A Cry For Justice

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

Non-Negotiables for Effective and Biblical Abuse Ministry

Recently we composed this statement of what we call our “non-negotiables” for abuse ministry. We call them this because they are not points that we are willing to “agree to disagree” with. You might say that this list serves as our philosophy of ministry in this field, and in capsule form states fundamental truths that every abuse ministry must embrace if it is to be effective and biblical. These are the hard-learned truths which determine all of what we do here. They also serve as the criteria by which we evaluate books, speakers, and organizations. Unless such entities adhere to these non-negotiables without reservation, we will not recommend nor endorse them to our readers.

For those ministering in domestic abuse situations, please read this list carefully. If you find that you do not concur with all points in this list, we encourage you to prayerfully reevaluate your beliefs and your practice.

1. A clear definition of domestic abuse and of the nature of the abuser is vital for proper ministry to abuse victims.

a) The definition of abuse: A pattern of coercive control (ongoing actions or inactions) that proceeds from a mentality of entitlement to power, whereby, through intimidation, manipulation and isolation, the abuser keeps his target subordinated and under his control. This pattern can be emotional, verbal, psychological, spiritual, sexual, financial, social and physical. Not all these elements need be present, e.g., physical abuse may not be part of it. 

 b) The definition of a domestic abuser: a family member or dating partner (current or ex) who has a profound mentality of entitlement to the possession of power and control over the one s/he* chooses to mistreat. This mentality of entitlement defines the very essence of the abuser. The abuser believes he is justified in using evil tactics to obtain and maintain that power and control. (*sometimes the genders are reversed)

2. A marriage to an abuser does not need to be fixed (it cannot be fixed). It needs to be ended. Christians should encourage and support the victim to make her own decisions as to when and how to set boundaries against the abuser and distance herself from him physically and/or legally. True Christians should help (but never pressure) victims of abuse to get free from the abuser’s oppression to the greatest extent possible, recognizing that leaving an abuser is not a simple or easy step for many abuse victims, and that society and the church often compound the difficulties victims face.

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. 

4. Any counseling of the abuser must begin with the threatening of the Law of God, not with the promises of the gospel, and it must remain Law as long as the abuser remains unrepentant.

5. The abuser is to be dealt with as an unbeliever, not as a Christian. If he has been passing himself off as a believer, the church ought to discipline him as per 1 Cor. 5:11-13.

6. The abuser cannot be “educated” into a non-abuser. That is to say, the only means by which the wicked can become saints is through the thundering of the law of God and subsequent faith and repentance toward Christ. 

7. We hold to an informed pessimism regarding the potential for an abuser to change into a non-abuser, recognizing that abusers typically feign repentance and live a lie. Genuine heart-change in an abuser is very rare, and therefore we must take great care to not give victims a false hope that their abuser is going to change for the better.

8. While all human beings are born into this world in a fallen condition as sinners, not all are abusers. This means that statements such as “we are all sinners the same as the abuser” are unscriptural, false, and lay unjust burdens on abuse victims by what we call sin-leveling — raising the victim’s guilt and minimizing the evil of the abuser and his guilt. The abuse victim is not to be blamed in any way for the abuse suffered.

9. Couple’s counseling must be ruled out for an abuse scenario. Any mention of counseling which could be interpreted by the hearers as endorsing ‘couple counseling’ or ‘marital counseling’ is dangerous because it tends to mutualize the blame: it conveys that ‘the couple’ or ‘the marriage’ is the problem, rather than the abuser being the problem.

10. The many ways the victim has responded to the abuse and resisted the abuse need to be elucidated and honored. The victim must not be pathologized for the ways she has responded to the abuse. Depicting the victim’s responses as ‘her pathology’ dishonors her, and it does not acknowledge the effects of trauma. 

11. Biblical forgiveness does not always require reconciliation of relationship with the offender. In cases of abuse, while the victim can forgive in the sense of not seeking personal vengeance, reconciliation of relationship is not required by God and it usually ends up being unsafe for the victim.

12. As the church strives to help and protect the victim, we must ensure the victim’s right to Christian liberty and we must resist the temptation to dictate and enforce church decisions upon the victim. For example, we maintain that the decision to separate from and divorce an abuser for reasons of abuse is a matter of conscience for the victim, and does not come within the jurisdiction of the church to dictate.

13. We reject patriarchy. By “patriarchy,” we do not mean any idea of the Bible’s teaching on proper biblical responsibilities given to husbands and wives (such as in Eph 5). We do mean, and we reject, teaching that presents a man as superior to a woman. Common teachings of patriarchy include, for example, the husband and father as priest of his home, the insistence that a wife is never to criticize her husband, etc.

14. One day, point 14 may not be a ’non-negotiable,’ but at present it is. The visible church at large must be indicted for the way it has been enabling domestic abusers. Those doing domestic abuse ministry need to call the church to explicit reforms and to indict those who have been enabling abusers, and this needs to be done with a spirit of outrage such as Jesus Christ, the Prophets and the Apostles demonstrated when confronting injustice and false teachers. Anything less is a failure of justice and truth.

* * *

Because these things are fundamental to ACFJ, we also put our Non-Negotiables on the top menu under our Our Beliefs tab.

98 Comments

  1. Suzanne

    Excellent. Just excellent. God bless you both for this ministry and may He use it to help the victims of abuse everywhere. This should be taught in seminaries so that every pastor and every church worker goes into ministry knowing just what to do when presented with the damage caused by abusers. I wonder if a course of study could be devised for elders and deacons to help them recognize and rightly respond to abusers in their congregations.

    • I wonder if a course of study could be devised for elders and deacons to help them recognize and rightly respond to abusers in their congregations.

      Sure, such a course could be devised. But at present, there does not seem to be much interest from the churches. Many people need to wake up and realise they need to humble themselves and learn. And then they need to ask. There’s no point in devising a course if there are no willing participants for the course, and if the denomination or seminary leaders don’t believe in the course. . .

      As it stands, Jeff Crippen’s book is a good course for anyone who wants to read it and take is seriously. And reading this blog would flesh that out. But where is the interest?? Mostly our readers are victim/survivors. A few counselors. A very few men in leadership in churches. And that’s it.

      Oh, of course, we must have some abusers lurking as readers, but we don’t give them oxygen.

  2. Stina

    Thank you so much for listing these in this way! I have been separated from my abuser for over a year and waver in my convictions sometimes. We still attend the same church but he is under leadership oversight. My church didn’t handle everything perfectly (nor I) but agreed I was free to divorce him without any guilt. I haven’t filed for divorce as doing so will create stress I’m not ready to deal with yet.

  3. Brenda R

    Amen, I don’t disagree with a thing. Time to be a thorn in pastor’s side again. He needs this list.

  4. thepersistentwidow

    At this point, I am aware of only one church body that will agree with these non-negotiables. That would be the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

    Because it is possible that individual pastors may be unaware of the official position, it is advised to inform oneself of the LCMS domestic abuse resources prior to approaching a pastor for assistance.

    Also, the LCMS position paper is excellent and concise. I would recommend printing it along with the ACFJ Non-negotiables to show to your pastor (of any denomination). Bring it to the first meeting when you report the abuse and ask if he would agree with it. If he says “No way”, then you know where they stand at the onset. Why be led into the church fog if you don’t have to? It usually takes people years to emerge from that wasteland and when they do they are even more traumatized and financially broken then before they entered it.

  5. Reachingfortheprize

    Thank you for this post. I have been struggling with how to define an abuser since the abuse mindset has been prevalent in the church for over 1000 years. (See:
    http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/source/eleanor.asp)

    We know that with Christian church also being the state church in history that people had adopted the language and world view of Christianity even if they weren’t Christians and it was the only thing they knew…looking and sounding like Christians.

    To what extent have people today adopted that same “language” of abuse because it is the language they “learned” to use but are not abusive, they just don’t know any other language?

    I know (or at least I like to think I know) several people of the Baby Boom generation that are still living in the 1950s and early 1960s in relation to their understanding and language of abuse and would never hurt a fly (and don’t understand how anyone could hurt that fly) but if I talk to them about being abused they will fall back on “counseling, communication, reconciliation, headship, etc.”. It might be because they haven’t been educated and/or are simply confused about this change in language and understanding of abuse, and have decided they don’t want to change because they just don’t get it and to change their language at this stage is untenable for many older people.

