At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
-Job 1:20-21, NIV
Shame is can be a powerful force for evil. It can make us do things, which are extremely damaging to ourselves and others. To avoid the shame, we are willing to endure the insufferable. This is done all in an attempt to escape the label that we are loathed to wear.
What is that label for you?
Like a lie, shame does not stand up to the light of exposure and truth. It scatters like cockroaches exposed to the blazing flame of a brilliant candle–i.e. the candle of God’s true and unrelenting love of us especially as experienced in caring community. Plus, we get to choose whether or not to receive the shame or scorn it like Christ did the Cross (Hebrews 12:2).
As I have written elsewhere, a common trap following adultery discovery is to assume responsibility for reconciliation in the marriage. And I think this is to avoid the big, bad, shame-laden labels of “FAILURE” and “DIVORCED.”
Let’s be clear:
You cannot make reconciliation happen as it takes two to choose this.
It is beyond your powers.
So, digging in your heals against divorce after an adulterous rupture of the marriage is an error. You can’t force the reconciliation to happen no matter how hard you try.
But this is an understandable error. Who willingly wants to endure the subtle jabs one gets all too often in “Christian” communities that you are less than because you are divorced or a single parent? The cost is steep to divorce an adulterer/adulteress.
I believe faithful evangelical pastors ought to strive to change this. We have many passages in Scripture teaching clearly on the matter of adultery. The Ten Commandments are a good place to start. And I cannot think of even one verse that blames a faithful spouse or the marriage for the sin of the adulterous spouse. Not one. Furthermore, we have Scripture where God identifies Himself metaphorically as a divorcee rejecting an adulteress nation, Israel (Jeremiah 3:8). If God can be a divorcee under such circumstances, where is the shame in being like God our Perfect Lover?
Speaking to those of you who have discovered the adulterous behavior of your spouse or are supporting someone who has made this gut-wrenching discovery, I encourage you not to allow shame to dictate your decisions. Be willing to divorce an adulterous spouse. If you are not willing, then you are vulnerable to future abuse by this adulterous spouse and anyone else who thinks they know best how to run your life.
Look to God’s example. If God Himself did not put up with repeated adultery, why should you? Certainly, you do not think God would hold you to a higher standard than Himself?
Hold your marriage with an open hand as Job did all his wealth and even His children. Only then are you truly free and able to walk with the Lord in the most honoring of ways. And that road is truly and eternally blessed.