I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. – Rev. 20:12, NLT
This past week I viewed a YouTube video of a former megachurch pastor who was teaching on divorce and adultery. His name is not important. As helpful context, though, this pastor was a very prominent evangelical figure before his megachurch imploded over numerous scandals including charges of him fostering an abusive work environment.
What struck me in his talk about divorce and adultery was how much emphasis he put on outside counsel for faithful spouses deciding whether or not to divorce following adultery discovery. He exhorted his church members to not divorce following adultery discovery without a pastor or elder involved telling them to do so.
I found this advice to faithful spouses disturbing.
A few years ago, I may have been in his same counsel camp. In fact, I lived this way–to my own detriment–while my marriage imploded. I was far too vulnerable and open to too many in my intimate mess. So, what I discovered through my own painful experience is one can have too many counselors (see Proverbs 18:24).
The temptation is great to offshore one’s decision making or agency after being burned by one’s spouse. You doubt yourself to make good choices after such a horrific betrayal. The idea of having someone else make these big choices for you is extremely tempting.
I do not recommend doing this, though.
Do not surrender your personal agency so easily. You and you alone will be answering for your actions before God one day as Scripture teaches. So, I encourage you to make your own decisions in light of that.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think finding good, godly counsel is wise (see Proverbs 15:22). However, it is important to treat these individuals as advisers and not deciders for you.
You are the king or queen of your life. Just as it is improper for a kingdom to be run by the advisers and not the king, it is improper for others to usurp your rightful decision-making authority and agency for your own life and relationships.
You are the one who will have to live with the consequences of your choices. These advisers will not.
They are not putting themselves at risk for an STD by encouraging you to stay. By choosing to follow their advice to stay,
They are not the ones who have to explain the divorce decision or reason mommy/daddy is constantly crying to the kids.
Finally, they are not the one’s who answer for your actions before God.
So, I encourage you not to surrender your personal agency in this. Besides, I am greatly disturbed by any pastor who thinks it is his or her job to make major life decisions for others. Maybe it is just the Dutch Mennonite in me, but I have an almost allergic reaction to such controlling and paternalistic behavior. That is far too much power to give to another human being over another adult.
Ultimately, I see Scripture teaching survivors of adultery have a Biblical option to divorce (see Jer. 3:8, Mt. 5:32, and Mt. 19:9). And I may be more inclined to suggest this course of action as I have rarely heard stories where the adulterous spouse actually repents, which I consider a non-negotiable in encouraging marriage restoration Biblically. That said, I am emphatic in encouraging each Christian to follow his or her conscience in these matters.
Do you have peace at this time either staying or filing?
Listen to that peace.
Do not violate your own conscience in this matter in either direction–i.e. divorcing or staying assuming you have the choice.
I believe in the Priesthood of All Believers (another Mennonite thing). The Holy Spirit is given to each of us Christians to direct us. Trust the Holy Spirit. God is a good Father and will make the way clear. And the Holy Spirit does not contradict Scripture on these matters even if many religious adulterous cheaters say otherwise.
Listen to a wise counselor or pastor or two. But in the end, you alone must make the decision for you alone are answerable for your own actions.