    And if we are still dealing with society that has adopted the language without seeing the affects and wouldn’t act on the logical consequences, how do we effectively recognize and discern the language of abusive behaviors and actual abusers without having someone fall victim to the abuser?

    • That link that you shared certainly shows that things in the church do not change much! Put it in modern language and a modern setting and that is exactly what many abuse victims are being told today. Go back or else! Think about the harm you are doing to your poor husband!

      Educating the church is one of the reasons we are here. It is a slow, laborious process, but we will remain faithful to the task of calling out the church, educating people and supporting the victims.

      • Brenda R

        Didn’t the person writing this reprimand of the queen sound a bit desperate to prevent certain anarchy. Obviously, all women would leave their husbands if the queen did. All children would disrespect their dad. In his version he has the John Piper, permanence of marriage view no matter what. Off with his head….Oh, whoops that was another queen or two that had that fate. It was just fine for the king to do what he wanted to the queen. She was just property.

  6. savedbygrace

    Hi Jeff thanks for your list- I have separated from my husband for 6 months now, I do struggle with point 5 (can’t be a Christian) on the list and then points 6 and 7 which flow on from that… would you be able to explain that more fully? because I believe my husband to be a Christian- as in not a nominal church goer but having a full understanding of Jesus work on the cross and putting his trust in him for salvation. His attitudes and actions which are sinful he would say that he is struggling with and trying to live as Jesus would want ( and he is going to counselling to get help) What can be done about narcissistic personality traits and the legacy of poor parenting which plague a person and contribute to ( tho not excuse) abusive attitudes and behaviour in a marriage? I just don’t feel I can stand in judgement on him and declare him to not to be a Christian.
    Point 7- informed pessimism….is there truly no hope? if my husband actually is a Christian, are you saying the Holy Spirit is unlikely to effect any change in his life?
    I’d appreciate more input in this area as I want to be a realist but I also want to allow God to be God… I have invested 34 years into this marriage… it is difficult to be faced with the end of something I had thought was for life…and I don’t want to ‘give up’ if God hasn’t….

    • Jeff Crippen

      savedbygrace – watch for this Wednesday’s Friday’s blog post. I will have a list of Scriptures there that should help clarify for you. At the very minimum of course, your husband’s habitual self-focus and abuse indicates that you should treat him as an unbeliever. Even if you don’t have the confidence that absolutely for certain he is not (which I maintain is the case for such people), he is to be treated as an unbeliever, not as a Christian. Just realizing that should clear things up for you quite a bit. See the last few verses of 1 Cor 5 on that one.

      (Eds. note: the post with a list of Scriptures that Pastor Crippen mentioned has been rescheduled for this Friday.

      • NotHeard

        I agree with all you say, Ps Jeff, about treating an abuser as an unbeliever. They’re out of fellowship with God for living a lie. But I also feel they can be termed ‘Christian’ IN the context of responsibility and accountability. I’m trying to think of a phrase that captures the POSSIBILITY of forgiveness (after repentance) as one who has claimed to take on the name of a Christian. And at the same time, the huge LIKELIHOOD that they will not change and will be accountable to God for their wicked life. And the fact that they should be held accountable NOW by the church.

    • Valerie

      Savedbygrace, what struck me in your description of your husband is the part about him trusting in him for salvation and his full understanding of Jesus work on the cross.

      The item that struck me as missing from your description is allowing God to be the Lord of his life. God calls the shots. A follower of Christ humbles himself before God and the cry of his/her heart is for God to convict them of sin. No matter how uncomfortable they feel, they welcome feedback that gently corrects them when they veer off God’s clear standards. They hate their sin as much as God does…meaning they actively seek to confess and change every unholy aspect of their lives. Satan himself has a full understanding of Jesus work on the cross.

      I say these things because realizing my husband is not saved was more difficult to swallow than acknowledging his NPD. Yet when I look back there is no evidence of his salvation according to biblical standards. The only evidence I had were his words…smooth, convincing words…but no fruit whatsoever. His desire to witness to others was as extensive as his desire to scrapbook and learn how to use the sewing machine.

      Many times I have gently but firmly approached him in my concern for his salvation and pointing out specifics that did not fall into biblical standards. The result of these conversations was denial and a shoulder shrug followed by no change whatsoever. He had zero desire to hear more or have me explain. He was not alarmed, he was annoyed. He, too, accused me of judging him and speaking for God yet 1 John 3:10 states, “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are.” We can know. Actually 1 John clears up a lot of confusion about who the believer…make that follower… really is.

      The Holy Spirit does not chase us. If our hearts are hardened to the extent that we don’t care what the Spirit says, the Spirit can’t change us. Its as if the person sees the Holy Spirit calling on his cell phone and chooses to ignore the call. Eventually he doesn’t even look down to see if its the Spirit calling. Without “answering the call” the Spirit can’t talk to him. No communication can take place and no information can be given. Its perhaps a worldly way of looking at it but a visual of how I think it can be described.

    • IamMyBeloved's

      Savedby-The professionals will tell you that the only untreatable mental illness, is considered to be Narcissistic Personality Disorder. That is different than just having “narcissistic traits” as you mention, but it should be clarified by a counselor, which one your husband has. Many of us have had “bad parenting” put upon us in life, but a lot of those people – maybe most – do not abuse. Abusers like to blame their past for the present.

      Having a “head” knowledge of Christ’s work, is completely different than “knowing” His work personally and receiving and acting upon it. Sounds like perhaps your husband is operating in religion, not true Christianity.

      Having the Holy Spirit in us, is the mark of true Salvation today, which is evidenced by bearing the fruits of the Spirit. If there are no fruits of the Spirit, then it only makes sense to say that the Spirit is not there. People can of course, be kind and loving, having been raised to be so morally, but there is a difference between fruits of morality and fruits of the Spirit. My belief is that a man who is an abuser, cannot be saved because the Holy Spirit calls us to repentance in our lives and repentance means change. After 34 years, and still no change, it leaves one with the decision to say either the Holy Spirit is asleep and not doing His job, or your husband does not have the Spirit. For most, that would be an easy choice, and for me, that would no longer be a hard call to make at all. But I understand your position, because I have been there and done that for decades as well.

      • Still Reforming

        IamMyBeloved’s –

        I’m four days late in catching up with reading the comments here because I’ve had a very busy and trying week with counselors and attorneys et. al.

        Anyway, I just had to respond to your statement about “After 34 years, and still no change, it leaves one with the decision to say either the Holy Spirit is asleep and not doing His job, or your husband does not have the Spirit.”

        I had to stifle a chuckle because it brought to mind a similar conversation I had once with my (anti-)husband a few years ago. We were sitting at the kitchen table, talking about “carnal Christianity” or something like that. All I remember was that he asked some question to which my answer was, “Well, yeah – I suppose a person could be like that and be truly a Christian but quenching the Spirit….” I don’t remember what he had first said to elicit that response from me, and I wasn’t referring to him directly but to “the Christian” in general, when suddenly I saw his face change upon my response. You would have thought he was sucking on a whole bag of lemons his face was so sour. He glared at me – as if taking some offense, when I thought I was just responding with how I understand Christ changes one’s heart and therefore one’s whole life, walk, talk, etc. Boy were those knives coming out from his eyes. I still don’t know what I said to make him so angry, but that’s just par for the course.

        Also, you wrote: “The professionals will tell you that the only untreatable mental illness, is considered to be Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” I did not know that, but it would not surprise me if that’s true.

      • Still Reforming

        I should add to my last comment that when I saw that visage on my (anti-)husband, I knew that the conversation had come to an end. Once that seething anger appeared – and it’s easy to recognize the look when one has seen it before – there was nothing else to say unless I wanted to invite an endless cycle of bickering and confusion. It was always best just to graciously exit the conversation and go off to do something else.

  7. Reachingfortheprize

    Queen Elenor had been well educated growing up in France. She had divorced her first husband (king of France) before marrying the king of England. She saw that he was not being a good king and, for the good of the country (and possibly herself) , was willing to depose her husband.

    Off with their head was the Queen of Hearts. Alice in Wonderland. Possibly taken from Bloody Mary.

    • Brenda R

      Reaching,
      Names fail me but there was at least one queen beheaded because she didn’t give her king husband an heir.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Ann Boleyn? Henry VIII was not a guy to get mixed up with. He dumped his first Spanish Queen too because she didn’t give him a son. Tried to get the Pope to give him a divorce.

