Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did. (Joshua 7:19-20)
As many of you know, a major event in my own awakening to the nature and mentality of abuse involved the sexual abuse of a child. This grievous situation was dropped in the lap of our church through the sin of the perpetrator. I could write pages about it, including about how the Lord used that one event to lead us into the ministry of ACFJ. At the same time, He was moving in the lives of others — also through having abuse touch their lives — and eventually led all of us together. That is the happy stuff. I could also write about the grief and damage done to the victim and to our church.
But what I wanted to write about today is a hard, true, fact that each of us needs to learn. I had to learn it, many of you have learned it, and others of you are still in the process of learning it. That lesson is this: Sin damages and destroys relationships, and sometimes that destruction is beyond repair. When it is, we need to stop trying to rebuild it. Abuse damages and destroys a marriage, and usually that destruction is total. Let me show you how I learned this lesson in the case in our church I mentioned above.
When myself and our Elders were trying to sort out what justice and love and mercy and wisdom would look like in this scenario, we came to a conclusion. It took some time because none of us had experienced something like this before. Our church was small and close – what looked like a family. And then this test came. When we concluded that there was no way we could provide a safe, healing church environment for the victim and at the same time permit the perpetrator to continue to attend our church, I remember telling the congregation that sin destroys relationships. Even when there is real repentance and real forgiveness, some sins are so grievous that the destroyed relationship simply cannot be put back together again – nor should it be.
Now, the response from a couple of people went something like this — “But we are all sinners. And we have all been forgiven by Christ. How can you say that sin destroys relationships when grace and mercy and love are able to overcome any sin? We don’t believe what you are saying. We think everyone should forgive one another and love one another and the relationship will be restored and everything can be like it was.”
That kind of talk is unbiblical, false, exceedingly selfish, and very damaging to the victim and everyone else. The fact is that some sins are so grievous, so destructive, and so harmful that any relationship between the perpetrator and the victim is fully and finally over. That destruction is the perpetrator’s doing. Abuse not only harms a marriage, unrepented of (which is the normal case) it destroys the marriage irrevocably. Longstanding abuse, especially the kind perpetrated by a pseudo-Christian, fully and finally reduces the husband-wife relationship to ashes, never to be rebuilt. (In many cases the relationship was a mere façade from the very beginning!) NOTE: I use the word “longstanding” in reference to abuse with reservation. Because in my opinion, ONE instance of a certain type of abuse works this final destruction.
I am afraid that many professing Christians are radically ignorant of this hard fact. Namely, that certain sins are so evil that to begin to beat the drums of “forgiveness and reconciliation” is sheer madness. I am afraid that there are Christians, for example, who would actually propose that the Lord would have a madman who had walked into a church service and slaughtered a host of people, welcomed into that church with a great big hugfest carried out to the tune of “Only a Sinner, Saved by Grace.”
But the Lord Jesus Christ calls this foolishness, not love. He calls us — no, He commands us — to put the wicked one out from our midst. He shows us in case after case in His Word that there are indeed limits to His mercy. Did you hear that? God’s mercy and grace are not infinite. That is why there is a hell. He tells us that there are lines which, if crossed, there is no returning to Him. Esau (see Jeremiah 49, Malachi 1, Hebrews 12) is a prime example. And the infamous Achan of Jericho fame is another example.
Did you read the verses above? Listen to them again —
Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did. (Joshua 7:19-20)
How does that sound to you? It sounds like a script worked up to introduce a happy ending, right? “Truly I have sinned against the Lord….this is what I did….” Yay! Achan repented! Everything is ok, right? Nope —
And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor. (Joshua 7:24-26)
Achan, you recall, had by his sin caused the death of over 30 of his fellows. Achan had crossed the line.
Sin damages and destroys relationships, and sometimes that destruction is total so that rebuilding of the relationship is impossible and even wrong. Remember that the next time you sense the tempter at your door. And let us all remember this when working with the victims of grievous evil, and when we must deal out real justice to their oppressors.
