Summary of Our Recent Interaction with a Young Pastor
Ready Reference post. In our recent interactions with a man who called himself YoungPastor, we observed a very typical mindset which probably most of us held in the past, before our eyes were opened to the nature and evil of abuse. The following comments are posted here as a stand-alone article so that they will be more visible for our readers and serve as a handy resource when answering and refuting the erroneous thinking and theology so widely held in the church when it comes to dealing with the wicked and protecting their victims. Contrary to our usual practice of having no post on Tuesday, we are publishling this today because our publishing schedule is so jam packed that we have posts scheduled for at least a full month ahead.
- Due to the many comments, we could not include all of them here, and the following comments are not in strict chronological order as they appeared originally. If you would like to read all the responses to a young pastor, go to the comments thread of Non-Negotiables for Effective and Biblical Abuse Ministry.
As our discussion progressed with YoungPastor, it became evident to me (Jeff), and probably lots of you as well, that for all his claims that he would discipline an abuser and that no woman should be under abuse at any time, in fact he would indeed permit an abuser to keep coming to his church in spite of the suffering of the victim. In fact, let’s just state a principle. If a pastor and/or church follows the philosophy of YoungPastor, that church will inevitably render injustice and further suffering to abuse victims and enable the abuser. It is the necessary outcome. In other words, if YoungPastor has been following the beliefs he states here, we would expect there to be abusers in his church and victims who have been sorely treated.
How do I know? Because his insistence that he is going “to see the man saved” and that the marriage needs “fixing” is necessarily going to take a pastor right down that abuser-enabling, victim oppressing road.
- As Barb helped Jeff compile this post she was struck by “God bless” which YoungPastor used as his sign-off. Some people say “God bless” and mean it warmly, but we have noticed that abuse-enablers often use “God bless” as an oily sign-off after having expressed their disagreement with us and presented their decorous veil of flaky theology.
All comments by YoungPastor are indented.
Hello there, I am a young Pastor who is considering all these issues for future ministry. I agree with most of these points and very much appreciate what the ministry of this website is trying to accomplish. I have a question about #3, “Divorce for abuse is not only permitted by God, but blessed by Him. The institution of marriage must not be prioritized over the safety of the individuals within it.” I agree that individuals must be protected, but I disagree that God will bless divorce. I have too little girls and love my wife very much, and I have seen many cases of women who are in a bad situation and need to get out. I am a firm believer that no woman should be under any abuse at any time.
1 Corinthians 7:10-11 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband. But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
I believe that a woman (or man) who is being abused can depart and should not be under it any longer. I also believe that the departed spouse should remain unmarried and try to be reconciled with the offending spouse. I believe that God may use Divorce for His glory, but I don’t believe that He blesses divorce because Jesus said that no one should separate what God has put together.
Mark 10:7-9 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man separate.
I also disagree with # 2 “A marriage to an abuser does not need to be fixed (it cannot be fixed).” I believe that to say that a marriage cannot be fixed is contrary to what the Bible says.
1 Cor. 5:18 says, And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation
I believe that we all should be trying to reconcile those who have sinned against God and I think that should count for abusers also. Jesus Christ died for sinners, do abusers have the chance to be saved by Jesus? I believe that they do. Again, this is not meant as an attack on any person and I hope that all marriages would be free from abuse. God bless.
Jeff Crippen to YoungPastor –
Well, please, please, please keep studying this subject. Read our books. Read Lundy Bancroft’s books. And PLEASE do not counsel anyone with the positions that you are taking in this comment. PLEASE. You don’t have it right yet. Your focus is still on rescuing the abuser and on preserving the marriage, and that is going to lead victims down that same old road so many of them have been put in bondage to by their pastors, bible counselors, and fellow Christians.
Remember, we are conservative Christians here. We believe in the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. But through hard, hard experience and lessons the Lord has taught us by facing abusers ourselves, we have learned what He would have us learn, and would have you learn. YoungPastor, you are simply not equipped nor yet qualified to handle a case of abuse. If you tell victims what you are saying here, you are going to add to their suffering, you are going to enable the wicked abuser, and you will not be honoring Christ. It has taken me over 30 years of pastoral ministry to sort this out. I hope you can do it sooner.
