The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth.
-Proverbs 12:22, NLT
Recently, I was reading a book about apologies and forgiveness. It is a book by a well-known, evangelical Christian author. But I will neither name the author(s) or the book for the purpose of today’s post. Those details do not matter in regard to my concerns.
The book was generally a solid read. They take a hard stance about what is true forgiveness and what is not. No cheap grace promoted there.
That is until they start talking about a situation where a husband, Ben, cheated on his wife, Lisa, for eight years! This near decade of cheating took place after Lisa caught Ben twice and forgave him at the start of their marriage. The authors uphold this situation as indicative of God working a miracle as the couple’s marriage has made it to its fourteenth year–reportedly, now, affair free according to Lisa.
An “if only” is shared about how the book’s material might have helped earlier in spotting sincere versus insincere repentance; thus, it may have headed off that eight year cheating period. The authors use this story to illustrate how forgiving too quickly is problematic.
This example really troubled me.
It troubled me over the naivete it promotes about serial adultery situations.
The naivete of it all disturbs me.
To be clear: I do not know “Ben” and “Lisa.” Plus, I hope all is well as is reported by them in regards to their marriage six years post-discovery of Ben’s eight year affair. But I have my doubts.
Ben was caught twice in his adulterous relationships by his wife. He was even confronted by the pastor in the second go around. The situation is not a matter of not knowing that adultery is wrong and hurtful to Lisa plus God.
Yet he went underground with the affair for eight years!
Think about that…
That is almost an entire decade of deception, lies, cheating, and cover-ups!
And Lisa–plus her pastor, I assume–did not see any of it. Ben was that good at hiding his extra-marital activity (and I bet some readers here can attest to how Ben is not alone in having such “skills.”)
How in the world do you rebuild trust after something like that? Lisa reports they are now affair free, but that was exactly what she was thinking for the eight years he was cheating on her after the second discovered adulterous affair.
Doing the same thing over and expecting different results is called insanity.
Now, I hope Lisa is right. I hope she found a counselor/pastor with a superpower who could design a way to restore trust after Ben’s demonstrated willingness and ability to deceive on a grand scale.
I am just skeptical.
In the rush to affirm the restoration marriage miracle, I believe the authors failed to voice any healthy skepticism in regard to Lisa and Ben truly being affair free. I have a problem with that as my readership includes people who did or might follow such advice about forgiving serial adultery only to discover the cheating continued, again, only now covered in deeper secrecy.
God does work miracles.
It is possible that Lisa and Ben are experiencing such a miracle in their restored marriage. Even the darkest of sins can be forgiven.
However, I am concerned when I hear statements that fail to acknowledge the problem as a deep character issue in the cheater. The normal course of action is a repeat unless something seriously changes in the cheating spouse.
Do not forget that Lisa confronted Ben with a pastor before forgiving him the second time just prior to the eight years of affairs!
The book does take strides not to promote a quick forgiveness approach. However, it stumbles a little, in my opinion, when the “intact marriage” miracle bobble is placed in front of authors.
It is a risky business reinvesting in a marriage after years of infidelity. A faithful spouse is allowed to make such a choice freely without shame.
But responsible pastors and Christian leaders will acknowledge such a choice is betting against the odds.