A Cry For Justice

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

They Only Want the Food: Wicked People Claim to Follow Christ ONLY for Self-Glory

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” (John 6:26-27)

You have them in almost every church. They are apparent pillars. Eminent saints, it would seem. The “go to” people who give their stamp of approval or withhold it before any decision. They teach. They disciple. They give. They are at every meeting, every workday, and no one can imagine how the church would survive without them. However, though this description could fit a true, faithful Christian, in this case there is something else that is true about these counterfeits. They are devoid of mercy and love. Oh, they can put on outward shows of these qualities, but it is only skin deep. How do you know? Because if you will be honest with yourself and if you will let the Spirit show you, you will admit that in fact you do not feel safe nor comfortable around them. They can “go off” at any moment with judgment and condemnation. Or maybe they never ‘go off’ overtly in public but something about their manner makes you feel wary of them; you sense the judgement below the surface, you pick it up between the lines.

They are not Christians. Christ will disavow them on that Day. The Holy Spirit, if we will listen to Him, tells us that these are clouds without rain, and completely devoid of genuine mercy.

So why do they do it? Why do they bother? Why all this energy poured into church and Sundays and Wednesday night prayer meetings? Why?

They do it for the same reason the large crowds kept seeking out and following Jesus – for the food. They had filled their bellies with the loaves and fish, and they liked it. They wanted more. If that meant traveling around with Jesus out in the sticks, they would do it. They “served” Christ because they wanted perishable food.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

Many people follow. Few really know Jesus. That is, they follow as long as the “bread” keeps coming. As long as a church remains ignorant (or evil) so that the wicked can continue to feed on the bread of self-glory for themselves, these evil ones will continue their charade. And they will continue to oppress the weak and deceive the careless. Bread, you see. They love that glory bread.

Jesus would have us do what He did. Turn to them in front of all and say “You are not seeking Christ. That isn’t why you are here. You know the gospel is real and that salvation is only in Jesus. But that isn’t why you are here. You are here just for the bread. Your god is your belly, and you demand that we fill it for you. No more. The game us up.”

21 Comments

  1. Scaredmomma

    This reminds my of my husband. We attended my church as a family for years. Several years ago, He decided to change to my faith. He stood in front of whole church, and declared he was joining so he could get credit for attendance. I expected someone would council him about true reasons to join a faith with him, but no, they just welcomed into the church. He has continues with this attitude. He only attends church if he has a role in the mass so his attendance will be noticed. And, everyone thinks he so great, such a good Christian.

    • Still Reforming

      Scaredmomma,
      My former church is exactly the same way. They want to “love him (my abuser) to Jesus,” and the church leaders just love getting up and preaching about “boundless love,” all the while knowing exactly what he did to his family (us).

    • healinginhim

      I’ve lived this. Mine wanted to avoid the wrath of ‘hell’. He was never counseled on true Christianity or the role of a husband. History would reveal that these leaders are not true Christians, however, I still have to answer to, “… everyone (who) thinks he so great, such a good Christian.” Praying for you, Scaredmomma because it is difficult when you are expected to just keep on smiling.

  2. Amy

    My abusive ex was so good at going to church and maintaining this appearance of a gentle, loving Christian. He knew how to play the game so well. A quiet voice, no hint of anger and tears that would freely pour down his face to show others what a compassionate man he was. Ugh, made me sick to my stomach watching this act of his when in reality his true colors would come out once we got in the car to drive home.

    He would also carry his bible everywhere. After he walked on me in ’09 I ran into him at the grocery store one day as he walked in with his bible under his arm. And it was all for self-glory. He was a fake through and through, but the sad thing was so many were taken in by his act and I was made out to be the unGodly wife because I would not reconcile with him.

    So sad how the church can be blind or perhaps, it’s turning a blind eye to people like this. It’s easier to just keep feeding them the food than truly deal with the situation.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Amy – I know these kind as well. Yes, they know how to play the role. And it is indeed sickening.