Barbara Roberts to YoungPastor –
YoungPastor said: I believe that God can save an abuser from sin and turn him (or her) into a new creation. I believe that it is my duty to try to preach to the abuser and see Him or Her saved. That is not enabling abuse, that is doing the work of the Lord as spelling [spelled?] out in the great commission, Matthew 18. To say that God can not heal and restore an abusive marriage by saving the abuser, I refute as wrong and misguided.
To YoungPastor and any others who may share his mindset: kindly let me put this to you.
The Lord Jesus Christ told his disciples that when people rejected the gospel, we are to shake the dust off our feet as a testimony against them.
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. (Luke 10:1-12 ESV. See also Luke 9:5; Matt 10:14; Mark 6:11)
That is just as much a part of the Great Commission in which the Lord told us to:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)
Okay, I’m going to do a basic exercise in logic here. Forgive me if this sounds too pedantic.
- Making disciples involves teaching the disciples ALL that the Lord has commanded us.
- This ALL must include the commandment to shake the dust off our feet when a person or a town does not receive the gospel. The command is clear: we must shake the dust off our feet as a testimony against them, and as we leave our parting words are to convey: “Know this: the kingdom of God has come near you.”
- If YoungPastor and his fellows are not applying this command when carrying out their part of the Great Commission, they are either ignorant of the command or are ignoring it by choice.
- A domestic abuser who has been or still is married to a Christian will most certainly have heard the gospel, many times in many ways. Even if the abuser has not been attending church, the Christian spouse will have conveyed and explained the gospel to the abusive spouse. If the abuser has been a church attender, multiply the number of times he has ‘heard the gospel’ by many hundreds or thousands. Every time he has attended church he will have hear the gospel, so long as it’s been an evangelical church of some kind or other. In many churches, he will also have heard warnings about not taking communion without faith in Christ, and been warned to examine his conscience for unconfessed sin before he takes communion. Again, multiply these warnings by hundreds or thousands, depending how long he’s been hanging out in churches.
Now, Mr YoungPastor said, “I believe that it is my duty to try to preach to the abuser and see Him or Her saved.” But YoungPastor needs a reality check. The abuser has already had the gospel preached to him. The abuser has rejected the gospel: that’s evident by his having continued in his pattern of abusing his wife. YoungPastor needs to not think so highly of himself as potent preacher of the gospel as if NOW he, YP, has the highly important job of giving the gospel to this stony hearted, stiff necked, seared-conscienced abuser, when no other attempts have ever got through.
YP neeeds stop trying to preach the gospel to the abuser, needs to shake the dust off his feet as a testimony against the abuser, and he needs to encourage the victim of the abuser to shake the dust off her feet too. THAT would be obedience to the Great Commission.
And if YP does not know this, he has not been properly discipled himself.
If anyone can refute me with Scripture, go ahead and show me where I am wrong. But use Scripture.
Joe Pote to YoungPastor –
YP seems to have also fallen prey to the all-too-prevalent church culture perspective (Divorce Mythology) that presumes all marriages to be worth trying to save and all divorce to be avoided at all cost.
Not all marriages are worth saving; and divorce, though a very difficult path, is not the horrible evil it is too often conveyed to be in popular church culture.
If a pastor believes an abuser to be truly repentant and feels led to invest more time with him, fine. He’s likely misguided and deceived by the cunning abuser, but perhaps not…perhaps he really is dealing with a truly penitent person deeply desirous of fundamental change by the power of Christ. Go for it!
But that has absolutely nothing to do with the marriage, the abused spouse, nor the abused children!
I would that all abusers would come to saving faith in Christ. I don’t expect it to happen, but it would be great if it did.
However, even if it did happen, it would still be unwise for the abused spouse and/or children to return to intimate relationship with the abuser. Unwise for them and unwise for the abuser, whether repentant or not.
Repentant alcoholics usually avoid bars, liquor stores, and other places where alcohol is likely to be served. Repentant drug abusers usually avoid relationships where drug use is likely to become a temptation. If a supposedly ‘repentant’ marriage abuser and/or his sponsor (counselor) insist on the ‘necessity’ of his returning to the very relationship which he has previously repeatedly egregiously abused, I would question both the motivation and the validity of the ‘repentance’ as this would seem to be a course of action that is not in the best interest of anyone involved.