Because with some sins, the sinner gets no second chance at the relationship. Molest a child and your relationship with that child and the child’s family is over, no matter how close you were. Abuse your wife and, well, do not tell us that you deserve another shot at the marriage. Betray the trust of an entire church congregation over whom the Lord placed you as shepherd — understand that such betrayal may well totally and fully and irrevocably destroy your relationship with those people.
We close with one more account of two people who crossed that line, and there was no going back —
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. (Acts 5:1-11)
[June 1, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to June 1, 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 June 1, 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 June 1, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (June 1, 2022), 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.
30 thoughts on “Sin Destroys Relationships – And Sometimes the Destruction is Total”
The key here may be:
This could be the dividing line. When someone who lives in dark ignorance of Christ — like let’s say a witch doctor who sacrifices his children and other people’s children — then truly comes to Christ, I believe he can be a participant in a “hugfest,” as you say. But when an evil perpetrator takes on the mask of true Christianity, that means he has tasted the good work of Christ, because he is pretending to have experienced it. This is the kind of evil that our Lord most vehemently condemns.
This attitude is so prevalent in churches. It seems that no one want to offend or be seen as unforgiving, that they knowingly allow gross sin and abuse in their midst.
Confession is confused with repentance. To confess is easy, but to actually walk in and show fruit of true repentance is hard, so hard that many just don’t do it. It is also hard work for a church to require a person to show actual repentance, so they tend to stop at the confession stage, say all is well and then expect the victim to just pick up where he / she left off and pretend nothing happened.
We preach only one aspect of Jesus’ character, the politically correct one where He just loved on everybody and sang Kumbaya. We don’t preach the meanings behind the casting the money changers out or the nasty things he called the pharisees. We ignore the dire warnings that He gave to those who would abuse children. We gloss over Paul saying he wished Judaizers would emasculate themselves, or that the man caught in horrific sexual sin was to be cast out of the church. We minimize how Paul confronted Peter to his face about the way he treated Gentile converts, and I doubt that most Christians even realize that Paul refused to travel with John Mark because the latter had abandoned he and Barnabas on a missionary journey. There is no record that they ever reconciled and no further mention of him in Acts other than that he traveled with Barnabas after that.
Judge not has become the byword of the church, and has actually turned the church into a spiritual eunuch. We have turned sin, and the reaping of its fruit on its head. We blame victims for being unforgiving when the perpetrators have done nothing to merit forgiveness except utter a few meaningless words that they will abandon as soon as they feel secure again.
The Jesus of the modern church as a whole, is nothing like the Jesus of the Bible.
Mine was indeed a facade from the beginning, but it took me over 20 years before I finally “got it” that no matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t going to ‘get back the man I married’ because he was only a facade. Learning that started when I came across the book “Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man” at the library; I started reading it and then started crying. Patricia Evans was the next author I found, and then Lundy Bancroft. It was such a weight lifted to know that it wasn’t my fault, and it wasn’t the kids’ fault, that he was the way he was.
I spent 17 years in an abusive marriage. Like most abuse targets, it took a substantial number of years to even recognize the cycle of abuse and realize what it was…to see it was not isolated mistakes to be individually overcome but rather a consistent repetitive pattern of abuse.
One of the factors that kept me in that marriage so long was the refusal to give up hope…the hopeful ‘what if’s’. What if this time she’s truly repentant? What if this time our marriage is truly healed? What if this time we can truly have a healthy relationship?
And the relational optimisim of Christian friends fed those hopeful what-ifs. “Just hang in there. It will all work out in the end. God is bigger than your problems, and God is for your marriage.”
At some point, though, I began to face the very real possibility that it might not all work out fine…that the marriage might very well end in divorce whether I wanted it to or not…or that I might spend the rest of my life in an abusive marriage with constant emotional turmoil and no sense of peace.
And, eventually, as the marriage wound to a close, I realized I didn’t even want it to work out, anymore.
