Reconciled to Friendship, NOT Marriage

And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

– 2 Corinthians 5:19b, NIV

Reconciled to Friendship, NOT Marriage!

What often bothers me about Christians talking about marriages ravaged by adultery is how “reconciliation” is thrown about as the same thing as marriage restoration.

It is not.

A former couple could experience true reconciliation without the restoration of their marriage. They could be reconciled, yet still divorced.

I make this point because this misunderstanding about reconciliation is sometimes “wed” with the above quoted verse as a Christian mandate to remain married to a cheater.

Reconciliation takes work from both individuals involved:

On the one hand, the offended party has to be open to the relationship changing and the fracture healing. On the other, the offender needs to work to repair what he or she broke.

Often times, cheaters are not interested in participating in repairing the relationship and making amends. So, in those cases, reconciliation is not on the table because of the cheater’s sinful choices.

Even in the rare case where a cheater is willing to work to make amends, I still do not see reconciliation as the same thing as marriage restoration.

It is like a broken friendship. The reconciled (former) couple is one where the fracture has been healed between them. They are no longer enemies.

The hostilities have ceased, and a warm relationship has been restored.

However, that healing process does not entail the cheater being entitled to remaining married to his or her victim (see Deuteronomy 22:22, Matthew 19:9, etc).

It is perfectly reasonable and biblically permissible for an adultery victim to not want to put himself or herself at risk again with the same person by marrying or staying married to them.

As Christians, we ought to seek reconciliation with those willing to do the reconciling work. However, a reconciled relationship is not the same thing as a relationship ending in marriage.

We can reconcile with someone without marrying them!

This distinction is important to keep in mind with adultery victims because it relieves unwarranted religious pressure upon them to double-down on the “bad bet” of remarrying their cheater.

4 thoughts on “Reconciled to Friendship, NOT Marriage”

  1. My husband choose to continue his affair, which has resulted in me filling for divorce. He did not show any true remorse just used the word sorry. His actions in continuing to see his AP told me otherwise.

    When the divorce is final he is then not committing a sin anymore. What would you then need to see to show that they were sorry and wanted to reconcile to friendship. We have 2 children together so we have some contact. This is the minimum in order to protect myself from any further abuse.

  2. Hi DM,
    I am a new reader to your blog and first want to say thank you. Your unabashed support of “soul rape” victims and your ability to write about this difficult and complicated topic with an honest biblical perspective is a gift from God.
    My questions relate to full repentance and reconciliation. Is this post saying even with repentance and reconciliation it is okay to not stay married? Does stopping the behavior and admitting it was wrong and saying sorry qualify as repentance? Should I help my h fully repent or does that have to come from within him?
    I recently discovered my husband’s porn habit and have found out it has been in place for our entire 15 year relationship (13 years of marriage, 3 children). This comes less than 2 years after uncovering his alcoholism, which he also kept expertly hidden. In both cases he says he stops the behavior, says it was wrong and says he was sorry to have hurt me, never wanted to hurt me. I feel that is not enough but at the same time I am so confused.

    1. When God gives us permission, I believe it is permission. The permission given to divorce in the case of sexual infidelity (see Matthew 19:9) does not come with a qualification of only if the cheater refuses to repent. It is up to the faithful spouse as to whether or not to stay. That is how I see it.

      Saying something is wrong and stopping the behavior are starts. What steps has he taken to ensure it does not happen again? That is another step needed for real repentance, IMO.

      Hope that helps!

Comments are closed.