      • Brenda R

        Thank you Pastor Jeff. That is her name. I would have been trying to figure that out all evening. Now I can move on to other things. : )

      • Sunflower

        Just for fun, here’s what happened to King Henry VIII wives:
        Divorced, beheaded, died,
        divorced, beheaded, survived. (rhyming helps)
        Poor women!

      • Brenda R

        Thanks Sunflower,
        I know it isn’t funny, but you’re funny. It didn’t pay to get too close to Henry the VIII. I had a little time this afternoon so I googled queens who had been beheaded. It seems there were several more than I knew about. I had forgotten about Marie Antoinette, but it wasn’t her husband that had it done as he was also beheaded, I think the people of the country wanted them both. There were many more who had their heads lost, for various reasons. I’m just glad I was never married to a king. The abuse I went through was more than enough. I like my head right where it is.

  8. LorenHaas

    This is certain to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.
    I have been critical of some postings in this area in the past, but perhaps we were talking past each other? I think that this is very well stated and you have supported it in scripture and through painful experience. I will be passing this along.
    Thanks!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thanks Loren:)

    • to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.

      Loren, well said! It reminds me of what Lutheran theology so strongly propounds: The importance of properly distinguishing between Law and Gospel, and how we must give Law to the unrepenant ‘secure’ sinner; but give gospel to the crushed sinner. .

      Here are a couple of links on that topic, for those who want to read deeper.
      A Brief Introduction to Law/Gospel, by Dr Hans Wiersma

      The Proper Distinction Bewteen Law and Gospel, by C.F.W. Walther

      • LorenHaas

        Barbara, that is a favorite aphorism of a woman who went through our DivorceCare group, went on to seminary and just accepted her first call to start a church. She is feisty as all get-out. Abusers in Kansas City, MO be forewarned!

  9. MicroGal

    So good! Thank you for prevailing with truth.

    As I have been separated from my stbx for a short while, I am definitely treating him as an unbeliever. He continues to act as if he hasn’t done a thing wrong, shows no emotion, and shows no horror or godly sorrow or repentance for what he has done.

    Sadly, I just had a call from one of his relatives, and this person said they were praying for the marriage to be restored. I didn’t say a word.

  10. Still Reforming

    THIS! —> “The institution of marriage must not be prioritized over the safety of the individuals within it.”

    The thought occurred to me today that Jesus said that the Sabbath was created for man and not man for the Sabbath. Could not the same be said about marriage? Marriage was created for people and not people for “marriage.” In other words, we don’t forsake the individuals for the sake of the “marriage” (so-called, for in cases of abuse it clearly is not a marriage as God ordained it to be).

    Somehow, this “institution” of marriage has been so revered and upheld by leaders in the church that they have trodden upon the individuals for the sake of the institution – added to their burdens instead of relieving them. Talk about legalism! And these are the very ones preaching grace! It’s little wonder that these precious souls – forsaken by those who claim to represent Christ and who proudly bear His holy Name – are leaving the church in droves.

    • Seeing the Light

      I love your whole comment. Amen!

  11. Still Reforming

    Sharing these posts via social media has an impact. I was told by someone at church this past Sunday that she was reading my posts on FB and was helped because she was raised by an abusive father. Her mom is still in the relationship, so your ministry is spreading… The woman with whom I spoke also struggled (and struggles) with the whole scales weighed down heavy on the side of forgiveness to the detriment of Biblical justice. I asked her if we were supposed to be more forgiving than God, who clearly casts people into hell and does not grant forgiveness without repentance? I said that we hold thieves and other law-breakers to justice, so why do abusers get a free pass? Why do schools have this “zero tolerance” policy for bullies in the schools but not our homes? I think the word is spreading… but it’s up to us to spread it.

    • Jeff Crippen

      A little leaven….and this is GOOD leaven!

  12. I am overwhelmed with this last week’s posts with how grateful I am for this website and what you all do here. God has used you remarkably in my life (and I know, so many others). You help to set captives free, and it is so rare and so beautiful. I don’t where I would be if God hadn’t led me to this site. Thank you SO much.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Seeing the Light – Excellent! Thank you for telling us and for being here.

  13. Innoscent

    I’m thrilled at reading this comprehensive statement! Well written and to the point. Thanks Jeff and Barbara for putting that together. For us victims of nominal Christian abusers, it can be a long journey to get to have these points clear in our mind because of the confusion that prevails over this issue everywhere and in the church of all places.

    If I may I have 2 suggestions to the text.
    1- The notion of manipulation (on the part of the abuser) needs to be specified and also the severely damaging aspect of the abuse. We want to give no leeway to the abuser where the victim could still be accused of having participated, or consented to the conduct of the abuser. She is no sado-masochist.

    My additions in capitals.
    “The definition of abuse: A pattern of coercive control (ongoing actions or inactions) that proceed from a mentality of entitlement to power and control and which is used THROUGH MANIPULATIVE TACTICS against another person to subject them to unjustified (and thus evil) power and control. This HARMFUL AND DESTRUCTIVE pattern can be emotional, verbal, psychological, spiritual, sexual, financial, social and physical. Not all these elements need be present, e.g., physical abuse may not be part of it. ”

    2- Maybe have the expression ‘church discipline’ somewhere regarding dealing with the abuser, perhaps in point 4 or 5 or 14? This is to call the church leaders to their responsibilities.

    I really like point 8. For a long time I clung to the idea that my narcissistic husband was also a victim of his environment and we were at both ends of the spectrum. As I heard a pastor say once, we must distinguish ‘cherished sins’ from ‘struggled sins’ and that settled it for me. 🙂

    • IamMyBeloved's

      Innoscent – I don’t believe church discipline works for abusers, whom we’ve already decided cannot be a believer. Most victims have just been re-victimized by churches who tried to discipline the abuser. They usually end up tossing out the true believer! Barb wrote a post about her change of belief about church discipline, but I don’t have the link offhand. That will be a good read. But your suggestion would be a good one, if the belief was that abusers could be believers. : )

      (Eds. note: Here is a link to Barb’s post that IamMyBeloved mentioned:
      Church discipline and church permission for divorcee — how my mind has changed

      • Innoscent

        Thanks IMB’s for your input. By church discipline I mean true biblical discipline when the church leaders are not fooled by abusers and wolves, etc. and not afraid of them, but rather confront them and put them away as per 1 Cor 5.11-13. But I’m dreaming here… 😦
        (I’ve actually read the article by Barbara, the Mt 18 vs 1 Cor 5 issue. Excellent!)

  14. LM

    Greetings Mam Babara,

    Be blessed & wish you holy spirit filled 2015.

    “A pattern of coercive control (ongoing actions or inactions) that proceed from a mentality of entitlement to power and control and which is used against another person to subject them to unjustified (and thus evil) power and control. This pattern can be emotional, verbal, psychological, spiritual, sexual, financial, social and physical. Not all these elements need be present, e.g., physical abuse may not be part of it.”

    The above fits in my case. I am really going through mental agony of the thought of divorce. An if at all I do, I feel that I must marry again to a devout person if ever God leads me to somebody.

    My question is, “is remarriage allowed biblically after divorce?” For I find scriptures that whoever marries while the partner is alive, it is committing adultery.

    Please clarify

    God Bless

    (Eds. note: Some details of comment were removed for the commenter’s safety)

    • Hi LM,

      My question is, “is remarriage allowed biblically after divorce?”

      Excellent question! I’m sure Barbara will respond to your question about remarriage, but I wanted to point you to some posts that address this issue.

      Does 1 Cor 7:10-11 mean a victim of abuse can’t remarry? (This post is from Barbara’s Not Under Bondage blog)

      Our position on divorce (under the Our Beliefs tab on the top menu bar)

      A Discussion of Divorce and Remarriage

      There are other resources that discuss remarriage. You can do a search using the side menu bar or use the tag “remarriage” from the top menu bar.

    • joepote01

      LM – Yes, a believer who has experienced divorce is biblically free of that prior marriage covenant and therefore free to marry another.

      As Twbtc pointed out, there are several posts on this blog that discuss this topic. Here is a post on my blog in which I discuss remarriage after divorce, as well as provide addtional references: http://josephjpote.com/2012/06/free-to-remarry/

      Blessings to you as you study this topic and search the scriptures!

