A Cry For Justice

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

Wise as Serpents: Cain is Still With Us Today (Part 5 of a sermon series by Jeff Crippen)

Are you wise as a serpent, yet innocent as a dove when it comes to evil? This is an indispensable pre-requisite for serving the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you understand that you must beware of people in this world, that you will be hated by them, and that the gospel you are called to live and proclaim does not make peace, but divides like a sword?

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. …

Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. … 

… everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.  (Mat 10:16-36)

While we are to be innocent of evil, we are commanded by our Lord to be wise about evil. Largely, professing Christians today do not have nor do they even want this wisdom. As a result, evil lurks in the pews. It deceives unmolested: bringing people into bondage, and keeping them from enjoying the freedom Christ has given us.

The vast majority of that which claims today to be “Christianity” does not want to hear about evil. Until it touches YOU. Until YOU have been its victim, your tendency is to deny it, to remain blind to it, and tell yourself things just aren’t that bad. That is not being wise as serpents.

We have seen in this study of evil that wherever Christ’s light shines, evil most certainly will come on the scene very quickly. We saw it right at the outset in Eden when the serpent showed up, and we see this pattern continuing right on down through biblical history. This morning we look at a second early example of evil opposing righteousness and we don’t have to leave the first family to find it. We are going to consider Cain and Abel. One would think that after their mom and dad’s experience being duped by evil, these boys would both be wise as serpents about it. Only one was. The other was a child of that serpent it turns out.

Remember, we are looking at this pattern of evil at work because the very same evil is constantly at work among us today. Evil always, always, always works to creep in among Christ’s people.

The first murder in the first family

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 

In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.

The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.”

Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

Then the LORD said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.

Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.” And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD. (Gen 4:1-26)

Let’s make a few observations about Cain from this passage:

  • This was a religious family. A family that worshipped God in the now fallen world. Both of these brothers are seen here offering worship to God. Adam and Eve’s firstborn was a child of the devil, their second born was murdered by his brother.
  • Evil showed up in this family once again, and once again it came in connection with the worship of God. Cain and Abel brought offerings to the Lord.
  • Cain devised his own religion, though he would, in today’s language, have professed to be “a Christian.” We don’t know with certainty exactly how Cain’s offering was defective – whether it was because it was a bloodless offering, or because he did not offer it for the glory of God but for his own praise – but we do know that it was of his own devising, not according to God’s instruction.
  • After murdering Abel, Cain exemplifies classic and typical denial, blame-shifting, and self-pity. His subsequent life evidenced the true state of his wicked heart as he continue to pursue self-glory.
  • The Lord faithfully preserved His elect by giving Adam and Eve another son, Seth. Cain’s seed is still with us today, hating and trying to murder Seth’s seed.
  • Notice VERY carefully! Cain had the benefit of the very best Counselor to be found! The Lord Himself encouraged Cain to do right, but he would not. If we are going to be wise about evil today, we must cease thinking that we can always “love” evil into repentance. God Himself “failed” as a counselor in Cain’s case.

Divinely inspired commentary tells more about Cain and his evil

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 Jn 3:11-15)

Mark down these observations carefully:

  • Cain, though born to Adam and Eve, was “of the evil one.” Cain was a child of the devil. He shared the serpent’s characteristics and thus was a murderer.
  • Cain’s motivation is given here. This is the motive of all the descendants of Cain today – his own deeds were evil and Abel’s deeds were righteous.

I am convinced that a very typical (if not the most common) reason wicked men who claim to be Christians persecute and abuse their Christian wives is that, like Cain, they are evil and their wife is righteous. They are darkness and she is light. This is one of the most common ways that Christ’s people are persecuted for their faith today.

Abel was the very first victim of domestic violence in the history of the human race. He was the first Christian martyr, killed simply because Cain was evil and hated Abel for his righteousness.

How do you suppose many people would have explained Cain’s motive in killing Abel? I think I can tell you:

  • Abel should have been more sensitive to Cain’s religion
  • Abel was “holier than thou” and incited Cain to hatred
  • Abel looked down on Cain because he raised flocks and Cain dug in the dirt

God’s Word will have none of this blame-shifting business that is soooo common today and which we must be wise to. No, Cain killed Abel for one reason only. No other. Cain was evil. Abel was righteous. Cain was a child of darkness. He loved the darkness. He hated the light of truth:

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19-21)

This is an absolutely vital truth that you MUST get a firm hold on. As we follow Christ in His light and truth, we are going to be hated with a raging hatred by those who love evil and darkness. This is the fundamental and ongoing war that has raged all through human history. Cain is still with us. Cain is still murdering Abel. And Cain’s motive in doing so is the same as always. It is this simple:

Why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.