  3. Reaching for the prize

    This may or may not be the right place to ask, but i think about all other areas in life that say ask these questions to find a good [fill in the blank] (ie tax preparer, financial advisor, plumber, etc.). In talking about evil in the church and many of us having a hard time finding a church where we are not constantly challenging/teaching about evil ourselves, is there a set of questions we can ask before we commit to a church so we can at least get an idea what we are getting ourselves into?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Reaching – Ask them about evil. And the best way to do that is to ask them questions about abuse. Oh sure, you can ask about doctrinal matters – their statement of faith and so on – to see if they adhere to the fundamentals of the gospel of Christ. But you have to go beyond that. One question I would put to them would be to tell them an abuse scenario, then ask if they believe the victim can divorce her abuser. Anyone who refuses to acknowledge abuse as grounds for divorce is someone who 1) does not know the nature and tactics of evil, 2) will never stand with the abuse victim, or 3) is simply a self-serving person themselves.

      • Greater Glory

        Pastor Jeff,
        Excellently expressed. Thank you!

  4. a prodigal daughter returns

    Perhaps before anyone is promoted as leader in the church their family should be asked “what is life like with the “saint”? While many abusers use this passage to promote their dictator rights to oppress in the name of “rule household” there is something to be said for talking to family 1 Tim 3:5 “For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for the church of God?” I’d suggest talking to children rather than a wife that is dedicated to her husband’s promotion or brainwashed to not tell the truth about the abuse at home.

    Also, after years of watching exploitation of the good will of people at church I am pretty leery of people using “prayer requests” as an opportunity to assassinate character. For example when I hear a “prayer request” in which the salacious details of a son or daughters fall is given by a hand wringing parent I think “what are you getting out telling us this?”

    Now to break an unspoken cultural taboo with some honesty about mom and apple pie. My mother taught children’s church, talked the talk about faith, but in our neighborhood her ruthlessness and cruelty was renowned. Her children were terrified of her violent rages. I remember cowering as she took apart store clerks that didn’t serve her entitled self to her satisfaction. It is one thing to have sins we are repenting of and working on submitting our life to the Lordship of Christ as He works in us to overcome them and another to without remorse emotionally abuse those around you.

    For 50 years my mother exploited the sympathy of church people, asking prayers about sometimes completely made up stories about her black sheep child. She created a made up medical condition in her husband and promoted herself as caregiver playing the “I have it so tough, pray that God will help me” sob story. She had a bible on every table, quoted it often, read endless bible study books while her manipulation and lies got worse and worse. Her children’s relationships are in shambles, none of them speak to each other and not one of her grandchildren will get near a church. She made Christianity odious while to this day her band of loyal prayer partners still thinks she got a raw deal.

    Ask neighbors too before promoting someone to leadership…
    I also had the misfortune of living next door to a church deacon whose salacious gossip absolutely destroyed reputations beyond repair. She used her deacon position to gain the trust of the naive and in that position was ruthlessly destructive. When neighbors complained about the harm she did to them I suggested they go to her pastor. The pastor did nothing but enable the monster liar to have more power. We spend more time checking out the toaster we are going to buy than those we allow power in our churches and our lives.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Eden quickly becomes hell on earth when we let these kinds of people do their thing. I know a woman who is very, very much like your mother. She was the church choir director for 40 years, openly praised as the most godly of women. But in fact she is wicked and cruel, a reviler and abuser. She is not a Christian. I hold the leaders of that church responsible because there is no way that they could not know this side of her after 4 decades of her facade among them. But they blew it off so as to not risk their own hides and paychecks. The result? Christ departs such a church so that it is no church. Genuine believers are confused. And family members of such an evil person grow up thinking that “this” is Christianity. No wonder their lives are so messed up.