  15. Lucy

    Perhaps there is a difference in an actual abuser and one who demonstrates abusive behavior occasionally. My husband struggles with abusive behavior, but is not chronically manipulative or abusive. We’ve read a lot about abuse and he just doesn’t fit your list. We’ve had great success dealing with it as an addiction, even using recovery medallions, reading books like ‘Stop Hurting the Woman You Love’ and having accountability partners and consequences if anything were to happen again. I realize there are many abusive men out there that are so blind to their behavior and will likely never change, but blanket statements like this irk me because they leave men like my husband with only condemnation and no avenue to change.

    Thankfully we’ve been able to figure it out ourselves but the general attitude that this isn’t something you can confess and ask help with since people will just call the police and tell you to separate is very dangerous. It leaves the outliers, the ones who really want to and could change, too afraid to get help.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Lucy – Where to begin? First, we here at ACFJ have never taught at any time that an abuser cannot confess to his sin. We call on the wicked to do this all the time. We do not leave anyone who will repent and confess their evil with only condemnation. True repentance and real confession of sin is open to all. But as Someone once said, the way is narrow and few are they who find it. About that fact we are very realistic. Secondly, your description of your husband leaves us with uncertainty. You say he does not fit the profile of an abuser, and yet he abuses. You say he is not chronically abusive, and yet you say that you have approached his abuse as an “addiction.” I would suggest that you give further thought to the contradictions in your thinking in this regard. One of the characteristic effects of abuse is that it creates what we call the “fog” in the victim’s mind. Confusion about what is really happening. And denial – denial is huge in these cases. Victims tell us that they would even tell people who asked them if their abuser had ever hit them, “No. Oh no, he has never done that.” When in fact he had and they were simply in total denial about it in their own mind. Such is the nature of this beast called abuse. Now, I also notice something else in your comment here. You make no mention of Christ or of the Holy Spirit. Here you have a husband who abuses – so much so that (though you believe it isn’t that frequent) that you have had to expend quite a lot of energy using various techniques to deal with it. So you are in a marriage which, I am going to assume both you and he profess to be Christians, is yet characterized by the husband saying he loves his wife, yet he has to be told (and held accountable for) to love his wife and to stop hurting her. In light of Scriptures like this one: Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, (1 Thessalonians 4:9), how is it that your husband requires external compulsion to love you? Accountability partners. Consequences if it happens again. Those things in and of themselves are fine, but why are they required if this man truly loves Christ, loves you, and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit? You mention also the matter of calling the police – or rather, your point is, of NOT calling the police. Now, why would you be thinking about this subject – calling the police – if your husband is not an abuser? If your husband has, for example, assaulted you physically, and you have this idea that calling the police would be harmful to your husband’s chances of changing, then I can assure you that your thinking on this is all turned around. At minimum however, it is not a helpful statement for you to make to other victims or to anyone that calling the police or separating from the abuser is – and here is your word – DANGEROUS. No. What is dangerous is your statement here.

      Finally, Lucy, your focus here is on the abuser. What you have said here is all about the abuser. His recovery. His changing. His welfare. That is all totally backwards. God’s chief concern is with the protection and welfare of the oppressed, not the welfare of the wicked. We here at ACFJ make the victim’s welfare and protection our main concern as well. May the Lord lead and direct you into truth, and if in any area of your life you are still confused, in the blinding fog that wickedness creates, we pray that Christ will lead you out of it. Only He can do this. You have to be the one who comes to this realization yourself.

      • Lucy

        What I meant about the difference between an abusive relationship and abusive behavior, though it sounds contradictory, really isn’t. Basically, my husband does not justify any controlling, manipulative behavior. He doesn’t seem to isolate or tear me down on a regular basis. His abuse comes out under extreme stress and impatience under very specific circumstances, which we have pinpointed. He takes full responsibility for his actions. I only referred to it as an addiction because he has truly had to beat the habit of lashing out in that way when he is tested. It’s not something he could have overcome by himself-he really needed help. Unfortunately both of us put off seeking help for 4 years for various reasons-including the reason that most people overreact and say that he can’t possibly be a Christian or that we need to call the police. He immediately is lumped in with a stereotype that he honestly does not fit.

        I assure you I’m not in denial-I have had a range of emotions over the years, but denial has not been one of them, haha.

        The reason I didn’t want the police involved was because that would affect our family(yes, I know not involving the police could also affect our family). He would lose his job, I have an inordinate fear of CPS, it would make everything horribly public, and I would have to deal with that fallout too. If things never changed, then I would consider the police, but right now the cons seem to outweigh the pros.

        I’m sorry I didn’t mention anything about Christ or the HS. I feel like a lot of assumptions are being made about my family -which is really my point.

        If we really want to get down to it-my husband is a preacher. We are both young. We’ve come from rough backgrounds and are fairly young Christians as it is. Yet, we are more than aware of how abusive behavior is not compatible with the teachings of Christ, or of Paul, and how the fruit of the Spirit within us are traits entirely opposite of the ones seen in abusers. But sanctification is a process. And the truth is, many times, he is more consistent in his growth than I am. We are both deeply flawed, yet deeply passionate about God. One of our elders is aware of the situation and we have everything planned in the event that something would happen again-and my husband is aware of that, and extremely supportive.

        Don’t get me wrong, I spent many years bitter and angry and hateful. And I had bad theology-thinking that it wasn’t my place to out him. I no longer believe that and I absolutely agree that God desires to protect the weak and oppressed. I don’t believe he wants us to stay silent. But I also believe that he wants to see my husband grow and change. And I want that, too. And we’re doing it together.

        But because of the knee-jerk reactions that the general public would have, there is a measure of silence that we unfortunately have to have. That’s what I despise. We should be able to come to the church and get help, not be judged and lose influence or friendships.

        Anyway, thank you for your reply. I don’t mean to stir up trouble, Im just still bothered by how hard it is to find actual resources for abusers. Most resources are for victims, understandably, and when it comes to addressing abusers, it’s generally about how to escape/call the police/divorce them, etc. It took a lot of effort to find books and classes for abusers. They don’t even recommend marriage counseling-most won’t work with an abusive partner. And because I didn’t know the rules for confidentiality, I was afraid to recommend therapy.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Lucy – Thank you for your comments here. Let me bring God’s Word to bear once more on your husband’s case and then ask you a question:

        The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

        In light of these clear requirements of God’s Word for pastors and elders, why has your husband not resigned from being a preacher? Why has the church allowed him to continue in that office? You can see that he fails in numbers of these requirements and can you also see that he is setting himself up for special attack from the enemy, especially in regard to pride? Does not the congregation of the church to whom your husband is preaching have the right to know what he has done in regard to abusing you? Is he counseling others? He certainly is every time he steps into the pulpit. You said “One of our elders is aware of the situation and we have everything planned in the even that something would happen again.” So, here is a man standing in a pulpit, teaching others about Christ, who has to have this kind of restraint held over him to hold his abuse in check. And the elder knows about it and yet allows it to be, what, kept secret from the church? I’m sorry, but I must say this is disobedience to God’s Word. He is not qualified for the pastoral ministry, and real repentance would include acknowledgement of that fact.

      • Ellie

        I used to think the same things about X’s outbursts. They were only when he was stressed, hungry, embarrassed, tired, and so on. When he was in a pleasant mood he could almost take responsibility for his abuse. I say almost because he would tell me what I could’ve done to prevent it.

        It isn’t up to US to manage someone else’s environment so that they are less likely to abuse. Abuse is a choice.

        I relate to many of the things you said. I was afraid of what people would think, afraid of the police, afraid of CPS, and so on. I thought my job as helpmeet was to go before X and make him comfortable so he would not be tempted. If people loved X, they would call the abuse sin and not make allowances for it. They would not make him comfortable in his sin. They wouldn’t hate him. I don’t hate him. But he can’t be permitted to abuse.

        Abusers should not have influence. You can find many verses to back that up. That is to protect the people, to love the people who are being influenced.

      • Hi Lucy, sorry for not having responded to you till now. I’ve been very busy.