And yet today we see many Christians who ARE surprised when they are hated. They are told that it is their fault, and they believe it. Their pastors tell them it is their fault. Their fellow church members tell them that it is their fault. They are told that they are too judgmental, too harsh, too narrow. They are blamed for dividing the family.

But what is the reality? Who is the real culprit? Cain. Cain and his seed. Hatred of the world for the true people of Christ. Simply because they are righteous. Think of it. Why did the world hate and kill Christ? He couldn’t be convicted of ANY sin, yet the world hated Him:

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” (John 8:42-47)

Why do you suppose that Jesus spent so much time telling His disciples, and us, these things? Because he was educating us about evil, so we could be wise about evil and not duped by it.

One lady who obviously knows firsthand what it is like to be hated by evil simply for being righteous said:

the “church” needs to STOP making it women’s, and especially wives responsibility that the well being, or lack thereof of a relationship/marriage/spouse is dependent upon their/her commitment; to prayer, to submission, to being “nice”, to keeping silent, to …, to …, to …, etc…

Insert “victim” there for “women” and you can apply her words more broadly to any situation in which wickedness is persecuting the righteous. Stop making it Abel’s responsibility to have a healthy, friendly relationship with Cain. Stop telling Abel that he needs to pray more, be more patient with his brother, to communicate more clearly, to be nicer…..etc., etc.  That is NOT wisdom regarding evil. It is foolishness: it is to allow evil to deceive us and bring us into its bondage through lies like this.

And yet today, in this vacuum of wisdom about evil that exists in the visible church, these truths are typically and regularly rejected in practice. There are entire schools of counseling, calling themselves “biblical,” for instance, that focus on efforts to change Cain into Abel, usually at the expense of Abel. Underneath it all is this refusal to acknowledge the true nature of Cain. Cain is evil. Cain is of his father the devil. And Cain and his descendants are in most every single local church today, offering their self-worship offerings devised by their own hands, offered to a god whom they have invented. And if you are not wise to these things, they will bring you into miserable bondage.

More Scriptures about Cain: Hidden reefs among us at the communion table

But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. (Jude 1:10-13)

Notice the context here:

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:3-4)

That is wisdom about evil. It came into Eden, it crept into the first family in the person of Cain, and it has continued to creep in as it still does today. Jude is calling on us to “contend for the faith” and in order to do this we must be wise about these evil ones disguised as sheep. This is not some kind of irrational paranoia. It is not a religious witch hunt of some kind. It is wisdom about the existence and nature of our enemy and his tactics and those who serve him.

Here it is in the Old Testament:

I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin. But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty, and many are those who hate me wrongfully. Those who render me evil for good accuse me because I follow after good. Do not forsake me, O LORD! O my God, be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation! (Psalm 38:18-22)

This is wisdom. This is truth. A genuine child of God confesses his own sin. Cain refused to do this! But a genuine Christian is sorry for his own sin.

BUT…and mark this down very, very carefully….

A Christian has enemies, and a wise Christian knows it. Being wise about evil means knowing that these enemies hate us WRONGFULLY Satan is an accuser, and if you believe the accusations he makes against you through his diabolical agents, you are going to be in trouble and misery.

Notice that the Psalmist gives the REASON these enemies hate him. It is the same reason Cain hated and murdered Abel – Because I follow after good. He realizes that this is what is really going on and he therefore is enabled to call out to God to help him. He is able to get past the “I confess my iniquity” part and clearly see the “my enemies hate me wrongfully, they do me evil simply because I do good.”

If you do not grasp these things, then you are not wise about evil and evil will get you!

Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless and seek the life of the upright. (Pro 29:10)

I cannot tell you how many times the wicked have accused me, and how often I spent way too much time considering those accusations as perhaps being true. All of this is meant to discourage us, to dis-empower us, to have unwarranted self-doubt and guilt and shame… it is from the enemy.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. (Heb 11:4)

And so he does. Those who are wise, hear him.

***

Audio and PDF of this sermon here.

