Pretend repentance is worse than no repentance
The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah:
“Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore?
And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me,’
but she did not return,
and her treacherous sister Judah saw it.
She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce.
Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore.
Because she took her whoredom lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree.
Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares the Lord.”
And the Lord said to me, “Faithless Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah.”
(Jeremiah 3:6-11, ESV)
Jeff Crippen argues that the “Christian” abuser is the worst kind of abuser — worse than an abuser who does not pretend to be a Christian (see this post by Jeff and also p. 265 of Jeff’s book A Cry For Justice [*Affiliate link]). I think the above passage from Jeremiah demonstrates that the “Christian” abuser is indeed the worst kind.
Try to put aside any little triggers you may be having about the analogy of adultery and playing the whore. This passage is not meant to be interpreted as a rant about the shock-horror sins of the female sex. It is using those words as a metaphor for spiritual adultery: how both of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah followed after other gods and the wicked, demonically driven religions of the Canaanites. Rather than stay faithful to the one true God and the delineated rules for worship at his temple in Jerusalem, they followed their flesh and the enticements of the Enemy by worshipping idols made of stone, sacrificing to the Baals, making Asherah poles out of wood and using them as foci for worship, etc. How foolish. How typical of fallen human beings.
Now let’s look at the differences between Israel and Judah. Israel got into the whole Golden Calf thing; they bastardized worship every which way. They were right out there, practicing every kind of extreme sin in wicked religion and its associated immorality, lies, oppression of the vulnerable, etc. And they did not repent. They kept going, relishing their sin, soaking in it unashamedly.
And God thought to himself: ‘After Israel has done all this she will return to me,” but Israel did not repent. So God divorced Israel. He sent the kingdom of Israel away with a decree of divorce. Cut and dried. And the Kingdom of Judah saw it. They were watching from the sidelines. They knew God had divorced Israel. They saw how God dealt with Israel’s treachery, but they did not learn the lesson. They too went and committed spiritual adultery, lustily following false gods and wicked worship practices. . . ugh.
Rather than stop their sinning and come to a genuine fear and reverence for God with true repentance, Judah chose to not return to God with her whole heart, but in pretense. And the Lord said to Jeremiah, “Faithless Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah.”
So God is saying that non-repentant shameless continuation in sin is more righteous than pretended repentance. Or, to put it another way, phony repentance is more wicked than flagrant sin. So abusers who masquerade as Christians in churches by putting on a show of Christian virtue are worse than abusers who do not hide their abuse under a Christian mask.