If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?
-I John 4:20, NKJV
What bothers–and astounds–me is how typical infidelity or adultery is treated as a symptom or side-issue by pastors–or other Christian leaders–while working with couples in crisis. I hear and experienced all sort of nonsense counsel where the focus was elsewhere while “Rome was burning” so to speak.
This focus elsewhere even happens and happened after cheaters have admitted to cheating in the presence of these folks. The lack of response was and is disgusting and further harmful to the victims of the infidelity.
She just admitted to soul rape, and you’re focusing on what her victim did to “deserve it”?!
Any other abusive situation–say physical abuse–these same counselors/pastors would be quick to ensure the safety of the victim. They would not put up with dealing with anything else until the abuse situation was dealt with and settled so that it did not occur again.
Why not treat infidelity situations like this as well?!
As a survivor of my ex-wife’s adultery and infidelity, I can attest to the fact that such behavior is traumatizing. The spiritual understanding of adultery as soul rape is not hyperbole. It is an accurate description of a spiritual reality.
Adultery victims feel unsafe because they are unsafe. They are living in a marriage where one partner has treated them with the highest form of contempt–i.e. he/she slept with another person. That alone is dangerous as I understand such situations as a professional chaplain.
Add to that the risk of contacting STDs through the adulterous partner, the emotional assaults that come with lying and hiding the infidelity, and the financial losses plus risks that come with a deceitful partner using family assets to cheat to just name a few choice issues that come with the “standard” adultery package.
If that does not sound like an abusive situation, then I do not know what is!
Messed up counselors and therapists aside, what bothers me the most is about my own professional peers–i.e. pastors–who ought to be taking adultery seriously yet do not. The pastor’s office ought to be a safe refuge for adultery victims.
However, too often, the pastor’s office turns into a whipping post for adultery victims where the pastor indulges in “The Shared Responsibility Lie” furthering the cheater narrative that the faithful spouse somehow “deserved it.” Sound familiar? It ought to as abusers the world over love the line that “she/he deserved it.”
Pastors, do we really want to enable adulterous abusers to continue in their sin further damaging their victims and hastening their own souls’ damnation?!
I, for one, do not.
So, we ought to treat adultery or infidelity like any other sort of assault on the well-being of a victim. It ought not be radical to insist on demonstrated repentance regarding the infidelity first before doing any more marriage support work with couples.
Without such an insistence, you minimize the severity of the situation. Your actions and pastoral counsel suggests that adultery is a lesser deal than these other marital issues–real or imagine–which is not godly (see Deut. 22:22, Jer. 3:8, Mt. 19:9, Heb. 13:4, etc.)
God takes a zero-tolerance stance against adultery through the Bible (see Ten Commandments, Hebrews 13:4, etc.)
So, pastors–of all people–ought to follow the Chief Shepherd on this one, too.
You are talking about the well-being of the adultery victim here! Who in their right minds as a godly Christian sends a victim back to their abuser without making sure–to the best of his or her ability–that the abuse does not happen again? No one. That is who.
If the adulterous spouse is unwilling to submit to such a focus on fully owning and stopping their infidelity, then you have your answer as to whether they are truly repenting of their sin. They are not.
It is better to know that up front than to waste time, emotional energy, and money on an adulterous spouse who really is not interested in making changes and caring for his/her victim. God allowed divorce in such situations for good reason (e.g. Jer. 3:8, Mt 19:9). It is sad, but people choose darkness over the light every, single day (John 3:19-20).
Let us not get sucked in as pastors by the siren calls of “intact” marriages and miss seeing the true victims in these situations furthering the already egregious injustices they have already experienced.