Further Reading: 

God only did one counseling session with Cain — by Barbara Roberts

Connecting Genesis 3 and 4 through the most obscure verse —  by Martin Shields

 

30 Comments

  1. Sarah

    until evil has touched you, your tendency is to deny it

    Even though the leadership agree that there are abusive people in the world, they will not keep them out of the church. Even though they have a DV group, they still believe they can “handle” an evil person in their midst (Like we all have at one time). Don’t fear those who can destroy the body but fear the one who can destroy both body and spirit. We have to stop thinking we can love evil into repentance (people don’t believe in “evil” people…there’s always good in everyone blah blah blah… and we are so obsessed with being the one to share Christ with the abuser so that they can all “change” and we can all be happy again about the “work of Christ”, put them on the stage and everyone can cry.)

    The church is not willing to keep the evil of the abuser out yet told me I was running away by not attending there, that I was letting the abuser win. It makes me so angry since THEY let the abuser win by welcoming him and allowing him to spread to his lies. They want me to fight while they keep telling me to stand strong (by myself). There are no laws, no structure in the church for me to complain, no place for me to go to protect myself, but if I leave….I am running away, the ownership is with me to not let him win. How the heck am I supposed to not let him win with no laws, no help to subdue his manipulations? He will always find a weak Christian to do his dirty work.

    It feels confusing and shaming

    • Jeff Crippen

      That “church” is no church. They refuse to obey the Lord and deal with evil. He is against them. They are on Broadway.

    • standsfortruth

      I agree with you wholeheartedly Sarah.
      The church was blind to my abuser also, and I ended up being excommunicated by them, due to a ploy that he did against me.
      But if they had not done that, I would have removed myself from its midst anyway, due to the fact that they supported him and his lies, and did not recognise my suffering.

      • Sarah

        thank you Jeff and Standsfortruth. This just happened (and has happened more often than I can count) I’m done with church. Jeff your sermon was so timely and healing

  2. healingInHim

    I’m beginning to believe that many ‘c’hurches are assuming that most marriages are just “difficult”. This allows them to hold an annual Marriage Retreat or several seminars and feel they have done their job. This is their way of NOT having to follow Scripture and handing out Biblical discipline for those who are sinning.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Nailed it!

      • healingInHim

        Pastor Jeff, Thank you for confirming this. Last year a pastor was stating how successful his past marriage seminars had been. He smiled and said three marriages were on the verge of divorce but all was better now. I quietly replied that only time would tell whether it was a true work of the Lord in the lives involved. That only a repentant heart will show lasting change. His older adolescent son was listening and said, “That’s right, Dad.”

      • Anonymous

        Yes, and those of us that do leave evil abusive “Cain’s” and flee from a sham of a marriage often times are judged and critized that we just weren’t able to dedicate and give of ourselves all that is required for a healthy marriage. How I would have LOVED the opportunity to face the real challenges that do exist in a godly marriage and together with my husband on bended knee defeat Satan, the one who now laughs at yet another marriage lying in a pile of ashes as a result of the evil abusive spouse who partners with his father, who is of the devil.

      • healingInHim

        Anonymous, You stated, ” How I would have LOVED the opportunity to face the real challenges that do exist in a godly marriage and together with my husband on bended knee defeat Satan,…”
        Years and years and countless Biblical and secular counseling later … My spouse was on bended knee several times proclaiming a better marriage because ‘he’ had to change; made vows to God, etc. … That’s all the past and I’m expected to ‘get along’ or move out.

    • For Too Long

      Yes, exactly. When I initially reported the abuse, the church leadership made it’s first mistake by demanding couples’ counseling ( and I do mean demanding, because I had requested individual counseling). During those sessions, we were given every cliche piece of advice and assignments: go out on a date once a week, choose one thing that I’d like to improve about myself as a spouse, find an “accountability partner,” etc. Everything to stall what was really in my heart – to leave my marriage, which I felt the Lord was calling me to do. Once they started sin-leveling I knew that they would never discipline him and I was wasting my time and energy.

  3. Sarah

    Me too HEALINGINHIM, that’s why everyone turned on me…..sigh

    • healingInHim

      ((hugs)) to you Sarah … and praying. ❤

    • Anonymous

      Trust my previous comments were not misunderstood. What I’m saying is that I would welcome the opportunity to face the real challenges that all marriages face within a godly marriage, unlike the abuser that never repented or saw any need for change with whom I lived. On bended knee with him as husband and wife was not possible.