While going thru divorce, a friend asked me, “If she wanted to reconcile again, would you do it?” I told him no, because there was nothing left to build on. Relationships require more than love and dreams. Relationships require mutual respect and mutual trust…and I knew I could never trust her again. She had grossly violated my trust too many times in too many ways over too many years…
Thanks, Joe. This makes sense. Christian friends who don’t experience abuse cannot understand the difference because they don’t even know anything else exists. They have only experienced “isolated mistakes, moments of selfishness, those “nobody is perfect” faux pas, to be individually overcome.” They don’t have a clue that WE are living with the day to day abusive behaviors that wear you, your love, your patience, everything you are, down to sand grains. They don’t understand that when the foundation is gone, there IS nothing to build on. Thanks for this!
Yes, there is a huge difference…and most people who have not experienced abuse have no clue as to the difference. As I tried to explain to one commentor on my blog a while back, the difference is not one of scale, but of the nature of the relationship.
Thank you, Debby!
This is so very, very good. I have never understood the whole “let’s embrace the evil one and win ’em” theory or mindset. It is like holding fire in your bosom and not expecting to be burned. I think evil and righteousness should not be reconciled. I think that there are more times than not, when someone cloaks themselves in false repentance and dupes the entire Church, bringing great harm to Christ’s Church. We are warned repeatedly in God’s Word about false teachers, false converts and wolves – but I never see where we are told to embrace them and win them to Christ.
There is a difference in the Bible between someone who is broken and lowly and looking for an answer to their sin and unrighteous living – and the wicked who will do anything to destroy the righteous. Jesus’ salvation is for those broken repentant people humbly looking for a Savior – and the Law and the penalty of it is to be applied to all the others. There is no mixing or blending. I think Scripture is pretty clear.
Evil. I don’t have any desire to make friends with it and am quite tired of hearing stories or reasons or excuses as to why Christians should befriend evil and how unloving it is not to do so. This theory actually left me quite confused when it came to putting away the abuser from our lives.
— I have lost count of how many times I have heard this — Thank you, Pastor Crippen for another excellent post.
My devotions this week took me to Ezekiel 18 and I will share with you what I shared with a group of friends of mine on Facebook. The chapter is sobering and supports many of your recent articles on sin, reconciliation and repentance.
It goes on to describe the wickedness of man against wife, neighbor, business partner, nature, God. There is a plea to turn and repent – which will bring life. There is a reciprocal warning that refusing to do so will result in death; of his own accord.
It is a fascinating read if you have time to let it soak in. It parallels my own spiritual “working it out” as I sought God during this journey toward health, healing, safety, sanity and hope.
One of the first verses He led me to was Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Having memorized that verse as a child, it was the first time I had applied its meaning to my situation. My husband’s actions produced death. It was the wage he earned – as you say here – death of the relationship. And what about the second half of the verse – the free gift of life?
I see that two ways:
(1) Jesus certainly offers me new life (abundantly so) apart from my husband as I walk in faith, trust, wisdom, and grace – resting in him.
And (2) for my husband: Ezekiel 18:21-24 says
It’s important enough that God repeats this exhortation in verses 25-28 and then again in 30-32.
Sin separates. Sin produces death. It’s a soul-deep problem.
Wonderful and powerful insights, Charis! Thank you!
The whole counsel of God…..not cut & pasted passages a clever person puts together to support ideas contrary to the ‘whole counsel.
Thank you Charis. Truly, God cannot be mocked.
Sadly, the marital/familial relationships aren’t the only ones destroyed. When pastors and ‘church counselors’ refuse to acknowledge and biblically deal with the abuser, the church body tends to do the same under a false sense of obedience to ‘church authority’ or their own preconceived notions as to what constitutes abuse (which not surprisingly tends to reflect the ignorance of church leadership). As a result, the wife is left to come to terms with the realization of the end of her marriage as her unrepentant husband’s abuse escalates under the support of the church, the loss of a church/place of worship she sought for guidance and support as she is usually the one to leave, and the loss of friendships whose neutral stance (which always benefits the abuser and leaves the wife feeling invalidated once again) or outward disapproval of the wife’s leaving, tends to result in the destruction of the friendship. AND, I have yet to stress the countless losses children face in having to leave a church they grew up worshiping in every week.
