Pretend repentance is worse than no repentance

(6) 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?  (7) 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.  (8) 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.  (9) Because she took her whoredom lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree.  (10) Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares the Lord.”  (11) And the Lord said to me, “Faithless Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah.” [Emphasis added.]  (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 page 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.

[April 9, 2023: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to April 9, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to April 9, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to April 9, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (April 9, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]


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.

25 thoughts on “Pretend repentance is worse than no repentance”

  1. Here then is a very dangerous combination. It is like grenades in the hands of little children. You have in the church the WORST abusers (which reasons are stated here in Barbara’s post) and you have in so many cases the WORST people handling it. By worst, I mean Christians who have been wrongly taught about forgiveness, about marriage and divorce, and so on. “Oh look, we can handle this. What’s that little pin there? Pull it and see what happens.”

  2. Yes, the combination is very dangerous indeed. I was easily deceived by a pretender and then remained in bondage to the abuser for 12 horrendous years in part due to the teachings of the church.

  3. So very very true. Especially when the people in the church are strongly discouraging the victim from seeking secular help, and ostracizing you when you do, based on the verses that condemn taking a “brother” to court. We should be able to settle this among ourselves. Would that it were so. But as long as the church insists on violating the Scriptural admonition to hold the sinning “brother” accountable and administer appropriate consequences, the victim is left with no other choice but to turn to “the world”. At least they see the sin for what it is.

  4. At least they see the sin for what it is.

    StrongerNow, so true. That’s why I am wary of Christian organizations and professionals. It’s bad enough they don’t see sin, they don’t get that that false repentance is in fact worse than no repentance, and that the self-proclaimed Christian abuser is the worst type of abuser. Worst type of abuser and the least trained people to handle it — why would you even want to be anywhere near there.

  5. It is so true and when you have a pastor who believes God hates divorce and does not understand how abusers are so deceptive, well it’s a toxic mix. My ex went to the pastor (the pastor was new to the church) and told him he wanted to work on our marriage and I didn’t. I knew my ex was not truly repentant and he was not changing but the pastor fell for it so I was asked to leave the church. He told me he could no longer be my pastor while my ex was embraced. Our previous pastor knew and understood abuse. He understood my divorcing him and said it was better to leave than be carried out.

  6. This is so true — because the pseudo-Christian is making a mockery of Christ. Not only that, because they distort true Christianity, they can cause someone to stumble spiritually. There is a cognitive dissonance which creates spiritual confusion and turmoil wherein someone may doubt themselves, their salvation, or their hope in Christ.

    The spiritual component to abuse is something that many people fail to think about when they discuss abuse. For example, if a pastor refuses to enforce church discipline when a church member is in chronic sin, fails to report crimes, etc., this is secondary abuse. Let’s say the initial abuse was domestic violence. The secondary abuse is spiritual abuse because a pastor who is in a position of trust should be acting like a shepherd tending the battered sheep. By neglecting the battered sheep, the pastor has physically, emotionally, and spiritually abandoned the hurting sheep. What message does that send to the already beaten-down person about God and His love for the oppressed? This stuff makes me so angry.

  7. When so many of the “normal” people in Fundamentalism come down on the side of the abuser rather than the abused, when the knee-jerk responses are so predictably spiritually abusive it would be comical if they weren’t dead earnest — well, something evil lurks there. These otherwise relatively decent people perpetuate spiritual abuse not out of a mean spirit or on purpose, but because they honestly think that’s the right thing to do. It’s the pattern their core beliefs dictate.

    Cognitive Dissonance Part 2 [Internet Archive link]

    Pretending to care all the while just worshiping the god of PR [Public relations.]. Damage control. Doing enough to quiet the voices that are beginning to speak, to be heard after years of shameful silence. Awakening hope because someone hears your story and you are believed. Crushing that hope and vilifying the ones who really heard you and gave you hope that just maybe, justice might come this side of hell.

    Yes, that is what Bob Jones University has done and is continuing to do. They point out they aren’t a church when it suits them, yet act with the authority of one as needed. They are training pastors for churches. Their teaching and counseling shapes the IFB [Internet Archive link]1 world. They aren’t a church, but their influence is pervasive in churches. They pretend to do right, but nothing has changed. Jim Berg is still as dangerous or more so than ever in his counseling. I almost didn’t survive it.

    1[April 9, 2023: We added the link to Wikipedia’s page on Independent Baptist (also known as Independent Fundamental Baptist). The Internet Archive link is a copy of that page. Editors.]

    1. You are right, SJR. I am disgusted by the way BJU (Bob Jones University) engaged G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) to do an independent review of the way BJU had handled allegations of abuse, and then pulled the plug on the whole review just before G.R.A.C.E. was about to publish its report. It is yet another way of gutting the victims and hanging them out to dry. Shame on BJU. Shame.

  8. This is so so so so so so good, Barb. I remember trying to tell people this and my words fell on deaf ears. Using the idea of repentance to gain a foothold or exploit a child of God is horrendous. And surely, God does not take that lightly.

  9. The anti-husband used to cry big ‘ol crocodile tears in the counselor’s office and feign love for me and repentance, and then when we got home he’d strut around the house with a smug attitude and command that I forgive him because he “confessed”. Once he even called me from work the morning after one of our marital sessions and said, “I’m sorry for ruining your life. Now don’t ever mention it again!” Then he kept a detailed log until our next session so he could document and tell the counselor that I had not changed, nor forgiven him despite his “apology”.

