Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
ensure justice for those being crushed.
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
and see that they get justice.
-Proverbs 31:8-9, NLT
When you have just discovered your spouse of x years has cheated on you, it is hard to make good choices and not give into further treachery by him/her out of desperation to keep what is already lost–i.e. the innocent marriage that is no more. I applaud those who come here that had clear heads when such awful news hit the fan. That was not me.
Now, I do hear some good stories of pastors, priest, and therapists who refuse to enable adultery and take it seriously. However, these individuals are not as numerous as is needed. They form the exception rather than the rule as to who faithful spouses normally encounter during their most vulnerable of days following adultery discovery. I know I encountered plenty of infidelity enabling pastors and counselors during that time (with a few notable exceptions to be fair).
In fact, I doubt this blog would exist or have as many readers as it does (over 50,000 unique individuals to date) if more pastors and counselors took adultery as seriously as God does (e.g. Ex. 20:14, Deut. 22:22, Jer. 3:8, Heb. 13:4).
Why is this the case?
I think the deck is stacked against pastors to actually speak the truth in these situations and support the faithful spouse with truly Biblical counsel that says, among other things, that they are free to divorce.
The world and the church is eager to share the blame around the marriage being more than happy to blame adultery victims (see my thoughts here and here). They do not want to acknowledge the truth that they have a perpetrator–i.e. the adulterous spouse–and a victim–i.e. the faithful spouse–in their office. That is an uncomfortable truth.
If a pastor or Christian leader gives into this siren call of blame-sharing, they behave worse than being silent as their counsel becomes part of the spiritual trauma that the faithful spouse is already experiencing. Such pastors convey that God believes adultery victims are to blame for being victimized.
That is one truly wicked message!
Another pressure against pastors speaking Biblical truth on these matters is fear that they are encouraging divorce–even if that divorce is Biblical! (See why I am not so concerned here). They do not want to see marriages dissolved in their congregations. That is fair. I do not want people to experience such pain. But sometimes that pain is a lesser of two evils. These pastors miss the point that even God thinks divorce is preferable than tolerating adultery (e.g. Jeremiah 3:8).
I wonder about how much reputation and money matters in these things. Faithful spouses usually do not have a lot of money to give. Divorce is expensive. And the cheater might be the one who actually is giving the most. So, offending the cheater means a real hit in the pocket book. It takes courage to set those interests aside to do the right thing in confronting an unrepentant adulterer/adulteress.
As to reputation, a pastor might be shy to be known as facilitating divorces. On the other hand, he may proudly proclaim how he helped couples stay together despite infidelity. The incentives in that are contrary to God’s expectation that repentance takes priority over encouraging couples to stay together (e.g. Luke 17:3).
It is uncomfortable to correct/rebuke a cheater. I suspect this is one of the biggest reasons pastors and counselors fail faithful spouses so often. They lack the courage or willingness to confront.
The cheater might be a “friend.” They do not want to loose that “friendship.”
Or they simply do not want to deal with the messy and ugly reality that adultery has taken place.
They just want the faithful spouse “to forgive and forget.” So, they try to cover their cowardice with religious language about forgiveness when the reality is that they want the uncomfortable truth to go away–i.e. their buddy soul raped his wife (or vice versa).
It takes courage to follow Christ.
And it takes courage to confront evil.
May the tribe of courageous pastors and counselors increase who are willing to confront the evil known as adultery.