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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Should I Stay or Should I Go? {HBC Women’s Ministry: Small Group Discussion: September 2015} by Julia Rogers

I already had September's small group discussion written when the second and third allegations against Josh Duggar came out.   I immediately felt the leading of the Holy Spirit to address the topic of unfaithfulness within marriage instead of what I already had written.  

I write this blog, not to bash Josh Duggar, or any man/woman who has been unfaithful to their spouse.  God is their Judge, just as He is mine.  I write this post to address the spouse, be it a man or a woman, who has found their spouse to be unfaithful.  And if you are reading this and you have never been in this situation, chances are that you know someone who has.  It is very important that we offer Biblically sound advice and wisdom to friends and family who find themselves in these horrible situations. 

I also realize that there may be some who are reading this that have been the one who was unfaithful.  I feel like this post is beneficial for you as well.  Also, if you live in or close to Nederland, my husband and myself are available for counsel if it is needed.  


In the midst of confusion, betrayal, hurt and anger, the spouse is left with this question:

Should I stay or should I go?

I think it is important to point out that the Christian spouse who has been betrayed will have some of the same emotions of the spouse who is not a Christian.  However, the Christian spouse should ask this question:

Does God want me to stay or go?

In order to answer this question, we have to look closely at scripture and look at the context in which these verses were written in light of the Bible as a whole.

First of all, God hates divorce. (Malachi 2:16)...

....but He did make it permissible. (Matthew 19:8) (We will see later that it should be the last resort)


In the Bible, we see that there are only two things that can separate husband and wife:

1. death
Romans 7:2 (ESV)

For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.

I think that this one is self-explanatory.  If your spouse dies, you are bibically free to remarry.

2. sin (sexual immorality and abandonment)

Sin can separate husband and wife in several different ways.  Some of which we will discuss, but before we do, I think it is extremely important to step away from our legalistic mind sets.  We cannot afford to look at divorce as black and white or offer blanket statements about divorce to a person in need of advice.  All the facts should always be taken into consideration and we should allow the Holy Spirit room to work despite our knee-jerk reactions and emotions.  That goes for whether we are the spouse who has been cheated on or we are counseling someone going through it.

Biblically speaking, sexual immorality (Matthew 5:32) and abandonment (1 Corinthians 7:15) are both sins that give grounds for divorce.  We will look at sexual immorality first:

a. sexual immorality

This is where it starts to get tricky because unfortunately, the term "sexual immorality" can be subjective (based on personal feelings/opinions) to depraved sinners.  But I think that God's Word makes it pretty clear as to the definition of sexual immorality:

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 (ESV)

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust....

God defines sexual immorality as unholy, dishonorable and a passion of lust.  Sexual immorality occurs when a spouse is unfaithful to the person that he/she has vowed himself to through the bonds of marriage before God Almighty.

The most obvious form of sexual immorality between a married couple is adultery.

1a. adultery
Adultery, within marriage, is when a man/woman has intercourse with someone other than their spouse. It is absolutely devastating and not only occurs at alarming rates, but it is also seemingly encouraged in today's society through media and online sites such as Ashley Madison whose slogan is, "Life is short. Have an affair."

This absolutely hurts my heart.  God designed marriage to be the closest relationship that we can have outside of our relationship with Christ.  Marriage is God's showcase of covenant-keeping grace between Christ and His church. Yet, we defile it in the worst ways.  Yes, even Christians are guilty.

Adultery exist because humans have decided that their way is better than God's way.  They have decided that fulfilling their desires is more important than obeying and glorifying the Creator of the universe. As Christians, we must learn what the Bible says about adultery in order to see it the way God sees it. 

Hebrews 13:4 (ESV)

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

2a. pornography

Another form of sexual immorality is pornography.  This one is huge in our culture today. I like the way John Piper addresses it:

"Porn is destructive to a man’s capacities to love a woman purely for herself. He is training his body to need increasingly different, strange, erotic situations and bodies, and he is making it harder to be content with the real body of the woman that is going to be offered to him as his wife. And her body, as it is, at its best, is not going to be the airbrushed body of pornographic sites. And when she is 50 it isn’t going to be that either. And if he hasn’t cultivated a kind of pure love for his wife, for herself, as she is, then his eyes are going to be cruising continually beyond what she has to offer him at age 40 and 50 and 60. A woman needs to be able to trust a man. A woman feels profoundly compromised when a man says to her, “No, I really need more than you can offer me.” That is tragic for a man to say that to a woman. So porn is destructive to his capacity to love her for who she is.......[And] porn is destructive to a man’s soul. His capacity to see God in the purity and the greatness of his glory is shriveled. It is compromised. The soul shrinks to the size and the quality of its pleasures."

^^^^^that goes for women as well^^^^^

What do you do when you find out that your spouse has been unfaithful to you through adultery or pornography?