Salvation for the abuser is not dependent on ‘fixing’ the marriage, nor does it automatically ‘fix’ the marriage, nor make the marriage worth ‘fixing.’
Jesus came to save individuals, not marriages.
YoungPastor to Joe Pote –
If we all have free will, why can’t the marriage be fixed? If the abuser has the free will to abuse, does he also have the free will to repent? What concerns me is some of the things posted here make it sound like the abuser can not be saved or turn from being an abuser. Is this what you believe? You bring up Jeremiah 3:8; which is a great point, where God gives a bill of divorce, but what about 3:22, where God says that the backsliding children should return and God will heal them. This is why I say that God may use divorce the same way He uses sorrow and pain, but does He bless them? Does He bless Hell? I agree that most abusers need to be punished and they might never repent, but to say that they can not repent, I can not agree.
1 Tim. 2:3-4 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Again, I ask not in anger or intention to cause disruption, but in order to seek insight from other Godly men of the Word of God and to spread truth.
Barbara Roberts –
For myself, I found it noteworthy that YoungPastor only mentioned wanting insight from godly men, not godly men and women. I wonder if his wording is indicative of an assumption that men are superior to women?
Ellie to YoungPastor –
I’d like to submit that “Can abusers change?” is not the right question when counseling targets of abuse and trying to help them make a safety plan. The questions are “Has he changed?” and “Why has he changed?”
Divorce should be a way to protect the targets of abuse, to define specific boundaries and provision, to release the targets from any obligation to the abusers. It isn’t punitive. It is protective. The best chance of getting a settlement in the targets’ favor is when the abusers are claiming to be changed. Let them prove it in a favorable divorce settlement. Let them show that they will not use the courts to abuse.
It seems to me that YoungPastor is considering the divorce to be the thing ending the covenant, not the abuse. Once he sees that the abuse ends the marriage and the target’s seeking legal recognition of that fact, he will (as I did) have a completely different perspective.
Divorce is NOT a firing squad. It doesn’t end the abusers’ lives and forever prevent repentance. The divorce doesn’t prevent or impede change. If the abuser is truly changed, he can use the divorce settlement to show it. His behavior after the divorce will be honoring and respectful. The abusers’ changing has nothing to do with the legal status of the marriage or how the targets are responding to his declarations of change.
And I ask you to seriously ponder what I posit to be the pertinent questions: “HAS the abuser changed?”, “Why”, and “What do we do to protect his target in the meantime?”
YoungPastor to Barbara –
Thank you for replying to me. I would like this reply to count toward all those who read my post and commented. I have read all the comments and have considered all the arguments that have been brought forth. I would like to share what I have learned from all these post. While I still believe that God does not bless divorce itself, I believe that God will bless through divorce and divorce is an option for the target to get away from the abuser. I believe that the Church’s main priority in these cases is to protect the target and victims. That said, I can not agree that God can not fix a abusive marriage, by “fix” I do not mean sending the victim back to the abuser to keep up the marriage, I would never counsel, or tell anyone to do that. When I say “FIX” I mean the Church keeping the victim safe while the abuser is disciplined as we see in Matthew 18.15-17 and if the abuser will repent and shows fruit meet for repentance. Then the victim, believing it to be genuine, may then begin the process of reconciling the marriage.
“15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”
If the abuser will not repent, then He should be removed from the Church and the victim should seek the Lord about the next step, Divorce, etc. I reject the statement by Jeff Crippen in His post that an abusive marriage cannot be healed. I have detailed in my first post the verse I believe says why God can reconcile people from sin and abuse into righteousness and Holiness.
1 Cor. 5:18 says, “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation”
I believe that God can save an abuser from sin and turn Him(or Her) into a new creation. I believe that it is my duty to try to preach to the abuser and see Him or Her saved. That is not enabling abuse, that is doing the work of the Lord as spelling out in the great commission, Matthew 18. To say that God can not heal and restore an abusive marriage by saving the abuser, I refute as wrong and misguided. My intention was to dialog with other Christians and gain better understanding about the issue of abuse. I want to thank all those who responded positively and conversed abut what the scripture says on this issue. This will be final post on this forum. God bless and may all marriages be free from abuse.
