A Cry For Justice

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

Philippians is not just a joyful letter

[September 11, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]

The book of Philippians is often said to be the most joyful and exuberant of Paul’s epistles. That may be true, but to see it through only that lens is to risk missing its strong condemnation of hypocritical self-serving religionists.

Here are some excerpts from Philippians in which I’ve highlighted some of those strong condemnations. Paul was not writing just a happy letter, he was also sternly warning his readers to beware of dogs. And the encouragement Paul proffered to his readers was founded on the certain destruction that is destined for evildoers.

(Philippians 1:15-17  ESV)  Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here [in prison] for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.…  (27-28) ….let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.  [Emphasis added.]

(Philippians 2:19-21  ESV) I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.  [Emphasis added.]

(Philippians 3:2-3  ESV) Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh —  [Emphasis added.]

(Philippians 3:17-21  ESV) Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.  [Emphasis added.]

[September 11, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to September 11, 2022 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 September 11, 2022 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 September 11, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (September 11, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]


  1. Jeff Crippen

    Excellent observations, Barbara. Abusers and perhaps especially enablers of abusers want to keep things “upbeat, happy, lookin’ on the sunny side of life.” Why? Because it doesn’t cost anything to live in such a world that keeps a blind eye to evildoers and the plight of their victims. The Apostle Paul didn’t do that, as you have pointed out here. He acknowledged evil, evildoers, and tells everyone that such people are going to get their due from the King on that Day.

    • thepersistentwidow

      Knowing that these enemies of God’s people are present in the midst of the church is a comfort to anyone who has been persecuted by them. The fact such wolves would be there is biblical. We weren’t crazy, or evil as they claimed we were, but we are validated by this Scripture.

      Some churches have a more wolf-friendly environment than others and discernment is necessary as we search for a church to belong to. Not all churches have wolves, but some are just loaded with them. Some churches are imposters loaded with imposters. The gates of hell will not prevail against Christ’s true church, and genuine believers are still out there. It takes some seeking to find the right place to be. Don’t give up!

  2. Anonymous

    Thank you for this post and the comments that validate that “we weren’t crazy” as we questioned why everyone is so upbeat about the wolves within the flock. Although I know the truth of “the gates of hell not prevailing….” [Paraphrase of Matthew 16:18], I needed to have this reaffirmed this morning. I’m feeling rather chewed up and lonely.

  3. Seeing Clearly

    This post is very difficult for me right now. Perhaps I would call it, too much truth. I see too much truth at a time when I am too thick in the midst of the pack of wolves. I have two more weeks to stay in this crucible, play my role, buck up…. It seems to be eroding much progress in healing that I have achieved in the last [number redacted] years.

    A major celebration for one of our adult children is being held in my N ex’s “den”. The den being his very Baptist, patriarchal church where he and his new wife attend. It is in the small town where we raised our children, he pastored a different church, I filed for divorce, I had my nervous breakdown and poor health, etc.. I keep contact with close friends and live about [number redacted] miles away.

    He wanted nothing to do with being responsible for this event until he got the idea it could be in his church. Then….he put his spiritual suit coat on, stepped up to the plate, and took charge. The only rule: he and I cannot talk to another. It’s been his rule since the divorce.
    His subservient wife is doing a lot of preparations with him. I have been delegated certain things. Essentially, I am to fall into line, have no ideas, interests, passions, ideas. Be happy that I can basically show up and visit with people and then go home. I call it the deadening of the soul.

    The taking charge happened over night, literally. I did not see it coming. On a certain day about a month ago, I was discussing the logistical difficulty of the event with my adult child. The conversation carried over to my ex. When the idea came to him to look into his church facility, the narcissist’s light bulb clicked on. He moved to his position of top and center!

    For over [two decades], I was subject to the lies and deceits that Paul talks about because we were in the inner circle of the religious community in that town. But all husbands weren’t behaving like mine. I felt that I should never say negative things about my husband while he was the pastor, that would make it difficult for someone to sit under his teaching.

    My insides are screaming. I want to tell everyone in his church who he really is, what Paul calls him, what his precious, subservient new wife is seductively being groomed for. But that church doesn’t want to have ears for it. How would they be able to continue doing church as usual if the truth started being spoken out loud. What would his male prayer partner pray about, whose wife is a casual friend of mine from the past.

    I feel like my N ex has his thumb on me, pushing me down. It is the crazy-making that I thought I had healed from and mastered from ever being touched by ever again. So on the day after Thanksgiving, the day of our child’s celebration, I will hold my head high, breath deep, enjoy the friends and family who I trust and respect. I will never have to do that day over.

    I sometimes struggle with Paul’s writings because he left too much to the interpretation of his words. I wish he would have named the church leaders of the 21st century as the worst of the sinners and made it easier for us to figure it out.

    [For safety and protection, some details have been airbrushed or redacted. Editors.]

