They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say,
when there is no peace.
-Jeremiah 6:14, NIV
The pressure from Christians to appear forgiving towards adulterous spouses or exes is incredible.
This pressure was enshrined in my ecclesiastical trial to retain my minister’s license. They probed around the issue of my forgiveness towards my ex-wife. The saddest part of such probing is how they left confronting my ex-wife over her unrepentant adultery left undone.
But if I looked “unforgiving,” I knew they would have considered pulling my license for a time.
Theologically, they put the proverbial “cart before the horse.” They asked and probed about my forgiveness of my ex-wife without making sure that the one actively sinning against the marriage had stopped and repented first.
A truly Christ-like response to adultery is one of rebuke first (see Luke 17:3). Forgiveness only enters the picture if the adulterous spouse repents. At least, that is what Jesus Himself taught us.
These Christian pastors missed this important teaching regarding godly forgiveness requiring repentance first. Their process failed to follow Jesus’ order of priority. It is improper to pressure for forgiveness while a spouse or former spouse remains unrepentant regarding his or her lies and adultery.
If the other spouse or ex-spouse is unrepentant, I see a different line of treatment:
The Apostle Paul taught us to hand such an individual over to Satan (see I Corinthians 5:5). He does not teach us to turn a blind eye to the unrepentant sin calling it “forgiveness” and thereby enabling the wickedness to tarnish the church and cause further spiritual damage to the sinner’s soul.
As I read the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 5, the matter of serious sin–like adultery–is a matter of repentance as primarily. I do not see the Apostle Paul instructing the Corinthian Christians to convene an inquest to ascertain if the victims have forgiven those who had sinned against them.
Rather, I do see the Apostle Paul speak about very blunt confrontation of those who continue to harm the community through their sinful lifestyle choices.
God does call us to forgive (e.g. Col. 3:13), but God does not call us to minimize or enable sin by failing to require repentance (e.g. Luke 17:3).
When there is no peace, let us be courageous enough to acknowledge such a fact. Pressuring faithful spouses to forgive is like trying to heal a gaping wound with the knife still in it and the assailant still twisting the blade.
This is foolishness!
First, remove the knife and insist the assailant stop twisting the blade. Then one can start talk about healing the deep wound caused by the sinful assault through God’s miracle of forgiveness and grace in the grief process.