“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
-Psalm 34:18, NASB
Metaphors, while being imperfect approximations, often can help us grasp difficult and complex truths conveying both intellectual and emotional freight with vivid imagery. Here’s my shot on explaining by metaphor why focusing on forgiveness first after adultery is cruel:
Imagine you are a parent and own a nice house in the suburb. One horrible day thieves breaks into your house and kidnap your child killing him. The police find one of the perpetrators, and no doubt is left over his responsibility. He confesses he did the deeds.
In this scenario, who in their right mind asks the parent why she hasn’t forgiven her child’s murderer already?
Is that really the appropriate first place to go?
A sane and compassionate caregiver looks to the safety of the parents first. Doors locked? Security on? How’s the search going for the other thieves out there that might come back?
Then they attend to supporting the parent in their grief.
Grieve the death.
Can you imagine a counselor or pastor in this scenario turning to the hurting parent and saying,
You sound angry. Why haven’t you forgiven him already? You know God commands you to forgive him. Besides, can you really fault him for breaking into your home and killing your child? You did a poor job locking up. And who leaves their kids unattended in a separate room…like ever? I really think you need to take your share of the blame here.
While such a response sounds absolutely insane to our ears in this scenario, I can tell you from painful personal experience this sort of response to adultery is all too common. And it is just as insensitive a response to the adultery survivor as it is to a grieving mother or father.
Demonstrate that you actually care for the survivor.
Look after their basic needs like the need for safety after adultery for it is an intimate and violent violation of the faithful spouse’s safety. It’s soul rape. Next, support the faithful spouse in grieving the death of the marriage–both the one they thought they had and the one that will never be for the innocence in the marriage has forever been murdered.
To those who may object to my metaphor as a false or strained analogy, I have a question:
Is a marriage less valuable than a child? I don’t know. Let’s just say both are very valuable, and the violent loss of either needs to be treated with caring respect.
Does forgiveness in either case ever come into the picture? Yes, of course. Jesus commands it for our own good, I believe. It sets us free.
However, I would suggest both the survivor and caregiver keep the order straight: 1) safety, 2) grieving, and 3) forgiveness.
Lock the doors.
Grieve the death.
And don’t be a jerk.