        You said you are bothered about how hard it is to find actual resources for abusers. Mens’ Behavior Change Programs (a.k.a. Domestic Violence Intervention Programs) are around in the UK, the USA, New Zealand and Australia, and hopefully other countries as well. As you will no doubt have gathered, we do not see our role here (at ACFJ) as providing resources for abusers. However at my own website I have a few links: http://notunderbondage.com/pages/especially-for-men

        If I may I would like to offer you my thoughts on your comments. (in no particular order)

        At ACFJ we do not automatically advise victims to call the police. We inform them about hotline numbers they can call if they wish, and we try to inform and empower them so they can make informed decisions about to what action they may or may not wish to take.

        I am a little surprised that you said that most people/organisations just tell victims to call the police. That is not our experience with churches: our experience with churches and Christians is that they tend to discourage victims from calling the police. And from I’ve heard from victim/survivors, in many places in the world the laws on DV are limited that when victims do call the police they are discouraged to find that the police will not get involved unless there has been physical assault or property damage, and even then it’s quite restricted (e.g. it has to be documented or witnessed, recent, etc). Getting a protection order to protect one from one’s abuser is NOT an easy thing. So the people who say “Just call the police” have little idea how many difficulties the victim may encounter when she tries to involve the police an the justice system.
        Many people give simplistic advice to victims of domestic abuse without appreciating all the hurdles and hoops and potholes victims face when they start trying to get help — help from the justice system, help from the church, or whatever.

        Side note: In my view, many parts of the world need better legislation for domestic violence: legislation that defines domestic abuse as a pattern of coercive control that can be exercised thru psychological, emotional, financial, social, and sexual abuse, not only physical abuse and violence.

        I guess whether you husband stops being abusive will be demonstrated in time. Remember that the Christian psychologist Dr George Simon wisely reminds us that change happens in the here and now. Dr Simon’s books are all worth reading.

        In the meantime, I hope you keep checking in here. We don’t want to put you off from gathering information and ideas here.

        I agree with what Jeff said: that your husband, if he is really repenting, should step down from being a pastor. If he is serious about doing the hard work of changing his behaviour (and the mindset & habit patterns that are behind it) he ought to step down from his leadership role. More: he would be obeying Christ to step down from that role. Let him do the work of change without putting the flock at risk from his possible erroneous thinking and beliefs. And as for you, you are free to do what you wish, but I encourage you not to try to do the work for him. Work on your own character issues, by all means, if you wish, but do not take on the job of working on his character issues. That is his job.

        And btw when I say “work on your character issues” I trust you understand that I’m not meaning work on your character so you can be a better doormat for him to walk on. Work on your character so that you can be bold and wise in speaking the truth and standing up for honesty and justice, so you can develop maturity of character. Teaching Children The Ten Commandments Of Character is a post by Deborah on this blog, based on material from Dr Georg Simon. Although it’s about teaching chilren, it’s something we call all be edified by. I’m just giving you this link in case you find it helpful.

        Another thing: if your husband has not been long converted, he ought not be a pastor just because of the Scripture that says ” He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.” 1 Tim. 3:6

      • IamMyBeloved's

        All I can say to your most recent comment Lucy, is whoa! Just remember Scripture takes authority over everything else, including your thoughts, feelings or your husband’s; your beliefs; your fears and the fact that he is in a position he really needs to resign from. I do believe that you are in an abusive situation and are blinding the people your husband is leading. That is just not acceptable. I am sorry for your confusion, but I think it best for you to listen to the wise Scriptural counsel given to you by Ps. Crippen and search the Scriptures for yourself.

    • IamMyBeloved's

      Lucy – please don’t misunderstand my words here, but you first state that your husband does not fit the pattern/definition of abuse used here at ACFJ, but then you say that he is left with condemnation and no avenue to change, from reading the posts here. If he does not fit the pattern, then why would you come here for help? If he does not need this form of help, then I don’t quite understand why you come here. I also believe that the only people who would call the police on your husband, would be you or your family, friends or neighbors if they felt you were in true danger.

      I think you may be misunderstanding the post. I think that Jeff said we were to never force someone into leaving or separating.

      “True Christians should help (but never pressure) victims of abuse to get free from the abuser’s oppression to the greatest extent possible, recognizing that leaving an abuser is not a simple or easy step for many abuse victims, and that society and the church often compound the difficulties victims face.”

      I also believe that if an individual who is as you describe your husband, ie wants to repent and change, and it is genuine, then there would be no real stopping that. Repentance is a gift from God, not a forced struggle to “get right” and gain repentance.

      I am glad your techniques are working for you and hope you can find help here for what fits your needs.

      • IamMyBeloved's

        Oh – and I give a hearty “amen” to Ps. Crippen’s response to you. I did not read his comment before posting mine.

    • Gracie

      Lucy, I have one question. Does he treat ANYBODY else the way he treats you? I have a feeling he doesn’t. Otherwise it would be impossible for you to keep this such a secret. If the answer is yes, then yes, your husband is an abuser and you are his target.

      (Eds. Note: Gracie, all comments are moderated before they are published. That is why you didn’t see your comment right away. And since our team of moderators all have ‘day jobs’ sometimes there is a delay in publishing comments.

      • Ellie

        This helped me more than anything as I was getting free. I used to make excuses for X and try so hard to manage his environment. But his boss screamed at him and humiliated him daily for months on end. And his boss was never given anything but respect from X. There are marriage articles out there asserting that abusers abuse because they feel disrespected. If that were the case the disrespectful boss should’ve been abused. But the mean, angry, profane, threatening, abusive behavior was only directed at me. He had perfect control. I didn’t cause it. He targeted me.

        Another thing, Lucy, is that at one point when X and I were considering reconciling, he wanted to have a system with code words to let him know he was scaring me, with mandatory time out and him being banished to his mother’s if he didn’t cut it out, all kinds of ways for ME to manage his abuse. That’s not change. That’s behaviorism. It’s not repentance; being sorry for sin, hating and forsaking it because it displeases God. And I couldn’t bear the weight of it and I knew it.

  16. Persis

    I wish more churches, authors, etc. would listen to you all and listen to the victims/survivors. How can people really help without listening to and learning from those who have first-hand experience? Maybe if they did, they’d finally get THIS:

    “The institution of marriage must not be prioritized over the safety of the individuals within it. “

  17. StandsWithAFist

    “The victim must not be pathologized for the ways she has responded to the abuse.”

    Bravo. Tears and cheers for this one.

    I have recently been told to “extend grace” to my abuser as “the least of these”. I have been told that I am “hurting myself” by seeing the situation too clearly. I have been told it’s “time to compromise”. I have been told I am holding a grudge. I have been told these things by church leadership, all while the abuser has continues to accuse me of being unforgiving, hard-hearted, hateful, angry, stubborn, mentally ill, mean-spirited, brainwashed, a “bad witness for the Lord”, bitter, terrible…..all in the same breath, and all because I finally realized that I had said everything there was to say; I turned away & followed Jesus, went NC and didn’t look back. Jesus stood silent before His accusers for many reasons, but one of them was that He had already said everything He came to say. The cross said the rest.
    Non-negotiables meant that I grew a steel spine. Yeah, I cried buckets. I was alone. I was often confused. But I told the truth. I have lost “friends” and family, but now I also know who to trust. It’s amazing what people reveal about their own hearts when you remain silent and watch them spew poison without provocation. Maya Angelou once said “when people show you who they are, believe them the first time”. I gave it 40 years. Forty years!! Forty years wandering in the desert under a hard yoke and heavy burdens before I finally broke. I learned God did not call me to accept abuse for another’s pleasure. I am not called to participate in evil deeds, but to expose them. He called me to Himself, and His yoke is easy, the burden is light.
    For 3 years I have not responded; I have not returned gifts, emails, voice mails, letters, cards, money, realizing it is just “bait”. It all went into the trash. I went completely “dark”, became a gray rock. Yet, my abuser is still hounding me, still trying to “win” and in a way it’s comical: if I am all that bad, then why “restore” the relationship?
    But you answered that perfectly: “[the abuser] has a profound mentality of entitlement to the possession of power and control over the one s/he* chooses to mistreat.. This mentality of entitlement defines the very essence of the abuser.”
    Thank you, Jeff & Barb, for this. Bless you both for drawing a line in the sand (#14) and equipping us to defend it.
    More tears…..

    • Still Reforming

      Stands…. One has to wonder why leaders, especially those in positions of Christian ministry, put so much on the backs of those abused and hold the abuser so little to account. Unless, that is, those same leaders have a profound sense of entitlement to control and power themselves. I can think of no other reason.

