The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth.
-Proverbs 12:22, NLT
One of the ironies from my ecclesiastical trial to retain my minister’s license was how committed the denominational official leading the inquiry was in obtaining my ex-wife’s testimony regarding our marriage. It is ironic as I seem to remember either he or another member on my interviewing panel suggested such testimony would be worthless considering the source.
They knew better.
I am convinced their seeking of “her side” was based strongly in the assumption of “There are always two sides to a story” or some version of The Shared Responsibility Lie. So, it ought to come to no surprise it was a destructive or–minimally–unhelpful course of action.
Instead of rebuking my ex-wife for her confirmed sexual infidelity, these officials invited her to attack my character and attempt to justify the unjustifiable. And all of this was sealed from my eyes.
Cheaters do some of the greatest damage through their lies. These are lies about their spouses, their family, their affair partners, and even–maybe, especially–themselves.
Just as you do not give an abuser an invitation to abuse their victim, pastors ought not to invite a liar to attack their victim with the daggers of their lies.
Remember this important fact. Asking a cheater to explain what was wrong in the marriage that led to its demise is to invite the cheater to lie and assault their partner’s character.
Plus, such a question exposes a failure to grasp the biblical cause for sin:
Sin is caused from the overflow of the sinner’s own heart (see Mark 7:21-23, James 1:13-15). The conditions of the marriage–whether good or bad–did not cause the sin. A sinner acting on the wickedness in his or her heart did.
Commonsense tells us not to trust proven liars. Unfortunately, commonsense is not common enough. Or at least, people are apt not to act on such commonsense.
Does this mean never talking to a cheater regarding the marriage? No.
However, it ought to mean approaching such cheater with the assumption that he or she is lying about the marriage and/or other partner until proven otherwise. It also means rebuking him or her for their sin as a godly pastor is called to do if he or she is brought into such a situation (see 2 Timothy 3:16).
Plus, a wise pastor will be prepared to cut off any diversions from the serious sins of adultery, infidelity, and deception that cheaters like to use.
Allowing the cheating spouse to point at the other spouse or the marriage relationship–as if it was a person with agency–is like allowing a naughty kid blame his little sibling for something he was just caught doing red-handed.
It does no one any good following that pointed finger. To do so minimizes the seriousness of the offence committed and teaches the child to not take responsibility for his sinful actions.
Listening to liars is generally unwise. So, I would lean towards not bothering with testimony on the defunct marriage from a proven liar–i.e. the cheater.
Nothing a cheater can say about the state of the marriage would make committing adultery acceptable to God. And if they cannot ground their choice to divorce in permission from a biblical text, then they have sinned by abandoning the marriage as well. It is waste of time and emotional energy to probe around with such facts established.
Plus, it is less than edifying for all parties involved.
Pastors, don’t waste your time.
And don’t give cheaters another platform to say harmful things about their exes.