Sin ALWAYS divides and when abuse is ignored in the church, the consequences are devastating. Unfortunately, repentance doesn’t come lightly for abusers or pastors who perpetuate abuse.
Much wisdom in this post. Thank you Pastor Jeff.
The following also caught my attention –> ” I am afraid that there are Christians, for example, who would actually propose that the Lord would have a madman who had walked into a church service and slaughtered a host of people, welcomed into that church with a great big hugfest …””
Last Sunday in church one of the leaders (in the pastor’s absence) stood before the entire congregation in the main service and stated that Jesus loves the man who shot victims in the church in South Carolina. The man said that Jesus loves the shooter, who needs our prayers, and that he’s been praying for the shooter since it happened. I had to grit my teeth and lower my head because I just couldn’t bear to hear it. (This followed a Sunday School lesson in which someone gave an unspoken prayer request regarding a marriage in the church, stating that “marriages need to be saved.”)
Evil ones always include us in their guilt. This is a phrase I’ve said to my husband our entire marriage, “Stop including me in your guilt!.” I didn’t know how definitive this was in characterizing his personality but it’s totally true of him and of all people without a conscience. How they can NEVER take full responsibility without blaming someone else for at least PART of their sin, and when people say “We’re all sinners,” it’s a way to include us in the guilt of the perpetrator. I have lived a cartoon version of the Bible. A rendering of what was considered to be biblical by humans who can’t feel love, fear, guilt or shame yet learn to draw out these emotions in me and those like me so they can lead us around by the nose and tell us it’s all we are worth and that we should be grateful.
There was a child sex ring that was broken up years ago that was big news for a minute. This sex ring was one that involved parents who traded their own children into sexual slavery and it reached all social circles and involved many countries. There was a statement made by a bystander (from a country outside the US) that went something like this, “Well, these children have been raised like this so they don’t know any different, so it’s not the worst thing.” So because these children were conditioned to perform sexual favors for evil people, they are now included in the guilt. It’s not that bad because they don’t know any different. AND THIS IS HOW THEY FEEL ABOUT THOSE OF US RAPED BY THE EVIL OF ABUSE. Well, it’s not that bad, he/she wasn’t as bad as so-and-so, so really, you should be GRATEFUL.
Micah 2:1, “Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it.”
I wonder why we are all so TIRED! This massive, inane garbage dumped on our heads from birth and when we finally wake up after decades of abuse (oftentimes childhoods full of it followed by relationships and marriages mired in it) we are left wondering if it’s all our fault after all. The title of this post, “Sin Destroys Relationships – And Sometimes the Destruction is Total,” is sweet music to the ears of those of us beaten down by platitudes and I consider it a love song. Proverbs 16:24, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
— this is so well put, Anonymous! Thank you. 🙂
May I share your comment on social media? It hits so many nails on the head I could hang a curtain rod on them. (I say that because I’m having a difficult time using a power drill for the first time in my life, trying to drill screw anchors to hold a longer-than-100-inch curtain rod. Two actually. Dagnabbit. Now I know that minor frustration of which Barbara Roberts wrote once regarding having to do stuff that that guy who functioned better as a laborer than husband used to do for me.)
Yes, feel free to use it.
Learning to hang curtain rods, pictures, to lay tile, hardwood flooring, build fences and change light fixtures are just a few of the many things I too have learned to do after years of waiting for my husband to get around to it. It’s one of the many gifts we give ourselves when we are “forced” to take charge of our lives. God pushes me along in spite of myself and it always turns out to be a gift he’s given me in the end. But I can assure you that at the beginning, I am always hesitant (hesitant is a nice way of saying resistant) to being prodded. YouTube videos are a godsend when trying new projects and you can have the video running as you’re doing the work. Good luck!
