“Spiritual abuse occurs when our rightful spiritual freedom is taken away by people we regard as spiritual authorities.” –Taken from “Lesson 4: Healing of Spiritual Abuse,” School of Healing Prayer: Level II (workbook), Francis and Judith MacNutt Training Center, pp30.
If divorce is not always sin as is clear in Scripture (e.g. Matthew 1:19, 5:32, 19:9, and Jeremiah 3:8), a pastor or other Christian leader stating otherwise is engaging in spiritual abuse. To call a divorce initiated by a faithful spouse against an adulterous spouse sin is to presume to correct God’s position on the matter and abuse one’s spiritual authority.
Faithful spouses are free to divorce an adulterous spouse according to Jesus’ own words in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9. I am loathed to correct Jesus on such matters.
Permission is permission.
And I do not see Jesus giving us permission to sin ever!
Furthermore, I am not interested in participating in shaming or controlling an already seriously wronged and wounded party. Divorce is an option on the table for the faithful spouse when adultery has taken place. Saying it is sin is to take it off the table and shame the faithful–now divorced–spouse after the fact. This is not godly. Plus, doing this is to inflict an avoidable trauma. It is avoidable if we as Christian leaders are willing to remain Biblical as opposed to “cultural” on these matters.*
Discovering adultery and going through a divorce is already traumatic enough. We do not need to add these hard experiences by causing further damage through spiritually abusing such individuals. The church ought to be a healing community and not a damaging place.
Let’s be a people and a priesthood that recognizes that divorce may be the best of the bad options left on the table for a faithful spouse. It is past time for us to stop being naive on such matters and catch up to God in His realistic grasp of the actual damage adultery does to marriages. And let us bring healing, not judgment or condemnation, to the faithful spouses and families.
It is my hope that some day evangelical churches will be known as places of refuge and healing for faithful spouses and their families. It is my hope that some day evangelical churches will be known as places that take adultery seriously and Biblically. And it is my hope some day that evangelical churches will be known as places where faithful spouses know that they can hold their heads up high fearing no shame.
And I hope that day is coming soon!
*By cultural, I am referring to a rigid, conservative evangelical sub-culture that views divorce as shameful and sinful de facto. Circumstances are not taken into consideration. It is the same culture that for years would defrock a pastor just because he was divorced. This is an unhealthy and ungodly sub-culture worth challenging with Scripture. It is not sinful to divorce an adulterous spouse. Jesus allows for divorce in the case of sexual immorality, which includes adultery (see Mt 5:32 and 19:9), plus God Himself is described as divorcing Israel in light of Israel’s flagrant adulteries (Jeremiah 3:8). For more on this see my posts (here and here).