If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.
– Deuteronomy 22:22, KJV
“You’re encouraging people to divorce too lightly!”
This or some similar version is a common criticism I have encountered from pastor-types in regards to teaching on this website. They are so worried that the faithful spouse may choose divorce following adultery discovery that they commit the common error of failing to see how severely destructive adultery is. They fail to see how God views adultery as intolerable and a severe enough offense to proscribe the death penalty in the Old Testament (not that I advocate for a return to such times as divorce is a much more appropriate and merciful option for modern times).
Comments to me from pastors who are worried I am issuing “get out of marriage” cards to faithful spouses too quickly tell me something. It tells me these pastors are both Biblically and pastorally clueless as to what God says concerning adultery.
They seem to forget permission is permission (for faithful spouses to divorce).
And they fail to register the horrific devastation adultery causes.
Following adultery, we are not talking about restoring a marriage but orchestrating a miracle of resurrecting it from the death ashes of such severe sin.
Divorce is a mercy granted to faithful spouses by God to deal with such treachery (e.g. Jer 3:8, Mt 1:19, and Mt 19:9). While it is not a good option, it may be the best of bad options left for the faithful spouse. Telling a faithful spouse they are too quickly seeking the way out of their marriage by exercising this permission is like telling the family of an attempted murder victim that they are too quickly pulling the plug on their loved one in the ICU.
It is a subtle blame-shift, I believe. It is cruel and insensitive. And such a response truly says the person saying this as no idea as to the devastation that adultery causes.
God values human life and is forgiving teaching us the way of reconciliation. However, God is also just and holy. When He gave the Law through Moses, God’s holiness required the death of the adulterous parties even if it was only one act.
Does that make God too rash or unforgiving?
I do not think so.
God recognized the devastation that adultery creates. He labels adultery evil (see Deut. 22:22), not divorce. And God being a holy God does not tolerate evil.
Nor should His people!
And yes, sometimes, that might make divorce the righteous option for the faithful spouse to take. I rather support a righteous action taught as permitted by Jesus Himself (see Mt 5:32 and Mt 19:9) than enable evil.
But, I suppose, that’s just me–that pastor who teaches tolerating adultery is worse than counseling for Biblical divorce.