies to indicate that emotional abuse is just as damaging and the affects of it last longer than physical abuse. The post on ACFJ before this latest post has a link by Leslie Vernick entitled “Is Emotional Abuse Grounds for Biblical Separation”. That article was very good and informative. If you have not read it, it may help you some, just to read through it. I thought it was very good and it really helped me to see that even though there was physical abuse in my marriage, that the emotional/mental/sexual abuse had just as much deep, damaging and lasting effects on me. Just food for thought.

      And yes, that pastor sounds very sick and wicked! That is power and control he is trying to exercise over you, by making you afraid and then asking you how you feel. I guess you could always answer him, that you feel he is a wicked man and you have been talking to God about him, and that you don’t think that God likes him intimidating you!

    • Heather2

      Justwakingup, it’s good to hear that you are being believed by family and friends. Having others who support you is important. You’re doing the right thing making connections so you have support should you take steps to leave. Please be careful. We all know how quickly things can change.

      Let God handle that dreadful man who dares call himself “pastor.” He will be judged one day!

  20. amy

    I finally made the decision to leave my abuser. I broke my silence to my pastor. My abuser also contacted the pastor with his ‘side of the story’. The pastor has been counseling him, but has also been reaching out to me, trying to get me to return to the church where my abuser is still welcomed. We’re in the process of a divorce. The pastor has not tried to influence me otherwise. The pastor is inexperienced, and wants to remain neutral. He asked me to come in and meet with the church leaders to tell me story, then immediately after I leave, my abuser would come in and tell his story. Am I right in feeling this is wrong? It feels like they’re going to listen and try to decide who is telling the truth. I’m tired of telling my story.

    • Katy

      Amy – direct them to this blog, rather than giving them another round of pin the tail on the donkey. They clearly can’t figure out what they are dealing with. Pastor Crippen can help them out. 🙂

    • joepote01

      Yes, you are absolutely right in feeling it is wrong. You’ve explained the situation to your pastor. You should not have to defend yourself before a panel of board members who know nothing of your situation.

      Perhaps you could simply give your pastor a copy of Jeff Crippen’s book, and call it good. They don’t need to hear your story again. They need a better understanding of abuse.

    • Yes, Amy your gut feeling is right. Neutrality is NOT neutral. There is a post titled that on our blog, I think. We certainly have a tag for ‘neutrality’ so look that up and you’ll find quite a few posts.

    • The reason neutrality is so dangerous is that your pastor and elders are probably going to think that your abuser is telling some truth and some untruth, and you are telling some truth and some untruth. To get it about abuse, they need to realise that abusers are full of lies and even when they tell ‘truth’ it creates a lie because they only tell selective facts, and select what they tell to make the victim look bad and themselves look good. In contrast, the victim tells the truth and no lies; the only thing is, that many victims don’t tell the whole truth about what the abuser has done because they simply can’t remember it all, being too traumatized to have taken it in to that place in their brain where they can recount it objectively — it’s so entangled and weighed down by fear, shame, self-blame, etc, that it’s not in the reflective autobiographical memory part of the brain.

    • Heather2

      Amy, yes, this is wrong. Trust your instinct. There is something wrong with your pastor trying to remain neutral. In the end, you don’t answer to them or the elders. You answer to God.

      I’m glad you made a decision. It was the right thing to do. I would also encourage you to stay away from that church if your abuser is still in fellowship there. They may not want to get involved, but remaining neutral with blinders on is just plain sinful!

  21. Linda

    First of all, I want to say that I agree wholeheartedly that someone in an
    abusive marriage, whether it’s continual verbal abuse, physical abuse,
    or perhaps the spouse is having extramarital affairs, may have no other
    option but divorce. I can’t for the life of me understand how a pastor
    doesn’t get that abuse is bad and in some cases women have lost their
    lives by staying with abusive husbands. I do think marriage, when done right,
    is sacred and when the issue is simply “incompatibility” as is so popular
    now, then couples should be counseled to stay together and with God’s help,
    work on themselves and their marriage. Yet, for a woman to go into
    a pastors office and tell him her husband is abusing her and/or their children,
    and the only thing the pastor can do is tell her to “be more submissive”, it
    makes you wonder what in the world are they thinking? My friend’s husband
    was in church every time the doors were open…even when she would
    stay home, he would go. Everyone thought he was such a good man. He
    actually had a crush on another woman in the church and even told his wife,
    my friend, that he wished he had waited and married the other woman. He
    was verbally abusive and, although he never actually laid hands on her to
    physically abuse her, he would go and destroy something
    that meant a lot to her… [details deleted to disidentify commenter and her friend].
    To this day, the pastor still believes him over her, and although she filed for
    divorce and moved on, he still has favor in that church.

    • Linda, once again I changed the screen name you gave with this comment, and I removed a few details to protect identies.

  22. Raped By Evil

    So many times I have pondered what you’ve written here Jeff. Why I couldn’t see the evil and the abuse for what it was when it is SO OBVIOUS to me now. And I’ll say it again; it was a combination of conditioning done by the psychology of the time that I grew up and then the church teachings that tell us to shut up, work like crazy, and forgive everything and everybody.

    For people with my predisposition to love others and to get joy when I see that others are happy, the above type of conditioning done by the church and the world combined to enslave me in every realm of my life. It actually makes perfect sense and it’s why I know that it was ONLY due to God’s grace and HIS waking me up that I can see clearly now.

    Something that I’ve noticed about abusers and their tactics (and you’ve addressed); when you disagree with them it immediately sets them on edge and they’ll lie or deny something almost as a natural reflex. In the past I would have immediately apologized and conceded to whatever they had snapped at me about. But now I simply wait or go right back into the ring and do another round with them. In the past fear used to hold me in a frozen state, terrified of hurting someone’s feelings or being wrong about their motivations etc. Now, I simply wait and watch or continue to disagree with them……and then wait and watch some more. (If it’s something that I feel needs to be dealt with. If it’s simply an abuser trying to keep the game in play I usually opt right out and become as boring or uninteresting as possible. Nothing to see here folks!)

    And this is what is still being taught by so many….this fear of upsetting someone, or if we see them for the abusers that they are, we talk ourselves out of it by the errant teachings we’ve heard again and again. It’s not really a mystery as to WHY we’ve learned to disregard the Holy Spirit’s promptings, it’s just horrifically tragic that THE MAJORITY of churches continue to teach us to do this!

    You address this over and over on this website, how churches teach this “forgive everyone and everything about everything, or else YOU will be judged.” There just seems to be very few if ANY churches besides yours Jeff, that not only preach and teach the truth from God’s word, but demonstrate it by real life application it as well. An oasis in the desert. A dock in a storm. A warm place in the cold of winter….is what ACFJ is to so many of us.

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