  18. joanne

    Amazing, truthful, straight from scripture and Gods heart for the oppressed. Thank you and be blessed for your continuing efforts.

  19. YoungPastor

    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
    10 “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:11 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
    7 “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.9 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.

    • joepote01

      Young Pastor –

      I wholeheartedly agree with and support Pastor Crippen’s response.

      Please, please, take the time to read and study this topic further. You are approaching this whole topic from the wrong paradigm…reading and interpretting scripture from the wrong paradigm. I understand, because I once held a similar paradigm based on what I was taught. It took experiencing an abusive marriage and subsequent divorce for God to help me see a perspective closer to His heart. I pray you will be able to see it with less pain and sorrow.

      Some specific responses to your specifically expressed concerns:

      “I agree that individuals must be protected, but I disagree that God will bless divorce.”

      God tells us in Jeremiah 3:8 that He, Himself, divorced the northern kingdom of Israel. Surely, God blesses His own behavior! There are many other examples, but this is one that clearly cannot be easily swept aside.

      “I believe that to say that a marriage cannot be fixed is contrary to what the Bible says.”

      I would refer you, not only to that one passage in Jeremiah, but also to the many other scriptures speaking to God’s unwillingness that any should perish…coupled with the many clear declarations that many will perish. If anyone could singlehandedly make a relationship work, God could. Yet not even God saves all. Because He gives us free will…because He honors our free choices…because He refuses to enslave us against our will even if the only other choice is our own destruction…many will perish. Many will spend eternity separated from God…outside any relatonship with God.

      The same is true for marriage…or any other relationship. We certainly cannot claim authority that God denies Himself. God does not override an abuser’s free will because of a praying spouse. If God was willing to do that, then none would perish and all would be saved…because God is not willing that any should perish.

      So long as we all have the gift of free will….and so long as we are living in this life under the influence of sin…there will always be some relationships that cannot be saved…that cannot be fixed.

      In addition to the books referenced by Pastor Crippen, you may also glean some helpful information from a book I’ve written. It’s an easy read and certainly does not answer all questions, but will hopefully give you plenty of food for thought: http://www.amazon.com/You-Believer-been-through-Divorce/dp/1463767161/

      May you be richly blessed as you continue to search the scriptures and pursue God’s heart!

      • YoungPastor

        @Joepote01-
        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.

      • Brenda R

        YoungPastor,
        There is always that minute chance that an abuser will repent and get right with God. If that happens, I would shout a hardy Amen. It would not cause me personally to ever trust my X abuser. It is very easy for him to come up with phrases like, “have a blessed day” to try to make himself seem holy, but then there is also the next sentence which blames everything he has ever done on what I have done. I can take responsibility and repent for my sins, I cannot and will not do this for the him.

        The X didn’t leave our home, I did. There was no way he was going to leave, he was quite happy with having the ability to do and say anything he pleased at no consequence to him. He had broken the covenant in multiple ways and abandoned our marriage while still remaining in the house. He was happy with going to church and having people say what a great guy he was and then going to the car and scream at me about the hypocrites in the church.

        Have you read any of the stories of the people here? If not, I would recommend that you do. In addition to the books that have been suggested already, I would suggest Leslie Vernick’s “The Emotionally Abusive Marriage”. There is no one here that takes divorce lightly and do not suggest that divorce is alright for any reason you choose or because you’re bored and want a change. Please read Barbara Roberts book “Not Under Bondage” carefully. It was a life changer for me along with much prayer and studying the scripture for myself.

        If one of your daughters was deceived, married a man who soon after the wedding began to abuse her in any form, how would you respond? Would you tell her that she could leave him, but could not divorce or ever marry again? These are questions that you should ask yourself now before it happens. They are definitely questions you should ask before you ever think about counseling an abusive, destructive relationship. I don’t feel that God seals every marriage because the person standing in front of the couple says that he did.

        You have been given an entire course outline that could quite possibly change your heart and your view of who God is. I truly hope you take this on. If you read back through the posts here, there are other pastors who have come here and agree with what Pastor Jeff says here.

      • God may use divorce the same way He uses sorrow and pain, but does He bless them?

        YoungPastor, God most certainly blesses divorce when it helps a victim of domestic abuse to get free of the abuser. When a victim divorces her (or his) abusive spouse, the victim/survivor’s life generally becomes safer, the oppression is at least partly lifted, and the kids have a better chance for maturing into good characters. In many cases, separation and divorce do not remove all the oppression, but that is usually because the Family Courts have made rulings that compel the kids to continue seeing the abuser, and the abuser can wreak much damage to and through the kids, emotional, spiritual, physical, sexual and financial damage.

      • I know you said you are no longer going to comment here YoungPastor, which may mean you are not going to read any more here either, so what I’m about to say is for anyone else who is reading this thread, and especially for any other men like are thinking like YP.

        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.

        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?

      • Jeff Crippen

        Barbara – from godly men. That attitude can exist in our minds without us even knowing it. Your question is valid. Why did he limit it to men?

      • joepote01

        YoungPastor –

        “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.”

        I never said abusers cannot repent. Nor have I ever heard or read Pastor Crippen say abusers cannot repent.

        Yes, abusers can repent…but they must choose to repent. A few do. Most do not.

        And so long as the abuser is unrepentant, the marriage cannot function as God intended it to function. So long as the abuser remains unrepentant, the marriage cannot be fixed…and most abusers remain unrepentant.

        For His children who are enslaved in a covenant of abusive bondage, God offers redemption in the form of divorce.

        Just as God redeemed Israel from slavery to Egypt, He redeems His children from covenants that have become abusive bondage.

        Just as God divorced the kingdom of Israel after years of abuse of their covenant vows, He also blesses His beloved children who, through divorce, escape years of enslavement to an abusive spouse.

      • standsfortruth

        Young pastor,
        One term worth your looking up is “covert aggression, or covert abuse.”
        I believe this is the most sinister spirituall warfare facing the christian today.
        You need to keep in mind that these abusers are very skillful in their covert abuse. (hidden from the outsiders eye) that they intentionally direct at their wives and children.
        And just as skillful as they are with abusing their family behind the scenes, they are equally as skilled at convincing others, including those within the church, that they are the saintly humble christian that they have been projecting themselves to be all along.,
        This “double facade” is what is so sinster and harmful to those who must live in it.
        Remember the innocent children involved in this dynamic learn what they live.
        In this environment the children tend to grow up with low or damaged self esteem, and even question and deny the exhistance of God because of living with such continual blatant hypocricy.
        They are disillusioned with life, struggle with goals, and confused about relationships, not to mention being continually exposed to the same dynamics that could create the probability of becoming future abusers themselves.
        Worse yet if the child is a girl she may tend to look for a partner who has abusive traits (or not discern the little red flags for that the charming abuser may let leak out from his facade when he’s courting her — Eds) ]because that is what she knows as “normal.”

        For the children coping in an abusive environment, creates a tendency for them to develop compulsive behaviors that help them escape the ongoing abuse within the home.
        This can be any kind of compulsive pattern that takes their mind off of the abuse, but often it is destructive.
        The abuser does his homework in advance by acting the role of a fine christian towards the church, so that if or when any alligations of abuse might arrise, then surely they will be dismissed or minimized by the church.
        The more outside friends he enlists outside and within the church, the more pressure he can exert on his victims to maintain his control with their help.
        Dont you see,- he is working all angles to maintain his abuse on those he should be loving?
        And the reason why is because he wants power and control, and he manipulates and decieves whoever he can to obtain that end, no matter the cost.
        It is very intentional, and covert and we must see this as the “spiritual warfare” that it is, and refuse to be a pawn in his “game” against wife and family.
        Being freed, and divorced from an abusive spouse will give the survivor the hope she needs to try to repair the damage that the abuser has done to her and the children.
        So that they ultimatly can worship the Lord in Spirit and Truth.
        While she is married to her abuser, he can continue to abuse her by being covertly and purposely irresponsible, (to punish her) so it makes no sence to leave that door open.

      • Still Reforming

        standsfortruth,

        What you and others have so well articulated here is what I have tried to convey for years to my church – both leaders and family – but due to the expert facade portrayed by my husband, as well as the “God hates divorce” which we have all learned as if it were gospel truth (when in fact is not), my cries fell on deaf ears. It took me years to realize just how deaf they were at home, and when I was finally able to give myself a voice with more assurance at church, it was the abuser who remained, while my child and I had to leave.