    1. I recently got told that I needed to look at him as the “weaker brother” because he was unemployed again. (Then employed but still not paying child support.) Weaker, nope! Not buying the word games any more!!

    2. That was some apology there, Fiftyandfree. I can’t imagine why you just didn’t rush back to him. NOT. I would expect that the wording of that apology counteracted his log. X often says the first part, “I’m sorry for ruining your life.” The rest is implied. He just doesn’t understand why I don’t take that as enough and go out to dinner and “talk” about our problems. I no longer have a problem. We are divorced.

      1. I used to think he was so dumb that he really thought I’d forgive him even if his apologies were hollow and soulless, but I finally came to understand that they (the so-called apologies) were nothing more than facets of his manipulative, controlling and deceptive personality. He used them to bully me. Pure and simple. Just like he used Scripture which meant nothing to him to bully and control me. And just like he used the children as leverage to bully and control me. These men are bullies and they use apologies and feigned repentance as weapons of their warfare.

  10. Thank you for this. How, then, do I distinguish btw. real and phony repentance? I was in an abusive relationship for 22 years and then filed for legal separation two years ago. Now my husband has become a Christian and says he wants to reconcile. I do see change but I am sick at the thought of being back with him but equally sick at the thought of being wrong and not believing a miracle is possible with God’s miraculous intervention. We have several young children together. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi, KitaBunch,
      Welcome to the blog! You ask a great question. Yes, it is so important to be able to distinguish between real and false repentance — and it’s not always easy. In addition to this post, there are several other posts that discuss repentance. We have a TAG named Repentance that lists all the posts related to this topic. The TAGS can be found on the top menu bar.

      To get you started may I suggest these posts. These are only a few — there are several other very good posts on this topic.
      David — A Case Study in Real Repentance
      Saul — A Case Study in False Repentance
      Checklist for Repentance
      A Good Description of Real Repentance

    2. Without knowing him, none of us can say whether his repentance is genuine, but I do believe that the Holy Spirit will reveal truth to those who seek it. Pray and ask God to show you the truth about your husband and be fully surrendered to His will and to His guidance. I used to very humbly ask the Lord to help me see my ex through His own eyes (the Lord’s) because I too was so afraid (terrified really) of making a mistake and sinning by divorcing a man who was only flawed, not an abuser.

      Like Jeff has said in his book and on this blog, our Christian values and what we’ve been taught makes it very difficult for us to separate ourselves from an abuser. We are taught to “turn the other cheek”, “pray and stay”, “forgive 70 times 7”, and we are taught that we “are all sinners so we should not judge others”. These faulty teachings make it almost impossible to break free of an abusive relationship, but I truly understand your desire to not make a mistake to not divorce him if he is truly repentant. God knows his heart and He will reveal it to you if you seek the truth and ask Him. Also, studying this blog and books like Barbara’s and Jeff’s will really help shed light on the tactics of abusers which will may help you decipher some of his words and behaviors.

      One thing God has shown me is that if and when my ex is ever repentant, one of the first things he will do is call me or ask to see me and personally, with true humility, admit the things he’s done to me and the children, apologize sincerely, AND he will make a sustained effort at amending the wrongs he has done. When you are truly converted to Christ you are broken about the things you’ve done wrong and you sincerely sorry about what you’ve done to hurt others and you want to make things right by treating others with Christ-like love. I have yet to see any indication of this in my ex despite his vain words of apology and his empty claims of Christianity. You know them by their fruits.

      I’m glad you found us and I hope you’ll keep coming back.

      1. our Christian values and what we’ve been taught makes it very difficult for us to separate ourselves from an abuser. We are taught to “turn the other cheek”, “pray and stay”, “forgive 70 times 7″, and we are taught that we “are all sinners so we should not judge others”. These faulty teachings make it almost impossible to break free of an abusive relationship,

        I agree, Fiftyandfree, and I’m sure we are both on the same page with this since we’ve known each other through the blog for so long, but if I may, I would like to suggest that the problem is not that those teachings are “faulty” but that they are so greatly emphasized (and twisted) whereas the counterbalancing teachings that help us obtain safety from abusers are so rarely taught. This bias in the way the Scriptures are taught to us (in sermons, books, counseling, etc.) sets us up to be steam-rollered by abusers. But the Bible itself is wonderfully balanced, and if we grasp its teachings fully (the whole counsel of God) then we are much more able to respond to the wicked, the fools, and the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

        Bless you.

      2. Yes, Barbara, you are correct. I thought about that last night as I was drifting off to sleep. It’s not the Bible that is wrong, it’s the bias in the way much of Scripture is used and taught that often keeps victims in bondage. Thanks for helping to clarify this! I would never want to insinuate that I don’t believe God’s Word is truth or that He is perfect, loving, and just.

      3. Thank you so very much. I continue to seek the Lord’s will and am surrendered to whatever He has for me. I went through excruciating pain for many years and then terror by finally revealing the truth to the public. Yet, I had the most amazing support from my church and attorneys and justice from the courts. Standing up despite great cost seems to have opened up my husband’s heart to see the truth but now I am still struggling with trusting my husband despite his continued changed behavior for last 6 months. We are legally separated now but it is a difficult place to be….a limbo land.

        Thank you for this blog! I read it daily!

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