Not a Private Affair

And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand.

Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.

Malachi 2:13-14, KJV

wpid-img_20150308_115228.jpg“It’s a private matter.”

Really?! Like that whole marriage ceremony in front of the crowded church where the couple pledged lifelong fidelity?

How come that pledge is public and the breaking of it is suddenly “private”?

“It’s a private matter.”

This is one response to reports of adultery that drives me nuts. It is akin to the “There’s always two sides to a story” position. People are uncomfortable talking about adultery; so, they change the subject. They hate being confronted with their own vulnerability and the injustice that adultery presents. This is true regarding both congregants and pastors. But I especially find it obnoxious when this statement “It’s a private matter” is invoked to shutdown discussion of moral disqualification in pastors.

Wake up, people!

The emperor has no clothes. 

He can pontifcate publicly about clothing designed–i.e. morality–standing in the nude–i.e. fully breaking the Ten Commandments. But he will likely be derrided and mocked as a nudist proclaiming on subjects he clearly does not buy himself. Who wants to take fashion advice from a practicing nudist, after all?

Our leaders in the church ought to be held to a higher standard (see 1 Timothy 3). It is hard to teach on morality while flagrantly defying it like the nudist emperor trying to convince others of his fashion expertise while standing in his birthday suit. One’s house needs to be in order on such matters.

And that is not even opening up the general idea of marriage as a community matter.

It is.

God sees marriage as a community matter(see Deut. 22:22). Adultery is regarded as a community disease.

Leaving such sin unaddressed is dishonoring to the institution (see I Corinthians 5:11 & Hebrews 13:4). Silence gives cover to sin. It makes the divorce look worse than the adultery that actually exploded the marriage.

Divorce is obvious and public. 

Whereas the “It is a private matter” tack keeps the real sin–i.e. adultery–private. This statement suggests talking about morality and the actual violation of is more shameful than committing adultery and/or choosing divorce in response to such hard-hearted sin. It drives such talk underground. Thereby, it silences the victims. And it sends the message that cheaters will be protected from the natural consequences of their sin–i.e. others knowing and/or confronting them over their bad behavior. This is good for no one spiritually.

Adultery is not a private matter.

Infidelity is a public menance and a community disease. The sooner we grasp that spiritual truth and treat infidelity as such in our churches, the sooner our communities will stand a chance of becoming healthier.