        Your answers here – and YoungPastor’s interest – give me hope. Just as in the Reformation one man – joined eventually by others – had to speak up to the church to let truth be known, so too are the voices here representing those oppressed – abandoned or still abused under the same roof – yet “crying out for justice.”

        Let us never forsake God’s justice in the name of forgiveness – as if there could be one without the other. May it never be. For without justice, there is no mercy. Without true repentance – and Godly discernment to recognize it from those feigning repentance and faith – there is no forgiveness.

    • Hello YoungPastor and thank you very much for raising your concerns here.

      For a thorough interpretation of those scriptures you brought up in your comment, those verses must be carefully interpreted and weighed and balanced with the other texts on divorce and remarriage: 1 Cor. 7:12-15; Matthew 19:3-12; Exodus 21:7-11; Deuteronomy 21:10-14; Deuteronomy 24:1-4; Genesis 2:18-24; Malachi 2:16 and how it’s been mistranslated, and the Hillelite/Shammaite controversy which was a marked element in Judaism during the time of Jesus’ ministry, and which very much colours the meaning of what Jesus said about the ‘any matter divorce’ in Matthew 19.

      You will find all these things teased out and evaluated in my book Not Under Bondage. The only divorce text I do not pay much attention to in that book is the Jeremiah 3 one where God divorced Israel, but Joe Pote’s book does deal with this, as does Instone-Brewer’s Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible.

      Instone-Brewer showed the Christian world what ‘any matter divorce’ meant to Jesus and his listeners: it was a phrase that referred only to the Hillelite misinterpretation of Deuteronomy 24. Building on what I-B wrote, I came to believe that not only was the Hillelite interpretation wrong, the Shammaite interpretation was wrong too. Bottom line is: those who interpret Jesus’ words in Mattew 19 as forbidding all divorce, or forbidding all divorce except divorce for adultery, are missing the boat badly.

      I strongly encourage you to read my book. The unteasing of the divorce texts — they had been tied and tangled into a gordian knot for millennia — is not a simple matter that can be done in a few words on a blog. That’s why when I started to write what I thought would be a chapter on divorce, it quickly became evident that it needed a whole book.

      On the matter of Can An Abuser Repent? — of course they can. But do they? How rare it seems to be! Especially for male abusers. We say this not just from our own experience, but from what we have heard and read from clinicians (counselors, etc) who know their stuff. The ‘biblical counseling’ crowd would protest and say they know multiple cases of domestic abusers repenting, but we believe they have been sucked in by the abusers who fake repentance, who put the repentance cloak on for a while but have not changed their stony hearts and their entrenched beliefs in their own entitlement to mistreat others (specifically and pointedly their wives and children) for malicious selfish reasons.

      Theoretically any abuser can repent. But for that to happen they need to be struck with the thunderous conviction of sin from the hand of God himself, with God then drawing them into His kingdom by effectual calling them. Most abusers, the vast vast majority of abusers, we would say, resist the call, “by their unrighteousness [they] suppress the truth.” Romans 1:18.

      Many are called: the call to repentance goes out to all; God desires all men to come to repentance.
      But few are chosen, God gives the gift of grace to repentance and saving faith, the effectual call, only to some. Many are on the wide road that leads to destruction.

      Is this ‘fair’? Wrong question. Who are we to question God? In matters like this must simply believe His Word, even when we cannot fully understand it intellectually. And if we have come to saving faith, all we can do is be grateful to God for being ‘unfair’ to us and lavishing us with mercy and grace which we did nothing to deserve.

      But if we have come to saving faith, we are called to rightly divide the word of truth. At present, in your comments, it seems to me that you are not yet righly dividing the word of truth as it pertains to abusers, separation, divorce and remarriage. Please keep studying the materials we have suggested to you.

      And thank you once again for commenting. Not many pastors or male leaders have the ‘whatever it takes’ to engage us in serious discussion. Quite a few try to haughtily admonish us by pushing their fixed line on us, but few engage seriously with our arguments. I hope you are one of those few, and willling to humble yourself and learn.

      • I forgot to put Malachi 2:16 in that list above, so I’m editing the comment to add it.

      • YoungPastor

        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.

      • Jeff Crippen

        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.
        (Psalms 10:1-18)

        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.

      • Reachingfortheprize

        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

        Reaching- Spot on! What you said. Perfect. By the time a pastor or church or whoever knows about an abuser (if they even believe the victim), the victim has ALREADY suffered for years in most cases, has tried and tried to bring the abuser to repentance, and here it is — THE ABUSER HAS ALREADY DEMONSTRATED HE IS NOT REPENTANT NOR IS HE GOING TO REPENT. But pastors come along, they know better you see, they are going to fix this guy and get him saved and restore the marriage. Translated = they are going to keep the victim in bondage. We must realize that when we are dealing with an abuser, especially one who claims to be a Christian, that we are dealing with a wicked person with a hardened heart who has walked the path of rejecting Christ for years. And you DO NOT approach such a person with trying to reach “their heart” and plead with them to repent. No. You deal with them as God deals with the wicked of that category, and Reachingfortheprize – you nailed it. Romans 1. God gives them over to their evil. He walks away.

      • Still Reforming

        Reachingfortheprize,

        Yes, and all of the while we as Christian wives are told to forgive more, love more, have more mercy, etc. And we as Christian wives buy into the respect your husband, submit to him, do more for him, pray for him, be more this and that. And so we do – for years upon years upon years – and nothing. ever. changes. in. him. When we finally have strength and courage to tell details regarding the abuse, we in turn are told we need to forgive more because “we’re all sinners.”

        I’ve been pushed off a boat by my abuser, intentionally, and the pastor is on the deck yelling overboard, “Hang on! I’m going to help you. But let me talk to this man and see if I can save him too. You just hang in there, forgive this man, and let’s see if I can lead him to the Lord. Don’t worry – I’ll help you too. I care for both of you equally.” Seems ludicrous put in those terms, but that’s what’s happening and the pastors are blind to it. There is none so blind as he who refuses to see.

      • Still Reforming

        And the sad fact is – many if not most or all of these abusers are narcissists who thrive on the attention they’re receiving from the church. Pastors and leaders continue to make demands of the wife to forgive and reconcile ALL WHILE NOT demanding PROOF of repentance from the abuser – proof such as caring MORE for the wife than himself (as Scripture says the repentant believing husband should, as Christ gave Himself for His church). Proof such as the husband NOT demanding reconciliation but leaving the wife to heal and make her own choices whether or not to have ANY relationship with him ever again. And if she chooses not to, why wouldn’t a TRULY repentant husband say, “I understand because I have so transgressed God’s Law that I do not merit what forgiveness you would have – so I leave you in peace to have a good life. If you choose to forgive me, I am grateful, but if you choose not to – then I leave you in peace. And if you are uncomfortable around me because of the great harm I have brought to you, then I shall absent myself so you can be free to serve the Lord in peace. I care more for you than myself, and I have wrought you great harm over many years. I am truly, truly repentant of all these things and sorry. I will go.”
        The abuser never leaves for the sake of the spouse and children. It is far too often the target of the abuser has to flee.

      • 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.

        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.

        1. Making disciples involves teaching the disciples ALL that the Lord has commanded us.
        2. 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.”
        3. 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.
        4. 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.

      • And here is another reason why it YoungPastor is wrong to believe that it is his duty to try to preach to the abuser and see Him or Her saved. —— It is not sensible to waste his effort and energies on that, when our Lord himself told us that the harvest is plentiful and the labourers are few.

      • 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”

        A Much Misunderstood Passage About Reonciliation — 2 Corinthians 5 is a post I wrote about that verse which YoungPastor referred to. I’m just linking to that post here in case it is of interest to people who think that verse can be applied to reconciling an abusive husband with his wife.

      • joepote01

        So…I decided to do a blog post expounding a little more on Jeremiah 3:8…and rebutting some of the arguments I have received over the years from those who say it is not applicable to a ‘real’ marriage or a ‘real’ divorce…

        http://josephjpote.com/2015/01/god-of-divorce/

      • Thanks Joe. Great post! Sorry to have taken so long to look at it.

    • Still Reforming (previously newlyanonymous)

      Young Pastor –

      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).

