Infidelity is at an all-time high in our society. As shocking as it may be to many of us, even Christian men and women have adulterous affairs.
So what does a woman do when she uncovers adultery? The first inclination is usually to confront him, and then leave him and divorce him. Some women beg him to end the affair and return to fidelity, usually for the sake of the children.
Does the Bible allow for divorce due to adultery? In our counseling ministries we are confronted with this problem more than we would like to be.
As a woman, and as a woman who has been the "victim" of adultery and abandonment by my first husband who professed to be a Christian I can speak with some personal authority into this situation. As a biblical counselor I can speak to the theology of the matter, and as a Christian who believes the Bible is our authority on every matter pertaining to life and godliness I must speak to it from the pages of Scripture.
First let me say that I know the hurt and betrayal a woman experiences when she learns her husband is an adulterer. So many thoughts run through your head about all that you have tolerated in the marriage, you wonder how you could have been so stupid and/or blind, you begin to question what you did or didn't do that would "make" him turn to someone else.
This is followed by thoughts about the woman. There is an obsessive desire to know who she is, where he met her, how long this has been going on, and these thoughts are quickly followed by the ones originating in anger and a desire to take revenge.
I get all that, honestly! I was there once and I experienced it all. What I can tell you is that despite all your questions and your insatiable desire to know these things the answers will not bring you comfort. No matter how many times he may tell you, "It is not you honey, it is me" you will still wonder. After all, he has been lying to you for some time already!
My counsel to any woman in this situation is this: learn what God says about it.
God's Word says:
But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. (my note here: Jewish women were not allowed to get a divorce, they could run away or leave. Men were the ones who were granted the divorces in Jewish custom. Both men and women were allowed to divorce in Paul's time period)
But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. 1 Corinthians 7:10-15 (NASB)
They said, “Moses permitted a man TO WRITE A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. “But from the beginning of creation, God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE. “FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER,AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” In the house the disciples began questioning Him about this again. And He said* to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.”Mark 10:4-12 (NASB)
The Bible tells us that if we are married, we should not seek a divorce, plain and simple right? No, not so plain and not so simple. There are no concrete conclusions among the most noted and reliable theologians of our day, two of my favorites disagree on divorce and remarriage.
Rather than get entangled in various theological opinions, I want to help you to see this tragic situation from God's perspective. Understand primarily that God is not surprised by your husband's actions. He knew before eternity began that these events would take place. He knew your hurt and sorrow and you must believe He is in the midst of your suffering with you.
If you wish to divorce him you must ask yourself what doing so will accomplish spiritually. Will divorcing him glorify God? Will he see Christ in you? Will you grow and change into the image and likeness of Christ through divorcing him?
If we take these questions one at a time perhaps we can glean some wisdom.
Will divorcing him glorify God? Scripture says God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16). A divorce is a breaking of a covenant that two people make before God and witnesses that they will become one flesh (Gen 2:24).
When he committed adultery he broke the fidelity part of your covenant. This does not glorify God.
Does his breaking his part of the covenant necessitate you break yours? No, you can choose to remain faithful to your covenant.
What glorifies God is forgiveness, mercy, and grace extended to those who least deserve it. Your husband sinned against God, you, and the woman he was involved with. He does not deserve your forgiveness, grace, or mercy. However, you must ask yourself if you deserve forgiveness, grace and mercy from a holy God! The answer to that question is no, you do not.
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. Colossians 3:12-13 (NKJV)
God's Word leaves us no option. When we are wronged we must forgive. Does this mean you trust him again? No, not right away! He may not even be willing to stop the adultery or cut off the relationship. He has to earn trust but grace and mercy are given to him freely because of Christ.
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Matthew 18:21-22 (NASB)
Your husband is your closest brother on earth...
I have said before that I do not believe we are to verbally grant forgiveness to someone who has not asked us for it. In reality, the verbal granting of forgiveness is the last step of the process. Forgiveness begins in the heart and that is where that important transaction takes place between you and God. Forgiving won't be easy, especially if he is a repeat offender, but it is possible because of Christ and the supernatual power of the Holy Spirit. Desiring to forgive him because it glorifies God is the first step. Understanding that forgiveness brings God glory and honor is much more important than how you or I feel about something. What a blessing to be able to look your husband in the eye if and when he asks for your forgiveness and say, "Honey, I already have forgiven you."
What a wonderful representation of the Lord Jesus Christ you will be should you choose to be forgiving and honor God!