“You are my friends if you do what I command.” -Jesus speaking in John 15:14, NIV
Friendship is a selective relationship. It is a relationship built on trust and mutual admiration. Not everyone I know is my friend. They need to pass the cut.
As we read from this quoted Scripture, Jesus did not call everyone friend. He let them know what would make them His friends or not. Jesus looked for actions and obedience. In other words, He did not just give people a free pass into the status of friendship without actually living like it.
This Biblical lesson is extremely applicable to dealing with adulterous spouses and the Christian community following a divorce. I am horrified by the seeming assumption that divorced partners ought to be friends after a divorce regardless of the circumstances. This seems to be held up as a Christian ideal.
I do not see it as truly Christian.
And they matter when it comes to friendship. Jesus clearly thought so as well (e.g. John 15:14).
We cannot be friends with everyone even if we do seek to be at peace with them (Hebrews 12:14). Sometimes we need to remove ourselves from their toxic presence. We are called to live in the light (John 3:21). Sometimes that means we cannot continue a relationship with someone determined to stay in the darkness of lies and hate.
Another part of this assumption concerning friendship following divorce that bothers me is how it minimizes the trauma of adultery. We do not expect rape victims to befriend their rapists as a litmus test to see if they are “good” Christians. Yet adultery is soul rape, and we seem to hold this expectation for the victims of this heinous sin. It is ridiculous.
Yes, we are called to forgive those who sin against us (Ephesians 4:32). This is true even of a rape victim. However, forgiveness does not mean the relationship is restored. And forgiving a deep wound will take time just as a natural deep wound takes time to heal.
To restore a relationship it takes two. True repentance as demonstrated by word and deed from the adulterous spouse is required. The burden is on them to rebuild the trust that they destroyed. And sometimes it is wiser to keep our distance from someone who chooses to continue the emotional and spiritual war with violent lies and hateful speech against us.
So, what do I say to the adulterous spouse pushing for friendship:
We can still be friends, right?
Wrong. “Still” implies we are currently friends, and your adulterous betrayal of me says we are not. How can I be friends with someone who has raped my soul and done nothing to heal the trauma she caused? I need more than words. My friends love me in action as well. Jesus expected his friends to love him in deed, and so do I.