True dat re: YouTube. I learned about how to approach the screw anchor part on YT. Now I can’t figure out why the screws will only go so far. I had a contractor out here for something else and asked him. He said they were fine, but after he left, it’s still not working. He’s coming back within the next month to do some things I can’t do, so I’ll ask him again when he gets here.
My hat is off to you – if I wore one – re: laying tile and flooring. You’re way ahead of me. I’m still waiting for help on curtain rods, but I daresay I’m grateful to God for learning to do all this. There are times I experience waves of gratitude for what He’s done that I never imagined would happen. It’s a strange roller coaster, going from sadness to gratitude in this walk, but…. the hills are getting less and less steep between ups and downs. It greatly resembles mourning to me. And in a way it is – the death of relationships.
I forgot to say Thank you! For granting permission in using your comment. 🙂
I have been in this facade of a marriage for 16 years. I am so comforted to know that there are many out there that lived in a fog for so long because I thought it was just me. I do feel for their pain and want to go out and help others get free. God is so gracious and loves each of his children. For me, the last time my spouse humiliated and verbally abused I cried out to God, “I cannot take this anymore!” and God directed me to Nahum 1:3. Now that is an unusual address but it says
I finally felt that my spouse was finally going to be dealt with by my Father and that I could take steps to leave. Through this website and by the links to others, I finally have a clear picture that filing for divorce is righteous. God can call us out of marriage. Of course, the spouse is now going to lots of Bible studies, church and is hearing from God again. He asked me the other day with great concern, “How is your relationship with God?” I did not know whether to spit nails or crack up laughing. It is because of God’s great pursuit of me that I’m moving on and I’ve never felt closer to Him or known His love any deeper. The man I met in seminary has been a poser from the beginning and I’m not about to share the pearls God has been giving me throughout this process. Thank you for writing that some sin does end in destruction that cannot be fixed. It was a confirmation to my heart and my prayer. Keep writing and sharing, you are a voice that desperately needs to be heard!
Thank you for this. I’ve never read a more validating article. I come from a very rigid religious system where the grounds for divorce fall into three categories: physical abuse, adultery, addiction. My situation does not involve any of this, so naturally, I have been counseled by my leaders to forgive, forget, call my husband out on his behavior because he “probably doesn’t even know he’s doing it”. My own parents don’t believe me because my husband is such a charming person in public, where others are looking. Very few would ever believe that behind closed doors, he yells, manipulates, punishes and neglects.
I appreciate your thoughts on forgiveness and repentance, because my husband has spent the last year trying to improve. He has never apologized, never admitted to any of the verbal and emotional abuse I dealt with daily for over 10 years, but he has stopped abusing. I have shutdown so much in the last couple of years, all the fight to keep my marriage going drained out of me. I thought it was my fault, like he told me, that I was “giving up”. Thought I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, or worth his attention and time, so I had to change myself. Now that I’m realizing it wasn’t my fault, he is improving. The irony of it is that with every day he is not abusing, I feel like I owe him more time.
But he has done nothing, really, to rebuild trust. Even if he has gone through a repentance process (which he claims he has) I feel too broken to pick up the pieces anymore. Too much damage has been done emotionally, verbally and sexually. He makes me feel like I’m selfish and not appreciative of his efforts to improve. As if I hadn’t tried for 10 years to appreciate him, to overlook his abuse. As if my lack of effort now is how it’s always been.
I tried, so, SO hard to fight for my marriage. Then depression took over and my life became survival. I could no longer place effort in a broken relationship.
This article was such a breath of fresh air. Oh how I wish my church leaders could have given this message to me: a message of hope and utter relief. Sometimes too much damage has been inflicted. Sometimes the relationship is beyond repair. Sometimes leaving is the only way to go.