    • Still Reforming

      A Prodigal Daughter,
      That’s an interesting perspective. What is it like with the (presumed) “saint”?
      Last week, an orientation week at my new job, the headmaster hosted a party at his house – at night – required attendance (well, strongly encouraged. Between one to two hundred people in this man’s house – all the leaders of the church that houses the Christian school, all teachers and staff and families.
      So at the end of the evening, I approached his wife and said, “I want to thank you for opening your home to us tonight. It’s very lovely, and it’s quite generous of you to host this event. I can imagine that it could easily be…..” (and I searched for the right word). She looked at me blankly, and so I went on to say: “well,….. overwhelming. I can imagine it could be overwhelming.” And I smiled at her. She just kept gazing at me as if she didn’t understand me. I had no idea why she didn’t respond.
      But as the picture of her husband begins to become clearer in my mind, I suspect she’s experiencing at home different behaviors (or some of the sense I’m getting myself about him) than what’s represented in the hallways and to the parents and in the interviews and at the church (where he’s also considered to be one of the pastors).
      I think sometimes the families of these men speak greater volumes about the men themselves – even when they don’t say one word.

  5. KayE

    I’ve often wondered about this-why do they bother? My ex’s family are like this.They spend their whole lives at church meetings, prayer groups, visiting people. They have photos of missionaries on the fridge, they give money to church, to missionaries, to evangelists. Some of them are”missionaries” and church elders themselves.Everyone thinks they are such nice people. But towards me they are vicious, vindictive and cruel. They have spread all kinds of slander about me, in the guise of caring about me and feeling sad for me.Their Christianity has always seemed false.Why don’t they just drink and take drugs and steal- wouldn’t that be easier that working so hard to maintain a holy facade? I really,really don’t understand what they get from it all. Unless it’s being surrounded by people who never hold them to account for their meanness, their self-righteousness, their manipulation and their selfishness?

    • Jeff Crippen

      KayE- I’ve seen this thing many times. My grandmother was a perfect example of what you describe. I really think that for whatever reason, these kind of people embrace religion as their chosen facade through which they seek the power, control, and self-glory that they crave. Actually it works pretty well for them. They get accolades from their churches, from the pulpit, they get awards. They convince themselves that God Himself is very pleased with them, just as those Jesus describes on the Day of Judgment when He tells them He never knew them, but they protest citing all the good works they have done in His name. They are just like the Pharisees. It is the mission of Christ’s true church to maintain the peace of Eden and expose these kind for what they are, servants of the serpent. They are to be excluded from the garden. But what happens more often than not? The Adam and Eve scenario all over again as people hand the keys to the church right over to these wicked ones.

    • susan

      Dear KayE, yep, it’s alot safer to play church, than it is to mind-game barroom people.

      • KayE

        They are bullies and cowards I suppose.

  6. Still Reforming

    Jeff, Thank you for your diligence and reminders exposing this present evil. Now that I am working full time for Christian school (for which I am thankful because my child can also attend there, and does in spite of repeated threats from the ex- that he will withdraw her and enroll her in public school instead, even the night before her first day yesterday, because it’s more convenient for him) – I am seeing inklings of this yet again.

    The headmaster blew up at me last week in orientation in a matter about which he was mistaken. It took me by surprise, and I quickly had two other teachers step to my side to confirm the matter that I wasn’t in error. Did he apologize, even after I made light of his explosion and tried to help take him off the hook, since he blew up in front of everyone? No he didn’t apologize or even say he was in error.

    A few other examples of this I’ve seen from him (not explosions, but lack of genuine Christian concern, such as running us ragged that week without allowing any time for real attention to curriculum and not minding our working 24-7 weekends and early and late), included joking about a fall I had on a “field trip” on which he took the entire staff. I fell quite badly on a slippery well-waxed lane in the bowling alley. (He likes to bowl so the entire staff all had to go on this “field trip” the last day of orientation, which was the same day as a late parent-teacher night.) After someone else dashed over to help me up (which he could have because he was closer and on my team), he walked slowly past me and muttered, “You don’t get any extra points for style.”

    This kind of personality seems to find a place quite easily in Christian environments, doesn’t it?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Still Reforming – Yes, they do easily move into Christian environments. And this should not be. It is due to either laziness on the part of Christians, or flat our unbelief in the warnings of God’s Word, or the other option – that these “Christian” places aren’t truly Christian at all. I know of another case where a Christian University employed an rank abuser as a coach for many years. He got all kinds of praises. He also pastored a number of churches even though he was known to go into tirades against those who worked under him. These people are what Scripture calls “revilers.” None of them will enter or even see the Kingdom of God. See 1 Cor 5 on that one.