StandswithaFist to YoungPastor –
I appreciate your zeal & I realize you are done posting, but I so hope you are still reading.
You wrote: “I believe that it is my duty to try to preach to the abuser and see Him or Her saved.”
Please bear in mind that while God may have called you to preach, your job ends there. It is not your duty to see “him or her saved”. That is God’s job. It is not your responsibility.
With all due respect & reverence for our Lord, not even Jesus could save both thieves on the cross. Jesus spoke to only one thief–the repentant one, the one who recognized His Lordship, the one who was broken & humbled. The other thief continued to mock, taunt & abuse the God of the universe, Lord of all creation, the Savior of the world…and we have NO record in scripture that Jesus responded to him in any way.
Jesus Himself did not pursue that thief to “see him saved”.
Nor did Jesus chase after the rich young ruler, or the many who stopped following Him. He let them go. It was their decision to repent or rebel, to believe or to deceive, to follow Him or to stay on their own human throne. Jesus stopped visiting the cities who craved to see miracles lie it was a circus act but refused to follow Him.
In short, there is a God in Heaven, & I am not Him. I am not the Holy Spirit. I stopped long ago thinking I could see anybody saved. That alone usurps the throne reserved for Jesus. We are called to preach the truth, but not to save.
Only God can save. Can He save everyone? Yes, of course. But He is also a gentleman who allows the abuser to choose.
Most do not, just like the other thief. Selah~
ReachingforthePrize to YoungPastor –
I feel as if I have to say something. So often I have heard it said that abusers need to return to The Lord and repent. But these are the same people who have lured many of us in. Before even marriage, we have been caught in the same snare that the abusers circle of admirers are caught in…he is so nice, he is so polite, he REALLY knows the Bible well, he comes from a Godly family/rejects the ungodly family he comes from, he is pursuing ministry, he is so giving, he is there when I am hurting, he prays with me, we study the Bible together, etc.
When we are thoroughly ensnared, the trap is sprung. Rather than kidnapping and imprisoning us in his home, we marry. We are now trapped in marriage by the law, the church, and the paralyzingly thought that God will be disappointed if we didn’t do all we could to keep the marriage. This is when the person we married is a completely different person. He is busy, he doesn’t have time to study the Bible with us, he tells us that others don’t love us, he may hit us, he tells others that we are having a hard time with ____ and need to be left alone a while (repeatedly), he withholds money to purchase needed clothes/food/etc, he tells us we must sacrifice for the kingdom of God, he makes intentional mistakes and tells others that we caused him to screw up, etc. When we try to confront him we have let him down and “didn’t God say the wife should…” (surprisingly similar to rhe serpent in the Garden.)
We have become locked in a room and abused, some of us as horrifically as stories heard on the news.
But he is an upstanding Christian, he is a pillar in church, he is the one your parents and family go to to make sure we are ok, he is repentant, he is so sorry for what he has done, he needs to get us help and will want us to counsel with the church about our failings as a Christian to show how much he loves us, possibly even reporting us to civil authorities to get us back to him.
The problem with restoring this marriage is that the wife never knew him when he wasn’t lieing and abusing her. We have NEVER had a healthy relationship with our abuser. He is a master actor and the world is his stage. He has manipulated all authorities to intentionally enslave another human being.
Yes, God is all powerful. Yes, God can zap a person, even the most vile and make them love him. But even in Romans 1, as a person continues in sin, God gives them more and more over to their sin as they continue to chose/enjoy it more and more. And, as this abuser has chosen the path of Godliness to perpetrate their evil, I would imagine this would not make God happy and he would treat them appropriately.
Jeff Crippen to YoungPastor –
You said: “I believe that God can save an abuser from sin and turn Him(or Her) into a new creation. I believe that it is my duty to try to preach to the abuser and see Him or Her saved. That is not enabling abuse, that is doing the work of the Lord as spelling out in the great commission, Matthew 18.”
