So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. – Genesis 3:6, NKJV
“Can’t you see he only did this because he is broken.”
“She’s broken. That’s why she cheated. Don’t you think it’s time we take the pressure off of her?”
I wonder if anyone here heard such lines from well-meaning friends or Christian leaders in the aftermath of adultery discovery. Personally, I think this is horrible advice as it obscures what is important. The adulterous spouse made sinful choices and needs to repent of such sin. Focusing on “brokenness” as opposed to repentance feeds into Satan’s game to encourage moral fuzziness in the Church.
And I agree. I do believe every adulterous spouse is “broken” in some sense. Where there is sin, there is always brokenness. That does not mean one is any less responsible for choosing to sin, though. And I am concerned about how this idea of brokenness is used to excuse adultery or explain away responsibility for the adulterous. It actually dis-empowers the adulterous spouse to turn from his or her ways as he/she are treated as victims of their brokenness as opposed to active agents in committing sin.
Let me use an example to make this clearer:
A sociopath is still a murderer even if he is “broken” as in incapable of feeling empathy. He knew what he was doing and chose to kill because he wanted to kill. The murderer still needs to be held responsible for his actions. We get that in this case but start getting fuzzy in the head when dealing with adultery.
Or perhaps, people are saying the adulterous spouses lost their minds when they committed adultery when they refer to their brokenness?
I find that narrative hard to believe.
The level of deceit–whether it be for days or years–that most adulterous spouses use to cover their tracks suggest otherwise. It is pre-meditated soul rape. And they know what they are doing is wrong because they decide to lie about it to hide it. This does not sound like a crazy, broken person to me. It sounds like a wicked person deciding their wants are more important than not hurting the innocent.
The acts of deceit and adultery are not the acts of a passive person. They are acts of aggression leading to the rape of the faithful spouse’s soul. And such acts need the firm loving rod of a shepherd halting an aggressive animal bent on tearing into the hide of another beloved sheep. They harm needs halting and the destructive choices need correcting. It need not and should not be cruel correction, but it does need to be firm in order to protect the innocent from further harm.
Also, I challenge the general narrative that adultery necessarily comes out of brokenness. Why can’t the origin just be plain old rebellion against God? Adultery really is just like the first sin in the Garden of Eden:
Adam and Eve were perfect, sinless creatures. This means no brokenness was there. However, a lie about God holding out on them was believed,* and they took what they wanted condemning humankind with Original Sin.
It is that simple:
A lie was believed about God. The humans decided they would take what they wanted choosing to be their own gods. Rebellion was born. And they took what they wanted; thereby, they sinned.
It was a rebellious act of the will.
How is that different than adultery?
I find it hard to believe people are unaware that having sex with a married person is morally wrong. However, I suspect they want to indulge their fantasies or desires believing some sort of lie about God (e.g. “God just wants me happy, and this makes me happy unlike my marriage”). And they grasp what they want sinning. They choose to commit adultery. And there goes a bite of the forbidden fruit.
Let’s be clear:
Brokenness did not sin. A person sinned.
And it is important to keep that in mind.
How did the person sin?
They made a choice and acted on that choice.
While it may be an interesting and helpful exercise to explore family of origin issues and past traumas at some point, it is important not to lose sight of the choices made and actions taken. Adultery is wrong. It is not inevitable, or God would not have bothered to command against committing it. People willfully choose to commit adultery from all sorts of backgrounds. We are not machines fated to sin. Humans have choices and will be held accountable for those choices by God (see 2 Cor 5:10).
As pastors and church leaders, we need to learn how to help adulterous spouses choose more wisely (if they are willing to repent). We need to learn how to undermine the lies Satan uses to “excuse” such sin. And we can begin by refusing to accept the excuse that brokenness caused the adultery:
No, the adulterer/adulteress chose to commit adultery. That choice is what cause it. Now, it is time to repent and make better choices in the future.
*I remember a talk years from William Paul Young, the author of The Shack, where he pointed out this truth. He taught that sin came from believing God is not good or is withholding from us. So, I want to acknowledge his contribution in idea form to today’s post.