  20. Jeff Crippen

    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.

  21. YoungPastor

    Brenda,
    I have read the many stories on this website and my heart goes out to all those who have suffered abuse. I would never tell you or someone else to stay in a abusive relationship and would tell you to depart. I would tell you only to go back if the Lord had changed the spouse and the Lord told YOU that it was OK to return to Him. If it seems that the abuser is not going to repent, then I would tell you to divorce Him or Her after a period of time in prayer and Bible study. I am only saying that I think that #2 is wrong, in that a marriage to an abuser can not be fixed, I believe that it could. I do not think that all abuse marriages will reconcile and I think that divorce is an option after reconciling has failed. All I am saying is God can fix Marriages, even abuse cases. I would tell my daughters every word, and would tell them to do what they believed God wanted them to do, concerning, depart, reconcile, divorce, and remarry. I believe that God will tell each person through prayer what is right. Please do not listen to me, please search the scriptures yourself as to these things. God bless.

    • Brenda R

      YoungPastor,
      I’ve done my homework and haven’t felt for one moment that God was not with me the entire time and in my rescue. I don’t know that I will ever remarry, but do feel I could if God were in it. I am far from being a girl anymore and from where I sit== the pickins’ are very slim and my list of qualities that I would look for long and not negotiable. I don’t expect perfect, as there was only One that was and is, but I won’t “settle for” and have my senses tuned In for red flags.

    • joepote01

      YoungPastor –

      I think maybe I see where you’re coming from…and perhaps this is an issue of terminology as well as perspective…

      Nobody here is saying it is impossible for an abuser to change (see “Can Abusers Change?” in right sidebar). However, if you carefully ready Pastor Crippen’s definitions of abuse and abuser, you will see the definitions being used imply unrepentant, ongoing, cyclic abuse. By the time one has seen enough cycles to clearly identify the abuse as abuse, it has already gone on long enough to also realize that the abuser has already rejected numerous opportunities for repentance…and is extremely unlikely to repent now. Furthermore, in most cases, the abuser is very adept at feigning repentance…at least long enough to convince the abuse target to lower their walls so he can begin the abuse cycle anew.

      For such a situation…the situation described in Pastor Crippen’s definition of abuse…the abuse target does not need more encouragement to continue to endure abuse in the hopes that this time it will be different and the abuser will actually follow thru on the feigned repentance. What they need is understanding and encouragement that God does not condemn just divorce…and that divorce may, in fact, be the most godly course of action for their situation.

    • Innoscent

      YoungPastor- The focus is not on fixing a marital relationship, but it is the abuser that needs fixing i.e. going through total brokenness, repentance and then newness of life. For abusive spouses, marriage is a red herring, a smokescreen to hide their desire for power and control and perpetrate their evil schemes on their wife and children. The Gospel is about saving INDIVIDUALS, sinners, the lost. Nowhere in my Bible I read the Gospel is about saving marriages. They can be, but it will be the result of abusers having repented first and foremost. The priority is to restore the victim whose life has been shattered and go from surviving to abundant life.

      Why is it so hard, near impossible for an abuser to repent? Because he has already gone way far down the track where with each choice to abuse every day he’s pushed the Holy Spirit away until his conscience is seared (1 Tim 4.2) like king Saul abusing David over many years. Of course only God knows exactly at what stage the abuser is, but He has also given us biblical guidance to discern and deal with abusers. Our worldwide Christian church has so many victims because the majority of shepherds have NOT been guarding the flock the way they should have. Read and reread Ezechiel 34! in parallel with John 10.7-16.
      May God guide you in your efforts to equip yourself to deal with the issue of abuse in your ministry and to ‘lay down your life for the sheep’.

    • Ellie

      YoungPastor,

      I will come back and comment more in depth later, but for now 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 s 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. Read What Change Looks Like to see a portrait of how I’ve seen this walked out.

      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?”

      • joepote01

        ‘“Can abusers change?” is not the right question when counseling targets of abuse and trying to help them make a safety plan. The question is “Has he changed?” and “Why has he changed?” ‘

        Nicely stated, Ellie!

  22. StandsWithAFist

    Young Pastor: 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 stay on their own human throne. Jesus stopped visiting the cities who craved to see miracles like 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~

    • Jeff Crippen

      StandsWithaFist – You see how God’s Word makes things so clear? This is excellent. Your observations about the thieves on the crosses and the young ruler are sound truth. Thank you.

      • StandsWithAFist

        Wow…Thx Ps. Jeff. It’s nice to feel validated…..it took me a while to name that emotion. 😯
        Thx for always pointing us to the “whole counsel of God” and not the “cherry-picking gospel”.

    • standsfortruth

      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.

      • joepote01

        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.’

        As someone else noted in an earlier comment, Jesus came to save individuals, not marriages.

  23. Brenda R

    StandingWithAFist,
    First off I love your screen name, from “Dances with Wolves”? One of my all time favorite movies. I love your insight from the thieves differences as they hung on the side of Jesus. I really love the term, “cherry-picking gospel”. I am going to try to remember this the next time that I am told that “God Hates Divorce”. Oh how I hate those words.

    • StandsWithAFist

      Yes, Brenda…the name is a reference to the film; the character resonated with me so I adopted it as a screen name.
      As you recall, as a small child she was the lone survivor of an attack and her fate included living with the very abusers who killed her family.
      She had no name, until she fought back and tells this story of how her name came to be: “When I came to live on the prairie, I worked every day… very hard… there was a woman who didn’t like me. She called me bad names… sometimes she beat me. One day she was calling me these bad names, her face in my face, and I hit her. I was not very big, but she fell down. She fell hard and didn’t move. I stood over her with my fist and asked if any other woman wanted to call me bad names… No one bothered me after that day.”
      So her name became “Stands with a Fist”, and altho she was small, no one bothered her again—she earned honor and respect from that day forward. She did not ask permission to be herself. t was her right to be valued. A type of phoenix rising from the ashes…..
      I liked the metaphor of her strength and character, so there it is. I think many of us can relate to feeling lost, small, abused and exploited…..and then very surprised to discover that we CAN fight back and we have value. Amen.

      • Brenda R

        StandsWithAFist, Amen!!

      • Still Reforming (previously newlyanonymous)

        I don’t think I’ve ever seen that film. Now I think I must…

  24. Still Reforming

    Barbara,

    God bless you for your exegesis here. It brings tears to my eyes – as I am reminded of the character of God Who is tender-hearted toward widows and orphans and the downtrodden neglected by spouse and church. Where is that heart among the pastors? They surely can’t have the same heart toward abusers as they have toward their targets. You can’t have both. Christ didn’t. Look at the “love” and “mercy” and forgiveness” Christ had toward those perverting the Word of God. It’s not there. Pastors may want to take heed as they reach out to wicked men and forsake the targets of same.

    • standsfortruth

      Thats where I am at Still Reforming.
      I am starting to wonder if the camps have already divided.
      Take heed you who call yourself christian, “As God IS the defender of the Oppressed, the Weak, the Downtrodden, and the Afflicted.
      That means if you are furthering the affliction of these by denying her reality, and trivializing and minimizing her pain, you are positioning yourself in alliance with the Enemy of God.
      Take heed, as God will not be mocked, “whatsoever a man sows that he shall reap.”
      God needs overseers of courage that will stand up to these reprobate abusers who are afflicting His people.

  25. Nomoremask

    If you want to help the abuser repent, then don’t let them use your church as a mask. Tough love. The kind of naivete expressed by Young Pastor is exactly what the abusers count on, play to, and exploit. Lying goes hand in hand with unrepentant abuse. If you see that they don’t put their money where their mouth is, then it’s time to say “bye-bye”.

    Eds note: screen name changed to disidentify the commenter

    • Hi Nomoremask,

      Please note that I changed your screen name for your safety. May I suggest that you check the info on our New User’s page. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me: twbtc.acfj@gmail.com

      And Welcome to the blog!

  26. Turtledove

    Lucy, Please rest here in our safe place. Read, study absorb ,pray ,cry ,praise God for this website. Many of us are older than you, having struggled sometimes decades without any hope until recently. You will find, dear Lucy, that the longer you remain in harms’ way the thicker traumatic bonding and/or Stockholm syndrome clouds your mind and tears your heart. A search about these things can be very helpful. I’m praying for you.

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