      • healingInHim

        Anonymous, I apologize if my comment may have reflected a misunderstanding.
        I also had prayed that our marriage would be united and that we could pray together and defeat the enemies tactics.
        I think the “bended knee” words triggered me because I keep thinking of the times he bent before me, obviously in false contrition and sobbed at how terrible he had been and that the only way for us and our children to heal was for him to change and get serious with God. I still can’t get those images out of my mind and he is now saying that he did a lot of things that he felt “was expected of him.” I guess that was one of them.

      • I understood yr comments that way, Anon 🙂

  4. standsfortruth

    My abusive husband use to try to falsely guilt me back to him by saying,
    “Are you going to let the devil win, by not fighting for our marriage Like me?”

    He was infering that the “marriage institutation” was more sacred than any mis-treatment of those suffering within.

    Jesus never put a higher importance on the preservation of an institutation over the suffering of his people, and this is where the church makes its grave mistake.

  5. KayE

    Yes, I was one of those Christians who didn’t want to hear about evil. I even had a colleague and friend who wanted to make a study of evil and to my utter shame I criticized him for that.
    I’m in a different place now.

    That’s after two decades of victimization by someone who professes to be Christian but shares many traits with criminal sociopaths. Now I have a deep and detailed insight into how an evil personality works. I used to believe that by not thinking about evil I could somehow avoid its effects. I was wrong. There are some who think they protect their children by censoring the books and media they access. But when my children sought out and avidly watched TV shows about criminals, psychopaths and murderers, I was glad. That showed they had wisdom and understanding in this area, far beyond their years.
    Most important of all, as young people they understand how good can overcome evil, never by avoiding the battle but always by confronting evil with all the weapons you can find.

    Christian leaders have a moral duty to deal with this.They have the weapons to fight for justice and defend the oppressed, and the means to teach those things to a younger generation. Most of those leaders are preoccupied with things that don’t matter and they are not doing their duty.

    • Anonymous

      Ahhh… Healinginhim, no apology needed. Yes, we do carry with us those horrible images. I still suffer nightmares as those flashbacks come. I do educate myself in PTSD because I so desperately want to heal and be whole again. I think I’m doing fine and then like a Tsunami it comes out of nowhere and carries me away in the undertow! The horror and the brutality of the mental and emotional abuse is almost unbearable at times. I never even knew what gaslighting was but now I do; my ‘husband’ has it skillfully mastered. As it was being done to me I can tell you I really did believe I was literally going insane and did not even care if I died, in fact on a few occasions I prayed that I would. Jesus knows our frames are not able to carry such a heavy load and so we can stay parked at the feet of Jesus when we weep and he will comfort and we know, he knows our pain. His was the most horrific abuse ever, and he was without sin. God apparently has another plan for my life, and for yours too🌷. I keep looking to Him one day at a time, one hour at a time, and indeed He comforts protects provides and we can know beyond all doubt we are complete in Him. Praying for us all.

      • healingInHim

        I also prayed that God could take me at any time but I’m still here!
        Amen to the prayer.

  6. Anonymous

    Jeff,
    This is so awesome and full of God’s truth directly from his word yet I wonder how many other pastors would agree or how they would twist it in order to keep victims in bondage?

    You said, “Are you wise as a serpent, yet innocent as a dove when it comes to evil? This is an indispensable pre-requisite for serving the Lord Jesus Christ,” An indispensable pre-requisite — yet most of us knew nothing about the nature of evil until our lives were destroyed by it. How could we serve our Savior when we weren’t allowed to know him? That he was AGAINST evil and those who belong to their father the devil, and all the verses you quoted show that he was against it from the beginning of time! (Duh!) And that it’s been WITH us since the beginning yet we have been forced to deny it’s sinister existence.

    Jeff, this is the BEST sermon I have ever read! It’s jam packed with hope, help, love, truth and wisdom. I love how you explained that with the current church theology, how we would try and force Abel to be part of the problem and include him in the guilt. Your description showed the perversion of the biblical principles we have come to accept today as “truth.” The evil one ALWAYS tries to include God’s people in his sin yet we are innocent because we belong to Jesus.

    My husband sets up every scenario, every decision, every event so that he can CLAIM that I was part of the process of it, so therefore in his mind I will incur all of the blame if things go wrong and all of the responsibility as well. It’s like I have to “peel” his filth off of me because any contact I have with him he spews his evil on me. It’s his nature I now know. To accuse, to lie, to deceive, to steal (hope, love, tenderness), to kill (my soul, my dreams, my walk with the Lord), and destroy anything others consider valuable. But God is keeping me. I so love the Lord. I so need him and in all these years of waking up, I realize how childlike my need for him is. How tender my heart is for him and for his children. We so need his love and his strength and some days it’s all I have…knowing that I am his and that he loves me.