Cagednomore- Wonderful to hear of your increasing wisdom and strength. And thank you for your encouragement. It is very telling, as you point out, that the religion/church branch you are in misuses Scripture so as to pick and choose scenarios that justify divorce. Addiction, for example. I wonder where they pull that one from (though I certainly agree that marriage vows are destroyed by, say, the alcoholic spouse)? Let me encourage you that you need not be under their domination. The Lord does indeed allow and even bless divorce for the abuse victim in cases where the marriage vows have been destroyed by abuse. Also, might I suggest to you that your abuser has not changed. For his own selfish reasons he may be holding back on the overt abuse he was practicing (and kudos to you for standing firm in the new truth you are discovering), but he is still covertly abusing you. It is abuse for him to not actively work to rebuild trust. It is abuse for him to claim a repentance but not repent. In some ways I would say that his present abuse is worse because he has taken it more “underground.” It looks like he has stopped abusing but in fact as you say he has never apologized nor admitted to any of the 10 years of horrid abuse he dished out to you. And, as I say, this is cruel abuse in itself. May the Lord bless you and direct you and continue to give you His strength.
Sin Destroys Relationships … and sometimes the Destruction is TOTAL.
THE DEATH OF A HEART!
There is something that came to me just recently. When abusive men do not want to grant their wife a divorce, do they really know what they are getting into?
They think that God can heal everything but God also allows for men to make their own choices. And these choices have consequences.
SIN CAN CAUSE THE DEATH OF THE ABUSED’S HEART. Why would a man want back the woman who would like to get away from him? Her heart is broken. There is no more love left to give. Her spirit, her will, her body is empty. He could allow her to separate to heal her wounds, and, maybe, if he truly repents, there might be some hope. However, to not allow this separation, will only keep removing the scab of the wound to never heal.
So what is man trying to accomplish by holding her back? By letting her go, he loses control of his kingdom. And he wants to control, not even caring that the body in his arms has become only flesh … unresponsive … and her heart is dead!
…. NoMoreTears – this sums it up quite nicely. The kingdom involves finances and also the jealousy of not giving her the freedom to ever possibly be blessed with a healthy marriage in the future.
Yes, I feel broken and dead inside to him. And then I feel guilty because I have no desire to keep on fighting. To wait on him to actually improve, as he’s in a season of trying to fix things. I feel awful, but then I think, why has it taken all these years of pleading for him to finally hear me? And I don’t think he’s even come close to fully hearing me.
Dear Sorrowful, I’ve re-read all the comments you’ve put on the blog so far and I am sure you are perceiving correctly that he has not come even close to fully hearing you.
I encourage you not to feel awful for having no desire to keep on fighting or to wait on him to actually improve. He has oppressed and mistreated you and disregarded your needs, you dignity, your personhood for so long that he has killed your love for him and worn your patience right out.
You are actually having a healthy and normal and righteous feeling, in feeling that you have no desire to keep on fighting or to wait and see if he will change. It is normal and healthy and godly to have no desire to tolerate evildoing and lies and hypocrisy. And your husband is an evildoer, a liar and a hypocrite. He has already demonstrated to you more times than you can probably count that he does not make any lasting change in his attitudes — his entitlement mentality — all he does is sometimes move the deck chairs on the Titanic.
He can work on his ‘improvement’ (which is only fake anyway — see below) on his own, without you having to be around. He has so deeply and egregiously violated the marriage covenant already — he actually destroyed it long ago by his bad behaviour — and you do not have to ‘wait on him’ or ‘hang around’ to see if he will really change.
In our extensive experience, abusers never fully hear the feedback their victims give them. They hear it with their ears but they they don’t WANT to heed and act on the feedback. Abusers don’t want to change.
The abuser makes superficial and sporadic motions of change. But these actions, these seasons of trying to improve and fix things, do not last longterm because the abuser does not want to surrender his belief in his right to dominate and oppress his victim and use and abuse her for his own selfish ends.
