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.