    • It’s like I have to “peel” his filth off of me because any contact I have with him he spews his evil on me.

      Is. 57:20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt.

      But God can rescue you — and any believer — from the tossing sea which throws up mire and dirt:

      he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)
      2 Peter 2:7-8 NIV

  7. Sasanka

    Pastor Jeff, this really hit it home for me today….I’m printing out this one to keep in my journal.

    You said “There are entire schools of counseling, calling themselves “biblical,” for instance, that focus on efforts to change Cain into Abel, usually at the expense of Abel.” It could not be more plain than that.

    My church pastor was kind to me and after finding out from me originally communicated big support. I was supported practically a couple of times, and still am by church members and associate pastor in ways, and I am SO VERY GRATEFUL for that. But when I shared carefully, respectfully and passionately my new found wisdom with my pastor, I was surprised and hurt by the dismissals, the ‘politically correct’ condescending smiles and silence…ignoring my emails sharing your web…I normally don’t email or bother anyone. This was big for me and i thought they got it. I thought my pastor got it. Spiritually, I felt and feel betrayed by my pastor. How is he not excited for me to find out what is going on? He even said there is a taboo about ‘these things’ in church, but did not look me in the eye and was so careful saying that. And that was it. It’s like a pandora box he does not want to touch. But why if the abuser is not attending anyways…

    I sent him a few articles from your web, and the list of links for pastors. I invited him to have a look….But it was not welcomed and I was politely and openly brushed off. I am perplexed and not know what to make of my pastor’s attitude. I sense a definite kind condescending attitude to ‘the little female’ who needs to be glad for the help and not expect anything else. He also politely spoke and smiled at my abuser when he saw him come by, as I heard from my kids. I was hoping he would at least have given him the cold shoulder. Am I petty? You see, they did not force me to ‘fix’ the marriage. But they stayed completely quiet about what happened. It’s like when you tell someone and they smile, nod, but will not acknowledge openly or take side. They offer some practical help but don’t mention evil or abuse or expect taking sides, that’s a no no! The moments were actually a bit insulting and humiliating. I guess I was looking for open validation.

    The abuser avoided the church for a year, as he was exposed and that destroyed his image there. He does not attend but cares to fix his image when opportunity comes. I’m confused. I don’t want to be unfair or ungrateful, especially for the kind and genuine folks who I love. I love my church. We were in a need, me and my children, and we were practically helped. I don’t want to be too specific. Yet my gut says I have the ‘good ole’ boys club’ with the main pastor. I sense a hypocricy and male pride, or pastor pride I don’t know. I’m trying to ignore it but am somehow unable to relate to my pastor the same way as before. I’m unable to trust him. I feel he knows it but waits for me to forget about it. (this is a relatively small church). He does not ask me anything or address it, just gives big smiles and hugs as if nothing happened. But it feels fake. I’m confused. Pastor Jeff, could you possibly, or Barb, or any of you guys here, please, help me see what is going on? Am I imagining things? Or is my pastor not as genuine as I thought he was. And what should I do? I love my fellow christians there, yet, I am relearning to be authentic, to trust my feelings again, and to never ever again betray myself in order to not rock the boat or ‘lose’ someone. What do you see? Thank you so much..I was meaning to ask this for a long time and it just happened, so sorry about the poor quality writing..and long-winding email..:) Have a good evening.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Sasanka- What you are experiencing in that pastor is very, very (and sadly) typical. Why are you getting this condescending, patronizing, distancing? I think that there are a number of reasons, some of which you have identified here. The good ol’ boys’ club sticking together. A man looking down on a woman instead of seeing her as a fellow-heir in Christ. But my theory is that the fundamental reason for all this is that pastors, churches, professing Christians, Christian counselors – so typically refuse to acknowledge the existence and presence of true evil. That is to say, they believe that they can “redeem” anyone. And that is their mission – anything else to them would be seen as failure. But Scripture is plain. There are people who are unredeemable. People who are thoroughly evil. People who have worn a Christian facade for so long, and sinned knowingly against the truth of Christ for so many years that the Lord has given them over to their sin (see Romans 1; Hebrews 6). Very few churches want to talk about this fact.

