“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” – Malachi 2:16, ESV
Some of us have had the double-whammy of having our former spouse both cheat on us and then discard us in a divorce.* As someone who has experienced this, I can testify as to how painful it is. But the real painful part is getting blamed for the divorce after the fact by Christians trying to “understand what went wrong.”
Christians who would never grant divorce for such reasons are now playing the “I understand why” game as to why an adulterous spouse divorced their faithful spouse. They ask the spurned faithful spouse questions regarding the heart or motivation of the adulterous, abandoning spouse. Namely:
Why did he/she (have to) divorce you?
They assume you are to blame for the dissolution of your marriage in some way. The adulterous spouse must have had “valid” reasons for choosing to divorce, right? In other words, they participate–through asking such questions–in trying to justify sin. By “sin,” I am referring to the sin of the adulterous party divorcing the faithful party. To be clear: it is sin to divorce a faithful spouse while committing adultery or in order to pursue an adulterous relationship further (just see Malachi 2:16 quoted above).
Now, let’s replace one word from the above question with what really is happening spiritually if an adulterous spouse chooses to divorce a faithful spouse:
Why did he/she (have to) sin against you?
Do you see how that might be an insensitive and foolish question to ask?
And do you see how asking this question of the faithful spouse is just adding further insult to injury? They did not sin by divorcing their spouse. The unfaithful spouse sinned both by committing adultery AND then divorcing his or her faithful spouse. If anyone ought to be questioned like this, it is the adulterous spouse who is abandoning the marriage after blowing it up through illicit sexual relations. Adulterous spouses need to be confronted with their sin with the hopes that they will repent. The focus is spiritually misplaced and cruel when zeroed in on faithful spouses.
An abandoned faithful spouse does not need more shaming or blaming in this matter. They no more controlled the outcome of whether or not they got divorced, than they controlled the outcome of whether or not their now former spouse commits or committed sin.
The answer to the why question concerning said sin is with the sinner NOT the one sinned against.
It angers me that this is so often missed. Christian leaders are willing to be “understanding” with the adulterous spouse but unyielding in their shaming of the faithful, abandoned spouse. They want to hear “both sides of the story” with the smoking guns of adultery and divorce papers forced by the adulterous spouse lying in front of them. These Christian leaders are willing to censure a faithful spouses for a divorce forced upon they by an adulterous spouse, but they are cowardly unwilling to confront the one who actually sinned by driving the divorce through in the first place!
It disgusts me.
And the failure in sin discernment is hurting so many people.+ That is what is is–i.e. a discernment failure. It hurts the faithful spouses who are unjustly condemned. It hurts the family who watches the church condemn the faithful party. And it even hurts the adulterous party who is not called back in love and truth from spiritual destruction. Finally, it hurts the church especially as they watch Christian leaders treat their faithful brother or sister unjustly and thereby without true love.
We need to do better.
We are called to love each other better.
*I am not trying to engage in a comparison game here. It is awful whether or not you are the faithful spouse being divorced or divorcing the adulterous spouse. My point here is to talk especially to those who have found themselves abandoned on top of the adultery committed against them.
+Another sad discernment failure is a blindness to how it matters who files for divorce. Why does it matter who files the divorce papers? It matters because filing for divorce is sin if the adulterous spouse files, and it is not sin if they are filed by the faithful spouse (or abandoned spouse–see I Cor 7). It is a sad commentary on the blindness of the shepherds when they cannot see this spiritual reality and thereby treat righteous action (divorcing an unrepentant adulterer/adulteress) the same way as sin (divorcing the faithful spouse of one’s youth).