“‘Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband: let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts….'”
-Hosea 2:2, KJV
Obviously, take him back?!
Much “Christian” teaching places such an emphasis on keeping marriages “intact” that they insist faithful spouses take the adulterous spouse back simply if that spouse indicates he or she is willing to come back to the marriage. No other conditions are required. The cheater only has to offer to return to the marriage relationship.
I think this is a mistake and actually ungodly counsel.
Scripture teaches us that marriage will pass away in the next life (see Mt 22:30).
However, our individual souls and what we chose to do in this life will have grave consequences in the next life (e.g. 2 Cor. 5:10). This tells me that prioritizing maintaining the marriage over insisting on full repentance–on the part of the adulterous spouse–is misplaced.
The marriage is finite.
The damnation of the unrepentant cheater’s soul is eternal.
In other words, it is far from “obvious” that a faithful spouse ought to take back a cheater simply because he or she indicates interest in getting back into the marriage. The priority ought to always be righteousness over appearances.
Has this person truly turned from his or her sin?
That is the precondition for any godly restoration of a marriage ravaged by lies and infidelity. Plus, just because the precondition is met does not mean the faithful spouse ought to take the cheating spouse back. The faithful spouse is free to choose divorce without shame (see Mt. 1:19, Mt. 5:32, etc.).
If the faithful spouse decides it is best for him or her to end the marriage and move on, then that is an acceptable option based on Scripture. God gives the faithful spouse permission to divorce.
God does not Biblically require the faithful spouse to walk through the painful process of marriage restoration. It is an option, but it is NOT a requirement!
Hence, I strongly disagree with the sentiment that makes taking back an unfaithful spouse a Christian “duty.” It is a sentiment that prioritizes the temporal–i.e. the marriage–over the eternal–i.e. repentance for the soul’s eternal well-being. Plus, it is a sentiment that adds to God’s teaching a requirement for faithful spouses that is not there.
God permits divorce for faithful spouses when sexual immorality has taken place (e.g. Mt. 19:9), and Jesus did not qualify that permission by saying faithful spouses must take back a cheater who is willing to “return.” That qualification is a human addition, and we would be served well to remember that!