A Cry For Justice

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

A Real and Sadly Typical Story of False Repentance and Pastors Enabling the Wicked

One of our readers left this very insightful comment, telling her story of being faced with false repentance and pressure from a church to accept it and reconcile with her abuser. We wanted to make it a stand-alone post so more of you would be sure to see it. So here it is. Thank you MUCH, Maxgrace —

The first time I left my husband my baby was about two months old. He found me. He actually had someone call the number where I was staying to say that he was having a heart attack and that I needed to go to him because it was very serious. I had heard that line before so I didn’t bite.

He had a pastor call me at work and tell me that I was harming my husband by my unwillingness to reconcile because he was ready to hang himself. This was on the night shift (12 a.m. to 8 a.m) No lie. A random pastor who knew neither he nor I, but had listened to his tale of woe.

Then he found me at the house where I was staying. He knelt down in front of me and sobbed with his head head on my knees, begging for forgiveness, telling me that other than his father I was the only one who ever loved him, and he couldn’t go on without me. He promised to get whatever help he needed, go to a psychiatrist, etc., so that time I went back to him. I truly believed something good had happened. And I wanted to believe he had changed.

The pastor that he had gone to told me that my husband had been forgiven and saved, and I had an obligation to accept that with reconciliation. When I tried to tell the man what my husband had done, he said, “Sister, he has repented of that and it is forgiven. You must not talk about it. God doesn’t see that anymore. You have to let it go.” Again I was questioning myself. The sobbing, and the pleading made me think he had truly repented.

My own church (where my husband had told me I had to go, and said it was the only place he would ever come with me), was supportive of me.  How? They had said that if I felt I needed to leave my husband to protect my children, then I could leave; but I couldn’t consider remarriage. They also said that if it was just me he was abusing, I could stay if I wanted to, to honor the covenant. (I already knew I didn’t matter. That sounded fair at the time.)

 That church’s support of me didn’t sit well with my husband. He insisted that I go to his newfound church. “You need to submit to your husband.” So I went to the new church. The pastor of that church was supposed to come to our house and give bible lessons to my husband. I baked and got things ready for a bible study, but the pastor forgot. He never did come by. Eventually I ended up in a shelter for the second time. This time I did not return to him. 

Zacchaeus had fruit. Now I know we have to look for the fruit of repentance [not just go by the words or the tears].

The kicker is I really loved him, but he couldn’t [wouldn’t] give that back. I wanted to believe him.

Thank you for this article about Zacchaeus, Pastor Jeff. I know I’m not the only one who’s ever taken in by fake repentance. His performance was Oscar winning. Really.

Thanks for the warnings so that others might be aware of tactics that never would have crossed their minds except for this web site.

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This text has been adapted, with MaxGrace’s permission, from a comment that she submitted on Jeff’s post Don’t Fall for the Abuser’s “Repentance” — Lessons from Zacchaeus. You can find MaxGrace’s original comment here.

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7 Comments

  1. Sarah

    makes you sick when it is so obvious how little women matter

  2. 3blossommom

    Oh, Maxgrace, you are definitely not the only one taken in by false repentance. And don’t they love the idea that you can never talk about it or reference what they have done, because it is forgiven? I wish I had left and protected my children better. Be strong. Hugs. ((()))

  3. Jean

    Too many people blame the victim. I imagine that makes it even harder to forgive, but forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to ever see the abuser. It means you give it over to God to set yourself free.

  4. Anonymous

    MaxGrace, so glad you are now safe and secure and away from the abuse. I too fell for his very false repentance and he actually had me believing he had serious heart issues to the point I went back for five weeks. It was sheer horror ! I needed to be rescued by a family member and returned to my home state. I am very happy to report as of four weeks ago, my divorce is final. I am free. The Lord has walked through the fiery furnace with me. And for the first time in a very long time I can say, I am looking forward to a bright future in an abuse-free environment. Praise God. He walked with me every step of the way! Indeed He is faithful!!

  5. I might start thinking about forgiving my abuser just as soon as he stops abusing me.
    It’s not my lack of forgiveness that keeps me captive, it’s the abuser’s continued efforts to destroy me, long after I stopped contact with him. This is the same for many victims.
    I wouldn’t forgive a thief at the very time they were robbing me either.

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