    • thepersistentwidow

      Seeing Clearly, my heart goes out to you. Being in a small town makes the situation especially tough. You mentioned that this is a patriarchal Baptist church, so right off we know that their doctrine is works-based and soul-killing. It may seem like other husbands don’t act like yours in that church, but don’t be so sure of that. You don’t know what goes on in their homes and you may be in a collective of abusers. Also, it is understandable that your kind, Christian Spirit would want to give the congregation the benefit of the doubt when you think that they would be turned off by an abuser teacher. I can tell you that from my own experience, the abusers have a perfected way of making the victim look unstable while they parade around as being persecuted for righteousness sake. Some churches implicitly teach that anyone who revels a wicked man is a whistleblower and a dangerous person. These churches are knit together by fear – no place for a daughter of the King, like you.

      Many of us were with our abusers for years and years, assigning the benefit of the doubt for their actions or questioning ourselves. It is the same dynamic in being within the abusive church. Follow your instincts on this one. As you mentioned, being made sick and spiritually drained doesn’t come from the Holy Spirit. If the group is willing to follow harsh rules against God’s daughters, this isn’t coming from our Father. Such is not the voice of the Shepherd. I suggest that you seek out other church alternatives as soon as you are able.

      It is hard to seek out a new church, leaving friends behind. But Christians have a common ground with the Holy Spirit. We see that here at ACFJ with people from all over the world, from different backgrounds finding commonality in the Spirit and our circumstances. If you find a faithful church, you will find new (and dare I say, better) friends. Don’t give up. Seek and you will find. Blessings to you, Seeing Clearly.

    • Valerie

      Seeing Clearly, I feel for you. When I first had to go back to our house where he still resides, it was hard to not go back to the emotional place of despair and learned helplessness. It’s going back to a war zone of sorts. The sights, smells, all of it can easily take you back to the abuse and feelings of helplessness. However, in time I found that having to be in that environment began to increase my feelings of gratitude toward God. To see the war zone only reminded me of what I was saved from and my focus seems to automatically turn toward gratitude now instead of helplessness when I have to be there. I pray that you will have the strength you need for that day to indeed hold your head up high, knowing what God has saved you from. 🙂 Go in strength and peace!

      It struck me recently about the account of Jesus casting out the demon from the man as recorded in Mark 1:23 and Luke 4:33. In both accounts it is stated there was a man in the synagogue with an evil spirit. It seems we tend to quickly read over that part and stop on where Jesus casts out the demon. If someone were reading this while I was conducting a Bible study I would now stop the reader after that sentence before moving along. I don’t read anything in this account that states the man was foaming at the mouth or something indicating it was obvious to others he was possessed by an evil spirit. Even at that time there were those in the church having an evil spirit sitting amongst true worshipers. Where did we ever indoctrinate the concept that only the pure in heart are in the pews when it was not true even in Jesus’ time?

      • Seeing Clearly

        I appreciate your insights, Valerie. Choosing to look upon the experience with gratitude inspires me to do so. Instead, I have, much of the time, been feeling the war zone scene.

        I would be most certain that ex does have or is an evil spirit; a stern seething evil spirit. I don’t say that lightly.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Seeing Clearly – small town churchville. Oh man. I have been there for the last 21 years and I know all the trappings that go on in that scene. Standing for Christ in a church in such a scenario is very costly. But I encourage you not to give up on Christ’s true church. His people are out there, even if it seems that a true fellowship of real believers is pretty hard to find. Evil certainly is on the increase in these last days, all the while wearing the disguise of godliness, yet denying its power.

      • Seeing Clearly

        Thank you for your encouraging words, Jeff, especially about Christ’s true church. This is where I need to keep my eyes. ACFJ has been a healing balm for me today. I am strengthened to begin a new week, expecting goodness from God and friends. Also recounting God’s faithful watch over me to bring me this far past the divorce.

  4. Seeing Clearly

    I’ve been thinking more about the man, Paul, today since I first read your post. I appreciate the doom and gloom that you have highlighted, Barbara. For quite some time, I have been liking Paul’s writings less and less. One of the reason’s that I have wearied of him is becoming clearer to me. Teachings and devotionals use his words to slap the wrist of believers and proclaim his harsh words as reason for us to esteem ourselves better than ‘those pagans’ outside the church doors. You verify that indeed, he is addressing the church goers.

    If the God of all the ages allows Paul to speak, I can’t totally shut Paul out. But I can begin to relearn how to read his words and let them be true and relevant. You have given me inspiration to do that. Thank you.

  5. KayJay

    I would suggest David’s words in Psalms 9, 10, and 11. Want to see the wicked clearly? How God sees them? These are wonderful psalms.

    • KayJay

      Sorry, I meant that as a reply to Seeing Clearly….

      • Seeing Clearly

        Thank you, KayJay. I will read those Psalms.
        A painful proof of where that church stands on poor, rejected men like my ex is that the pastor married my ex to his new wife – in that church – [number redacted] years after our divorce. I just realized that telling detail today.

        [For safety and protection, the number of years were redacted. Editors.]

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