  7. Innoscent

    Abusers are definitely diabolical actors and in their mind have literally become the role they are playing before others. Jesus described it so well when He highly recommended the poor widow discreetly donating her 2 mites –her essential– with the rich donors parading before the crowd with their ostentatious and hypocritical giving. Most of church members do not get it because noble godly Love has become weak sentimentalism without discernment and discipline. Also because the corrupted human heart loves appearance and lacks spiritual sight. It is easier to go along with the world being “accepting” and “tolerant” thinking they are being “loving” and “winning” souls to Christ. It requires true godliness, courage and jealousy for God’s honor to challenge abusers in the church.

    I totally agree with A Prodigal Daughter Returns’ s point about consulting people who actually live with the “eminent saints” who are fooling everybody else. I would apply that in the work area as well. My H once won the confidence of some associates for a business venture only for them to find out later the kind of manipulator he was. Not once did they run a background check with me on him. I would have put the records straight and turn on warning lights.

    • Still Reforming

      Innoscent,

      I love what you wrote here:

      godly Love has become weak sentimentalism without discernment and discipline. Also because the corrupted human heart loves appearance and lacks spiritual sight. It is easier to go along with the world being “accepting” and “tolerant” thinking they are being “loving” and “winning” souls to Christ. It requires true godliness, courage and jealousy for God’s honor to challenge abusers in the church.

      My experience with congregants – by and large – has validated what you wrote. Most professing Christians I meet are either disinterested in the testimony of abuse or they think it’s too harshly judgmental of my abuser, and I hardly open my mouth about it outside of this website. Once when I started to speak about it with a woman who has an abusive husband at my former church, she shared her experience when she approached our pastor at that church crying one day, saying that she thought the Lord was telling her to leave her husband (who exploded regularly at her and threatened to destroy her belongings). She said the pastor’s reply (with which she ultimately agreed) was “No. What the Lord is actually telling you is: ‘Leave your husband – TO ME. Leave your husband – TO ME,” as if the Lord just left off the last part of His message to her, but revealed it to the pastor.

      So she remains with her abuser to this day, posting on Facebook pics of them together and labeling him as her “best friend.” (All I could think was, “My best friend never threatened to destroy all my stuff.”) She wears a plastered smile on her face to church, and she told me on one of the last occasions I saw her, “All I need is Jesus. My husband can destroy my belongings; I have Jesus. I need nothing more.” At the time, I was dissatisfied with the answer. I was trying to figure out what to do about my own marriage, and I realized without knowing why then, but I realized that her answer wasn’t helpful. Yeah, all I need is Jesus, but he still shouldn’t be allowed to destroy all my stuff or abuse me, even if I have Jesus. It rings shallow to say “All I need is Jesus.” Then why live in a house at all? Why buy anything?

      Later, as my own marriage was on its last legs, I recounted that testimony to my child as part of ongoing education about abuse, in the hopes of keeping my child from entering a similar relationship one day, I explained how allowing someone to threaten his wife this way is agreeing with evil that it can flourish as it desires. To not take a stand against evil is to side with it.

  8. Cherie'

    This article helped me to open my eyes and see at the very moment I almost fell for another round of abusive manipulation from the Pastor I’ve been married to for 10 yrs. It has taken me 5 yrs to break free from a toxic cycle of spititual, psycological, emotional, and physical abuse…12 months separated and he finally signed the papers when I threatened to expose him for the abusing narcissist that he is. Now I thank God for the 2 miscarriages that never led to children. Now I see that God had me in the palm of His hand the whole time.

    Grateful, Cherie’

    • Hi Cherie’

      Welcome to the blog! Glad you are finding encouragement here. And glad you may soon be free.

      If you haven’t already, may I suggest you look at the New User’s page. It gives tips for staying safe while commenting on the blog.

      Again, welcome!

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