Is that what God does to the wicked, unrepentant? What about all the Scriptures like this:
Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.
For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the LORD.
In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
His ways prosper at all times;
your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”
His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
He sits in ambush in the villages;
in hiding places he murders the innocent.
His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;
he lurks that he may seize the poor;
he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.
The helpless are crushed, sink down, and fall by his might.
He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”
Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand;
forget not the afflicted.
Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart,
“You will not call to account”?
But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
call his wickedness to account till you find none.
The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land.
O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart;
you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
Where in your theology does this pronouncement of God’s righteous judgment upon the wicked find a place? Let’s take a very real case of an abuser. He has been evil to his wife for 25 years – all their marriage. He has struck her. He has demeaned her. He has isolated her from her family and kept her in poverty. The children, as well as the mother, are suffering the life-sapping effects of decades of physical, psychological, and spiritual abuse. And all the while this man is parading in a church as a “godly” man. People there think he is wonderful. In some cases he is a pastor. So here he is, for years and years, so hardened in his evil that he can put on this charade of holiness, teach others Scripture (or his perversions of it), then go practice his evil on his family. And he sleeps quite well at night.
Now, how are we to deal with such a man? First of all, this man is going to try his practiced trade and most likely deceive you. Yet you are saying that your goal is to be to work to bring this man to repentance and encourage the victim to work toward reconciling the marriage. This is where you are wrong. Because the fact is, God Himself does not deal with such wicked people in this manner. He deals with them according to Hebrews 6:4-6. He deals with them as Jesus dealt with the Pharisees. He pronounces His curse upon them and He delivers the oppressed from them. Can God save anyone? Well, the answer really is – no. By this I mean He does not save the unrepentant. He pronounces His condemnation upon them. He says of them (2Thes 1) that they are the ones who are storing up wrath for themselves on that Day. In other words, there are many, many people that God does not and is not going to reconcile to himself. And there must be a place in our ministry for the Law of God to be pronounced upon the wicked, unrepenting man. It is vital that we properly apply the Law and the gospel.
It is a good thing that you recognize such a person is to be put out of the church. But then what? Who is going to determine if such a wicked, person with decades of deceit and a history of playing the counterfeit Christian is repentant? If you think he is repentant, are you going to tell the victim that she needs to work toward reconciling to him? Let’s say that this wicked man here in our example had actually stabbed her, and her children, and they somehow miraculously survived. He went to prison for a short time (much shorter than he should have). He claims to have repented. The prison chaplain says he has repented. People and friends and members of his church say he has repented. You maintain he is repentant. Now, what are you as a pastor and as a church going to do with the victim? Are you going to encourage or require her to reconcile the marriage? Who decides? What if God, as I maintain, desires her to remain free of this horrid, wicked, and without doubt DECEPTIVELY “repentant” man who has once again taken everyone in? What if she has been healing in her years of freedom and she says she does not believe him and will not be reconciled to him? Well, please realize that the pastors and churches that follow your thinking on this issue almost inevitably tell her that God wants her to forgive and reconcile. Can you see that such counsel is sheer madness?
God does not heal and restore abusive marriages by saving the abuser – at minimum you will have to admit that this is not His normal means of working in these situations. For myself, I believe He virtually NEVER does. And He NEVER does when there is no genuine repentance. And we must realize that it takes YEARS to recognize genuine change and repentance. Thus the wisdom of telling a victim that the abuser is never going to change, and to base her assumptions on that premise. Further, it is wisdom to tell her that she is in no way bound to reconcile with the abuser, and she is free to remarry after divorce. It isn’t that God CAN not heal and restore an abusive marriage, rather it is that God DOES not do so BECAUSE this kind of person simply does not repent. Such a person needs the pronouncement of God’s Law upon them, not the good news of God’s promise of salvation. In fact, the pronouncement of the Law of God (which Paul opens the Epistle to the Romans with long before he gets to the gospel), is the very starting point for ministry to the wicked. And it is the ending point as long as they remain unrepentant, which, as I maintain, the vast, vast majority of these kind will. These are the kind who have trampled underfoot the blood of the covenant and despised the Son of God.