We believe that abusers who claim to be Christians are not really Christians at all. A Christian is someone who has been convicted of sin and brought to saving faith by the work of God’s Spirit bringing him or her from spiritual deadness to life in Christ. And if a person has been born again, he will no longer be able to continue to hard-heartedly oppress others and he will not tell masses of lies and manipulative stories to evade taking responsibility for his sins.
Let us imagine a person who had been abusing others before he or she was born again. Should that person be born again, that evil behaviour would cease. If they were born again they could not continue to repeatedly and maliciously abuse / oppress other people. And if they occasionally slipped back into mistreating others, they would be convicted by the Spirit and repent and make reparation to those they had hurt. They would not continue (as they had before conversion) to fight against having to take full responsibility for their bad behaviour.
“Such WERE some of you” says the apostle (1 Cor 6:11). The word “were” implies they are no longer that way. Those evil tactics of pretence, hypocrisy and responsibility-resistance are now gone. The unregenerate person’s habitual and sinful callousness is removed when they are born again. That’s why Scripture talks about circumcision as a metaphor for regeneration. Circumcision of the heart removes the callousness covering of the heart; it changes a stony, hardened heart into a soft heart which feels contrition whenever it sins against God and against others.
But abusers have so hardened their hearts by repeated sinning and lying that they are very resistant to being convicted of sin. The Holy Spirit might convict the abuser of his sin, but the abuser is so well-practised at blowing off or suppressing the pricks of conviction, and resisting responsibility, that he never repents unto salvation.
The abuser masquerades repentance and masquerades changing, for a while. But the abuser only does that to keep his victim hoping that this time it will be real. It’s all a ploy, a tactic to string the victim along so she gives him yet another chance.
You might find it helpful to read these FAQ pages from the blog:
Can someone be an abuser and be a Christian?
What if the abuser is repentant?
Thank you, Barbara and Debby. This is such a horrible place to be in. I’ve always been the one who said in our marriage that divorce wasn’t an option and that we needed to sort it out and change ourselves. It’s very strange to get to a point where you know that isn’t likely, and even if it were, it’s so broken it looks beyond redeemable. I have a lot of praying to do and a lot of listening to God’s leading to see the best path.
Hi Sorrowful, I sent an email a few days ago to the email address you give when you comment here. I hope you can read it. I made a few suggestions that might be helpful to you.
And when you are commenting on the blog, I encourage you to tick the ‘notify me of further comments this post’ box which is in the comments submission form. That way you will receive email notification of comments that other people are making in response to yours. 🙂
Sorrowful, I have been where you are. I separated and one of things that really helped me is I did NOT have a mindset of “I’m waiting for him to_______________” anything at all. I was NOT rushing to divorce (although I am not judging anyone who chooses that! I can only speak to my own experience), but not because I was hoping or waiting for anything to happen on his end. After reading so much helpful information about the abuser’s mindset, I fully realized that his behaviors were HIS problem and did not let it affect me at all. I was simply living my life.
As it happened, my h DID choose to get the help he needed and only after a year of separation (NO contact!!) followed by a year of slowly building a relationship where I could see that he was different EVERY time, and with NO pressure from him, I decided to reconcile. It has been 6 months and the changes have been consistent and real. The point I am making is in the mindset an abuse target must have to really be free: The abuser’s problems are THEIR problem. Not mine. MY choice is how much contact I am willing to have with a person bent on my emotional destruction. I don’t “owe” that person ANYTHING.
Barbara gives very wise counsel when she talks about the “hope” that keeps every victim moving through the abuse cycle. Keep in mind that giving up hope for THIS relationship does not mean you have no hope! Our hope is in Jesus and you have the right and responsibility to yourself as His child to be choosy about who you allow IN your life and who you allow to affect your life. Do what you can to get healthy (he HAS affected you and your perception of you) renew, strengthen, and move forward with your life, whatever that looks like (for me, I signed up for classes for my master’s degree that I had put off for decades!) YOU ARE VALUABLE BEYOND MEASURE!!
Debby, thank you for your testimony–your real life story–it has been a blessing to me.