There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. – I John 4:18, ESV
This past weekend I was at a married men’s retreat with men from my home church. At such an event, I sometimes get philosophical, and this thought passed through my head concerning why rehabilitation following adultery is difficult:
When adultery occurs in a marriage, performance becomes a necessary component to a relationship designed to be marked by its absence.
Let me unpack that statement:
Performance becomes a necessary component. It is necessary as the faithful spouse is looking to see if they can trust the adulterous spouse again. They need to see actions telling the faithful spouse that true repentance has taken place. This means performance on the part of the offending spouse becomes necessary.
Now, marriage was never designed to be a performance-based relationship any more than our relationship with God was meant to be about our performance. And this is especially important to remember about marriage if we also remember that God is a member of every Christian marriage as is clearly taught throughout Scripture (e.g. Malachi 2 and Matthew 19).
What do I mean by performance-based marriage relationship?
Think of performance in marriage as a scorecard, which one or both partners uses to determine whether or not the marriage continues. This is not a healthy dynamic as I John 3:18 eloquently states as it means fear enters the relationship and erodes the safety of the marriage partners.
It breeds insecurity.
Who wants to live in perpetual fear?
Love does not keep score (I Cor 13:5).
Marriage was never designed to be a performance based relationship. It mirrors God’s relationship with the Church (see Ephesians 5), which is all about grace and perfect love. This grace and perfect love has no room for keeping score or demanding performance from the other. It has no room for fear. Jesus has already paid the bride-price, and the Bride is His forever.
However, we can choose not to be part of His Bride. We can choose adultery over fidelity just as any human partner can make this choice in a human marriage. If God allows people to reject His perfect love and forgiveness, certainly His followers can allow other fellow humans do the same.
Can a marriage be resurrected after adultery? Yes. However, it is truly miraculous as what is necessary to resurrect the marriage is contrary to the very nature and design of the marriage relationship.