      In addition, these pastors and churches like you are facing have have exalted marriage into an idol. They will be quite nice and helpful at the start after you go for help, but once your eyes start to be opened to the true nature of the evil of your abuser, once you start seeing clearly his tactics and realize that he is not going to change and that the marriage is not going to be fixed, then we soooo often see this very reaction by the church.

      You noted accurately that they held back. That they might give a nod to what you said but would not openly validate you in what was happening. This is willful blindness and a conscious decision on their part to not choose sides. They are in the end, bystanders. They sense that to stand with you is going to be costly, and they are balking.

      This is why I am currently preaching the sermon series Wise as Serpents: A Practical Theology of Evil. Evil is being routinely denied in churches, even though God’s Word exposes it and warns us of it over and over and over again. Professing Christians today do not want to believe God’s Word on this subject because of the implications for them, for their families, for their churches, and even sense that it may call into question their own salvation. After all, true Christians hunger and thirst for righteousness, believe God’s Word, and are able to see wickedness as the Lord opens our sight to it.

      As always, another answer to your question is perhaps the hardest one for many to swallow. Namely, that there may well be far fewer real Christians in your church than anyone realizes. You may be dealing with people who do not truly know Christ, but who are traveling on Broadway where the road is easy and popular, pleasant and seemingly devoid of troubles and evil. In fact, it is the way of evil and those who travel it are evil.

    • Hi Sasanka
      your writing was not ‘poor quality’ at all, so have no fear on that score 🙂

      I agree with everything Jeff C said to you, and will add a bit more. You said

      Spiritually, I felt and feel betrayed by my pastor. How is he not excited for me to find out what is going on? He even said there is a taboo about ‘these things’ in church, but did not look me in the eye and was so careful saying that. And that was it. It’s like a pandora box he does not want to touch. But why if the abuser is not attending anyways…

      I think he did betray you. He initially gave you the sense that he fully supported you; but then he backed away and distanced you, gave you the cold shoulder regarding the emails you’d sent him with links to our blog, etc.

      When I read how he carefully said, there is a taboo about ‘these things’ in church, it sounded to me like he is aware of other women in the church who are being abused by their husbands, and he was
      (a) giving you a coded message that he can’t/won’t talk about domestic abuse otherwise other marriages in the church will break up and who knows what would happen then to the church (and to him as Senior Pastor)!, and
      (b) he was advising you to fall in line and put the ‘taboo tape’ over your mouth like the rest of the congregation.

      There is no such thing as ‘taking a neutral stance’ when it comes to domestic abuse (or any other kind of abuse). Neutrality is not neutral. It serves the interests of the perpetrator far more than it serves the interests of the victim.
      Lundy Bancroft explains that here.
      Judith Lewis Herman agrees. See this post:There is No Neutrality, No “Innocent” Bystander When We See Abuse

      I think you are right to sense hypocrisy and pride in this pastor. You are not imagining things. You are not being petty. After being abused by a covert-aggressive malignantly-narcissistic person (you husband) you are quite right to want validation! Abusers repeatedly invalidate us (us victims), so one of our greatest needs is for VALIDATION — to counteract all the invalidation we received from the abuser.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, indeed we do want that validation. But I have learned not to look for or expect it or put my life on hold waiting for it. Crazy-making days are over and I have not imagined it all. The fog has lifted and I see clearly the abuse that was heaped upon me. Bystanders just do not want to deal with the “messy” things; it’s easier to look the other way. The harder thing to do is address it, as we are commanded in Scripture. Enablers of abuse at the very least are not worthy to dwell in our thoughts. By God’s grace I have learned to walk tall holding my head up while calling evil what it is and staring down those who stand in judgment of me, for I know exactly what took place in that insane ‘marriage’. To stay in a church filled with those wanting to remain “neutral” may be a ‘church’ not worthy of your presence!

      • Sasanka

        Pastor Jeff, and Barbara, thank you so much for taking the time to reply…I got so busy with my family and school that I read it tonight! I read your responses carefully and will read the links. Thank you for validating my perceptions and explaining things. What is most confusing is that I do not attend a church that is the typical ‘churchy patriarchal, hypocritical, and Pharisaic’ type…I have been to those before. The Senior Pastor is usually very down to earth, genuine, very real, loves the Lord, humble, even though I know that there is such a thing as prideful humility and at some moments my spirit ‘paused’ in shock, as I heard things.

