And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
-Leviticus 20:10, KJV
The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.
– Ezekial 18:20, NIV
The Bible is crystal clear that we are not responsible for another person’s sin. In the Old Testament, the Jewish people were not instructed to kill both the adulterous and the faithful spouse. Only the adulterous partner faced this serious act of justice.
My point in highlighting this is not to say that we ought to reinstate the death penalty for adulterous spouses. It is to help us see that when adultery takes place God’s stance is never to blame the faithful spouse.
Not ever. Not even partially.
The Bible is clear:
We do not “stone” the faithful partners. That would be unjust.
Since this is the case,
Why, then, is “The Shared Responsibility Lie” so pervasively believed and promulgated among Christians?
By “The Shared Responsibility Lie,” I mean the belief that a faithful spouse is responsible–even partially–for the sinful infidelity of the other. It is labelled a lie because–as I explained above pointing to Scripture–God does not hold us even partially responsible for the sins of another person–spouses included.
Here’s a few theories for why I believe this lie persists:
1) It is built upon a twisted truth.
The most powerful lies are the ones Satan seeds with a little truth. In this case, the lie about shared responsibility trades on the truth that relationships take two people. Where things get demonically twisted is extending this truth to mean both parties must always contribute to a given sin in the marriage. That is false.
We are responsible for our own choices and actions–whether married or not.
It only takes one spouse to decide to commit adultery. And it only takes one spouse to decide to flippantly discard his or her marriage vows abandoning his or her family. The choices and actions are fully upon the soul of the one choosing such sin.
The marriage–i.e. the relationship–is not what answers to God on Judgment Day (see 2 Cor. 5:10). It is the individuals who have to give an accounting for their actions. Blaming their spouse or Satan won’t cut it on that Day.
2) It fosters an illusion of control and safety from vulnerability.
If you are partially responsible, then that means you have or had some control over protecting your marriage from its violation or implosion. This is a false assurance.
Each of us are vulnerable to the sin of our spouses. We can no more control their actions than we can control the inner-workings of their minds.
This fact is scary and another reason for Christians to promote this lie as security–even false security–is far more comfortable than dealing with the harsh realities of living in this actual world broken by sin.
3) It strokes people’s pride.
“See how smart I am?! I can see both sides of this issue, and like the marriage experts say, it takes two to tango.”
Personally, I can see this line of thinking being especially tempting for pastors who feel intellectually insecure. They seek the validation of playing psychologist in this area selling their Biblical birthright–of godly wisdom–for a porridge of putrid soup. It is all about ego when that happens.
Others might buy into the lie because it is a way to look morally superior to the faithful spouse. They, too, suffer from petty insecurities where they need to put people down in order to make themselves feel better.
Plus, these fleshly Christians fail to see the truth that the faithful spouse may very well be morally superior to them as soul rape can happen to anyone–including the righteous (just ask the Prophet Hosea).
So many dynamics are at play keeping this lie going in the Christian community. These are just three theories off the top of my head for why.
Finally, I would add that Satan has a vested interest in seeing the lie continue; so, I am certain he is stoking the fires as well as this lie causes untold pain and suffering to its victims plus the community.
And never forget:
We are in a spiritual war!
Satan certainly isn’t forgetting (I Peter 5:8).