The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.
-Proverbs 18:17, ESV
An evildoer listens to wicked lips,
and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.
-Proverbs 17:4, ESV
“There’s always two sides to a story.”
I wonder how many who come here have heard that statement even after people knew the other spouse committed adultery. It really looks like wisdom at first blush. And it is a wisdom when adultery or abuse is unclear. In fact, I probably would have ascribed to this mindset prior to my own experiences. However, it is neither wise nor godly to hold this position when adultery has clearly taken place.
To buttress this statement or proof-text it, some Christian leaders might quote Proverbs 18:17 (see above). This happened in my experience with my former denomination who has this very verse shamelessly quoted in their official documents detailing how to deal with all divorced pastors. There’s always to sides to a story. And he who states his case first might be lying as is implied by this verse!
I have purposely quote the Proverbs 17:4 as a corrective. If a pastor or Christian leader is giving vent to a known liar (and all adulterous spouses are known liars as it is impossible to commit adultery without lying), then they are in the camp of evildoers. Such is what Proverbs 17:4 makes explicit.
Much of this error could be avoided if one understood how evil adultery is. It is soul rape as I teach from Scripture (e.g. I Cor 6:15-16). Would we–Christian leaders–entertain justifications from a known rapist or would be protect the victim making it clear nothing justifies taking such sin?
Or how about if a woman came into your office reporting abuse with bruises all over her body and face? Do we suggest her husband might have a justifiable reason to beat her up when it is clear such is happening?
There’s always two sides to a story! Maybe she nagged him, and so, he “had to” punch her throwing her down a flight of stairs.
Don’t you see how wicked such reasoning is?!
Yet for some reason, this reasoning gets a free pass when it comes to adulterous abuse in Christian marriages. Even worse, some even think it is the position of the truly wise instead of the truly wicked.* When adultery has clearly taken place in the marriage (e.g. copious phone records between affair partners with missing birth control, adultery confession(s), stained bed sheets, discovered underwear of OM/OW in marriage bed, etc.), it is time to take Godly steps in protecting the victims of such heinous sin and calling the adulterous spouse to repentance. It’s time to confront.
The last thing to do is to encourage further lies and justifications from the perpetrator. Nothing an adulterous spouse can say can justify committing adultery. Nothing. So, to invite them to explain why they “had to” commit adultery is to invite them to continue in their sin and to give license to wicked lips (Proverbs 17:4). This just causes more hurt to the adultery survivor plus will mean more judgment for the adulterous spouse on that Final Day.
No one wins in doing this.
There’s always two sides to a story. True.
BUT sometimes hearing the other side isn’t wise since it means listening to wicked lips.
*That said, I understand the need to gather facts if adultery or abuse is unclear. That is fair. However, I would encourage a Christian leader not to hold out for extreme proof (e.g. being caught in the act, etc.) as adultery is an act covered by lies and deceit. In other words, don’t be naive and allow a cheating spouse to play you.