An abusive marriage cannot be healed. Why? Because abusers do not repent. Praise to the Lord if there is ever a rare, rare exception. But the fact is that the abusers we define and deal with here, the kind who have played the eminent saint for years and years all the while working their evil at home, so rarely repent that it is not incorrect to say that they never do.
Standsfortruth to YoungPastor –
Not only did this young pastor seem to have no experience in understanding the dynamics of covert marital abuse, but he continued to posture himself as one who saw it his job to “hand hold” the abuser to help him “find repentance” when an abuser shows consistant unrepentance. This misapplied action on the pastors behalf is only going to give the abuser another opportunity to fool anyone who will be his audience.
Since the abuser has shown he has no concience, he is “continually acting out a play script” to sell his bill of goods, to any listening ear to achieve support for his casting role of repentant sinner once more.
Only one problem with this picture.. The abuser is working hard to convince everyone else that he has changed, but to the “offended spouse party”, he shows no true works of repentance.
True repentance would show forth works by supporting the offended spouces desire to be divorced and away from him, so she can heal with her family while he makes restitution by finantially supporting her in that decision. No- if the abuser is not willing to do at least that much, then why waste any more time with him ? He is showing the works of unrepentance, and he needs to have his feet held to the fire of Gods law, insted of wasting the churches time with his game of feigning repentance.
StillReforming to YoungPastor –
I’d like to start off by saying that I’m deeply appreciative of your comments here, and I hope that my adding to the replies does not feel like we’re piling on you. Please know that the hearts of those here have been so abused over many, many years and it is from the school of hard knocks as well as an interest in assisting a brother in the Lord to understand the complexities and real-world application of Biblical principles here for those who have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of very skilled and adept deceivers and manipulators, who for the sake of brevity we’ll simply call “abusers.”
I’d encourage you to read the definition of abuse at the top right sidebar. Given those dynamics – those of skillful manipulation, deceit, cunning, and cruelty, even if never a hand is laid on his (the vast majority of abusers being male and targets female and children) target. We’ll say “target” instead of “victim” because the latter word is too oft employed politically, and we don’t have a “victim mentality” here. We’re survivors of long-term deceit and cruelty.
I’d like to ask you a question (or two) if you’re willing. Can a husband who has intimidated and lied to his wife over many years in fact be a Christian? That’s an over-simplification in one question because, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details (quite literally). But say a husband has manipulated his wife over many years – saying yes when he will later act out no, promising one thing and not doing it (intentionally), calling her names, memorizing Scripture to use against her (you’re a dripping faucet, you’re a nagging wife, you’re tearing your house down with your own hands, you’re unmerciful, you’re unloving, you’re unforgiving, you’re this and that…), discouraging her from engaging with their children when he’s with them, and on and on…. The wife tries to help the marriage by seeking Christian marriage counseling (repeatedly), but he lies in counseling – maybe even persuading the counselor what a great guy he is.
Then let’s say she seeks refuge in the church, where she’s told she needs to learn more about forgiveness. She needs to do and be more. She needs to be more Christ-like in the sense of laying herself down – but not the Christ who’s upset at the money-lenders in the temple, not the Christ who called the Pharisees “you brood of vipers,” not the Christ who warned of hell, not the Christ spoke of the judgment to come and said that not one jot or tittle of the Law would be changed, not that Christ. No. The church wants the wife to the Christ who gave His life for His church.
So I ask you: Can a husband who is a chronic long-term abuser (behind closed doors – because he manages his anger well at church) and manipulator and liar – can such a one be a Christian while he’s doing these things?
That’s the first question that needs to be addressed. After you have recognized the answer to that question, then you need to ask yourself if you’ve answered that he cannot be a Christian, what is the appropriate Biblical Godly response to such a one? And what about this person’s family? Is it right that the abuser remain in church if the family is broken apart and the wife and kids have had to leave out of fear (intimidation, control, etc.) Is the Biblically appropriate response of the church to welcome the abuser with open arms if his targets cannot comfortably be in the same place with him any longer? What is the right response of the church in such a scenario (because it happens more often than you know – that the targets have to leave their church home while their abusers remain either in the pews or even in the pulpit).