        He said once a stranger older lady came by to his office for a meeting. And she said she just wanted to talk to him to see and decide if this was a church for her. I thought okay, that is very wise from the lady. But my pastor got very upset at the pulpit, and made the whole sermon about how he told her immediately to leave. How dare she ‘interview’ him! Nobody should show such ‘disrespect’ and irreverence to a pastor! He said. He said to her she will never attend this church. He noted that he sent her away and he smiled the whole while, to be polite. I was shocked. But nobody seemed to have the same reaction as me. They all smiled and nodded! I was horrified. Is this not arrogance??? The lady meant it well! I’m sure she was not rude or disrespectful.

        If I was the pastor I would tell her she is wise and I am available to answer any concerns or questions. I would assume she might have had a bad experience before and is careful. I would tell her about our church and welcome her, should she chose to come to attend some sermons before joining. But how would this trigger such a response from the pastor?? Barbara, God’s flock belongs to Jesus, not to the pastor. Pastor is the manager/caretaker of God’s sheep by appointment. Not the owner. And the house of God is open to anyone to come in, is it not? Of course, save for someone excommunicated for harming the flock. Anyways, am I wrong? Is this somehow disrespectful? He was angry at the idea of interviewing a pastor, not that she was rude in her manner.

        Thank you for your kindness, Barbara, if you or Pastor Jeff were answering every question you’d be doing nothing else…But even if you let me know in just a sentence or two about what you think about this, I would so appreciate it. Thanks a million, and God bless you so much for all you do.

      • God’s flock belongs to Jesus, not to the pastor. Pastor is the manager/caretaker of God’s sheep by appointment. Not the owner. And the house of God is open to anyone to come in, is it not? Of course, save for someone excommunicated for harming the flock.

        You are absolutely right!

        When I talk about the church which Jeff Crippen pastors (Christ Reformation Church, Tillamook, Oregon) I always say the church Jeff Crippen pastors, not “Jeff Crippen’s church”.

        The shock reaction you had to that pastor’s anecdote was spot on. 🙂

        He IS arrogant — very arrogant and prideful — to have treated that woman like that and then be crowing about it from the pulpit! Good grief! She was quite likely a wounded sheep who had been grievously mistreated and/or mis-taught in another church and was looking for a safe haven — like so many of our churchless readers are here!

        Well, the pastor’s answer sure told her in no uncertain terms that this wasn’t a safe church for her. At least she didn’t have to go through months or years of uncertainty before she found that out. 🙂

        I would think that all his ‘humility’ is probably humble-brag. Phoney. Manipulative impression management. And if other people in the congregation were not shocked by his words, that shows that they are very undiscerning. (Maybe some of them felt shocked like you did, but kept it secret because of group-think and fear of stepping out of line.) It is likely that the people who were not shocked by it are not actually born again — a person indwelt by the Spirit is taught by the Spirit. When your spirit paused in shock, that was because the Holy Spirit was showing your spirit that that pastor was displaying arrogantly unChristian behaviour. Another possibility is that some of the people in the congregation might be born again but have not studied their Bibles enough to be spiritually discerning.

        And your ideas about how you would have talked to the woman, if you had been the pastor, are spot on.

        When an inquirer answer a question, a good pastor would answer their question respectfully, not berate them!

  8. Sasanka

    Thank you, Anonymous…You said:

    Bystanders just do not want to deal with the “messy” things; it’s easier to look the other way. The harder thing to do is address it, as we are commanded in Scripture.

    that’s exactly what it is. How does pastor not know this is commanded in Scripture, if we know it?

    We hear sermons about things that are so ‘advanced’ and out there sometimes, but there is oppression and tyranny right in the flock. Wolves roaming inside and that is not worthy of a single sermon?? I have never heard a sermon about abuse. And I have been a Christian for fourteen years in three different churches. Is it not strange that pastors who are usually aware of many people’s family problems and abuse, will not touch this openly?? I feel Barbara nailed it in that families would separate and some leave church!!!! Bad for the ‘pastor’. What are a few sacrificed sheep, when the goal seems to be to look nice and be prosperous. We will throw you a bone, but don’t bleat too loud please. Jesus must hate this. Makes me sick.

    • We will throw you a bone, but don’t bleat too loud please.

      ^ exactly

  9. Sasanka

    Thanks, Barbara :))

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