Today, Chump Lady sent me this comment from her blog highlighting some rather awful advice given by a minister to a faithful spouse:
I am so glad to read this post and all the replies tonight. I had an email exchange with my (former) minister earlier today that really frustrated me. I reached out to him because my STBX is very active in the church (where everyone loves him because he is SO helpful and kind) and I have stopped attending because the hypocrisy is too much for me to bear.
Anyway, I have felt the lack of spiritual support and reached out to this person who ostensibly cares for all alike. His advice?
[and I quote] “Feeling self-righteous and morally superior is a big trap. If you think you could never do what he did, there’s a possibility of moral superiority, so try feeling willing to forgive. (STBX) is in trouble. In so many ways, worse off than you. If you can’t help him, stop thinking negatively about him.”
Well, I could NEVER do what he did (threesomes with strangers, prostitutes, craigslist hookups, webcam porn […etc.] ) so I guess I am guilty of moral superiority.
And I’m living out of a suitcase in my brother’s basement while STBX continues whoring and drinking and dragging his heels on meeting to settle the divorce.
But he’s “in so many ways worse off than” me.
I’m just grateful to live in this age of the Internet and the access to Chump Lady. This “betrayed spouse co-created this mess” stuff is crap.
It grieves my heart to hear how poorly your local church family and leader has handled your situation. The person to whom they ought to be extending love and grace is you. Instead, they clearly have decided adultery is tolerable in their church contrary to all that Scripture teaches on the matter.
I do not blame you for choosing to leave that church body. In fact, I affirm you for choosing to leave a place that is not supportive of you and clearly does not take the Bible seriously enough to confront your stbxh as Scripture demands of them (e.g. I Corinthians 5:11ff).
As to your minister’s response, I have a few thoughts for him:
“Feeling self-righteous and morally superior is a big trap.”
Perhaps so. I think we all battle pride to some degree. However, I fail to see how that is the real or main issue here.
You have a husband actively raping his wife’s soul
through engaging in illicit sex! As a minister who knows about this man’s sexual immorality, you have a Biblical duty
to confront the adulterous spouse (e.g. 1 Timothy 5:20).
Shaming his victim is not godly. In fact, I call it spiritually abusive.
“If you think you could never do what he did, there’s a possibility of moral superiority, so try feeling willing to forgive.”
Once again, the focus is wrong here. The cart is before the horse.
It is next to impossible to forgive someone who is actively sinning against you. In fact, Jesus instructs us to forgive only if the person repents (see Luke 17:3). As I read Scripture, it is not wise to forgive prior to addressing the sin as that may just enable the sinner to sin more and lead to his/her spiritual damnation. At best, we can choose to hand someone over to God in situations where the sinner has stubbornly chosen wickedness over holiness (e.g. I Corinthians 5:5).
Also, forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a choice to discharge a legitimate debt. We do not command our feelings.
“(STBX) is in trouble. In so many ways, worse off than you.”
Agreed, stbx is in trouble in many ways. Soliciting prostitutes is not only immoral but also illegal in many states. Also, he is about to be divorced Biblically by Roaring as a consequence of his hard-hearted, adulterous sins. That’s a lot of trouble but only the tip of the iceberg.
The most serious trouble is that his soul is in danger of damnation according to Scripture as he does not seem to have choosen the path of repentance (e.g. I Cor. 6:9-10, I John 3:6, etc.). This spiritual danger ought to move a compassionate minister to action rebuking this man before it is too late for his soul.
“If you can’t help him, stop thinking negatively about him.”
As far as this “stop thinking negatively” exhortation, I would add that God thinks negatively about what this man has done and/or is doing.
It is healthier to have the mind of Christ than the mind of man on this matter.
Scripture is crystal clear about God’s opinion about spouses that choose sexual infidelity over faithfulness (e.g. Exodus 20:14, Deuteronomy 22:22, Jeremiah 3:8, Hebrews 13:4, etc.). God calls what he has done “evil.” And, yes, that is a very “negative” word.
Furthermore, once again, it is hard not to have “negative” thoughts about someone who is actively sinning against you. That said, I suspect Roaring’s negatively is really just her expressing her pain, grief, and sense of injustice that she is experiencing as a result of her stbx’s flagrant adulterous sins.
It is cold-hearted and cruel to tell a victim to stop thinking “negatively” who is actively hurting from the perpetrator’s sins.
Let me be clear:
Roaring is being/was violated, and you, minister, are sheltering the perpetrator of those wrongs!
It sickens me to continue to watch ministers extending more “compassion” to the perpetrators than to their victims. Further, it bothers me that they think it is godly to shame the victims for legitimate expressions of pain and grief over what was done to them.
Roaring, I assure you that this minister is not acting or responding the way God responds to adultery.
This is not God’s heart on your situation!
God makes it crystal clear that the adulterous will be judged for defiling the marriage bed (see Heb. 13:4).
What your stbx-husband has done and is doing is a HUGE deal to God! He is not amused and has instructed His people not to accept such actions within their community (see I Cor. 5) even if this particular pastor and church has chosen to ignore that instruction.
Finally, I want to encourage you. Not every church or minister holds such views or practices regarding infidelity/adultery. I am one who takes a strong line against adultery. Divorce Minister is all about taking adultery seriously!
Take heart, and I hope these words build you up today!