Sheila wrote (for original post/comment thread see here):
My estranged husband has been unfaithful to me from the time we met until now. I suspected all of that time but didn’t have any hard evidence to prove it long ago. When I went to the church about it I was told to stop judging him and look at my own sins. I was told that this was the persecution that GOD was calling me to endure for Christ’s sake. So, stop complaining about it and pray about it instead. I was scolded and scorned for voicing the pain that I was going through. I felt like I was the problem child for letting my pain be known. It seemed as though my brothers and especially sisters in the LORD were trying to convey to me that this was the only way that I could die to my own flesh and sinful ways by carrying the burden of my husband’s sin. What I need to ask is —- is there any truth to this? That we should we suffer quietly like Jesus did during His Passion and let GOD cleanse us from our own sin by carrying the pain and burden of our spouse’s sin? Please, somebody answer my question. For I walked away from the church a few years ago due to this confusion. I need help and understanding.
My heart goes out to you. What a horrible experience to have with your estranged husband and then to have your faith community betray you on top of his betrayals! As a pastor, I am going to tell you those Christians were far from Christlike in the way they handled your precious and wounded soul. They were wrong both in their theology and in their approach to you. I am so sorry that you experienced such horrible wounding. But I am glad you are still seeking and found us here.
It seemed as though my brothers and especially sisters in the LORD were trying to convey to me that this was the only way that I could die to my own flesh and sinful ways by carrying the burden of my husband’s sin. What I need to ask is —- is there any truth to this?
Yes, the example is historically true about Jesus. However, the application is extremely wrong. That is an awful abuse of Christ’s example, in my opinion. It is a classical example of an error where one uses a descriptive event–Christ’s response during His Passion–and then makes a prescription out of it. In other words, we have better Scripture to use than the Passion narrative that speak more directly plus clearly in a prescriptive way on such situations as yours.
Jesus was very explicit about how to deal with ongoing sin. He did not tell his followers to ignore it or deny a wrong has taken place. The explicit instructions from Jesus on these matters did not say that the victim of the wrongdoing was to suffer in silence. No. In fact, his instructions about forgiveness clearly include rebuking–i.e. presenting the wrong–to the perpetrator in order that the perpetrator would repent (e.g. Matthew 18:15, Luke 17:3, etc). When the perpetrator continues the wrong despite the victim telling him his fault, Jesus lays out a clear process for handling that in Matthew 18:15-17 (see thoughts here).
Your husband is sinning against you (and God) by cheating. Christians who actually love you and him would understand their Christian duty–as outlined in Matthew 18:15-17–to confront your husband as opposed to encourage you to shut up about the ongoing sin and the pain it is causing you. Furthermore, they only need to look to I Corinthians 5 to see a consistent pattern of refusing to accept such sexual sin within their midst.
That said, such confrontation is assuming your estranged husband claims to be a Christian (and is a member of that church). You did not say. If he is not a Christian, then a case can be made that he is an unbeliever who is abandoning you by chasing after other women (see I Cor 7:15). We–Christians–are instructed to let unbelievers go in such matters. Divorce is an option that acknowledges such an abandonment, in my opinion.
Finally, we are called to weep with those who weep (see Romans 12:15). Missing that empathy piece may have been the greatest error in those who responded to you and your pain. I weep with you over your broken and betrayed heart. It breaks my own heart to hear how you were treated by your estranged husband and those claiming Christ’s Name.
Know that you are loved and your well-being is worth fighting for! I love Psalm 18 as it talks about our God who gets angry over us being hurt and does something about it like a loving father. It saddens me you did not have a human model of God’s heart in that way.
That said, I hope my response encourages you and let’s you know God’s heart towards you is one that is broken over the evil you experienced plus sounds like continue to experience. Make no mistake, God views adultery as evil and is highly intolerant of it (see Deut 22:22, Jeremiah 3:8, and Hebrews 13:4).
Blessings and hugs,