When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. – Genesis 3:6, NIV
Even with good books addressing infidelity in the counseling world, I am disturbed by a trend that treats emotional affairs and/or physical affairs as symptoms of a bad marriage relationship as opposed to sin. I have read many pages where the author talks about delving into “what is missing” in the relationship as if that causes the infidelity as opposed to the actual choice to sin and the underlying character flaw in the cheater that made that an acceptable choice.
What further floors me is how often pastors or Christian leaders get this part wrong. Was it a relationship deficiency that caused the first humans to choose sin? No.
It was a flaw in the first humans’ character that caused sin. They wanted to be like God. And they liked how the fruit looked.
Choosing infidelity is never an acceptable choice for someone who claims Jesus as Lord. I do not care how difficult the marriage relationship. No excuse exists that makes adultery or having an emotional affair acceptable. At least, that is how I read the Bible.
The only one who can prevent future infidelities is the person who choose to cheat in the first place or not. Spending time in the counseling office after infidelity–whether emotional or physical–focusing on “marital deficiencies” can easily send the message to the cheater that he or she is ultimately not responsible for his or her infidelity. It was the faithful spouse’s failures in the marriage that caused the infidelity. That’s a damnable lie.
A strong message must be sent that working on relational skills and issues in the marriage has nothing to do with the decision to commit adultery or have an emotional affair. Such a decision is a sin and always unacceptable for a follower of Christ. Always.
Working on the relationship issues is about making the marriage a more pleasant and God-honoring place for both spouses. It is helping both spouses mature. This has nothing ultimately to do with the cause of infidelity because sin is born of the heart of the sinner, not outside circumstances or environment. That includes the environment of the marital relationship.
I think the temptation to analyze the marriage relationship for deficiencies is especially strong when an admitted emotional affair has taken place. The fuzzy nature of defining an emotional affair and thereby seeing it as sin makes this error easier to commit. I saw this error in action with some awful, Christian counselors in my own personal experience.
Clarity is needed here:
Is it sin? Where does sin come from? How does God instruct us to deal with sin? Is it true repentance if the sinner is blaming the person he or she sinned against even subtly? Are we really helping this couple pastorally if we give them the impression that the state of the marriage caused the infidelity as opposed to the spouse that chose it?