Personally, I do not believe that either of these forms of sexual immorality are black and white issues.   Scripture does say that adultery is grounds for divorce (Matthew 5:32)  but it's not entirely clear on pornography. Many biblical scholars have concluded that the Scriptures DO support divorce in a situation when a spouse is in unrepentant sexual sin, including pornography. However, others say this conclusion is not at all clear. Regardless, I would still encourage you to make sure this is how God is leading you, and also to remember that He really does hate divorce. You must also consider that God is full of mercy and is able to make all things new. God will not give up on your spouse. He is preparing the way for his (or her) repentance. The truth is, you will please Him much more if you hang onto the hope He promises in His Word. You will please Him much more by remaining steadfast in prayer and being a vessel of mercy in your spouse’s life.  Of course, your spouse has to be willing (more on that later).

1 Peter 3:1 (ESV)

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives..."

If your spouse confesses and asks for forgiveness and you offer him grace, there are things that you can do to be proactive in helping your spouse to flee from further temptation. 

What can I do to safeguard my marriage against adultery/pornography?

1.One very important thing that you and your spouse can do to safeguard your marriage against adultery is to be guarded in your relationships with members of the opposite sex.  Before your spouse was married, he/she may have had lots of friends of the opposite sex.  But once you've said "I do," their relationship with you should have taken priority over every other relationship, and it must be protected against any threat.  So if your spouse is close friends with someone of the opposite sex, he/she needs to honestly look at that relationship to determine if he/she has fallen into an emotional affair or if there is even the possibility.  This is a very dangerous place to be because emotional affairs usually lead to physical affairs. If your spouse (or you for that matter) are in an emotional or physical affair, all ties to that person need to be cut off if at all possible.  Get rid of the temptation.  Personally, my husband and I choose not to make close friends with the opposite sex.  I know that not everyone will agree with that but that is our own personal conviction.  

2.Further ways to safeguard your marriage against adultery and pornography include choosing not to listen to music or watch shows that glorify fornication and adultery.  I would even take this a step further by installing Covenant Eyes for internet accountability.  

3.One other thing that my husband and I have made a practice of doing when we are in public (or watching TV in private) is turning our head or directing our eyes elsewhere when we see someone who is scantily clad.  We do this out of respect for each other and for God.  We do this to protect our own eyes from lust.  

4. Maintaining a good sexual relationship with your spouse is so very important.  

1 Corinthians 7:3-5 (ESV)

"The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.  For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."

Sex is the one need that no one else on the planet other than yourself should be meeting for your spouse.  And vice-versa.  Take care of things at home and your spouse will be less likely to search for someone else to fulfill this need.  

5. Date your spouse.  Remember when you and your spouse were first dating?  Remember the curiosity and inquisitiveness?  Work to keep that alive!  Schedule regular date nights even if it is just in your living room after you put the kids to bed.  Get creative.  Talk to each other.  Ask questions.  Become a life-long learner of your spouse.  

6. Last, but certainly not least, pray for your spouse! And pray together if he/she is willing!

I recently watched War Room, a movie about the power of prayer.  I won't spoil it for you if you haven't seen it, but in the movie a marriage was saved and completely turned around because a woman devoted herself to praying for her husband.  It served as a great reminder of the power of prayer.  

With all that being said, if you have found your spouse to have been unfaithful to you and he/she is unrepentant and you have done everything you can to show him/her grace and forgiveness to no avail, this is a form of abandonment by your spouse.  He/she has broken vows with you and with God and you are biblically free to divorce and even remarry.  (see notes on “remarriage” at the end)


As stated above, biblical grounds for divorce also includes abandonment by the spouse.  

b. abandonment by the unbelieving spouse

1 Corinthians 7:15 (ESV) 
But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.
Whether it be physical or emotional abandonment, it's not always black and white.

1b. Physical Abandonment is when one spouse just up and leaves or deserts his/her spouse.

2b. Emotional Abandonment is when a man/woman shuts their spouse out and no longer offers any emotional support.   Imagine an invisible wall between two people that makes it impossible to maintain a close, intimate relationship.  There are many different causes of emotional abandonment.  For some, it is done consciously, with an intention to drive the other party away.

In severe cases of emotional abandonment, or especially physical abandonment, divorce is a biblical option.  However, it should not be entered into lightly or suddenly.  This is another time when counsel is valuable.  Because you are in a vulnerable position and hurting emotionally, it is best to seek godly counsel about your situation.  Unless you or your children are being physically or emotionally abused, do not take action quickly.  Instead, pray about it over a period of time and get God's direction for your individual situation.  We must focus on God in difficult times and not on our circumstances.  Turn your emotions to the Lord and let Him strengthen and heal your heart as you trust Him for wisdom to do the right thing.  

In conclusion, although sexual immorality and abandonment are grounds for divorce, divorce is not required and in many cases should not be encouraged.  If the adulterous spouse has confessed and asked forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration should be the first steps and divorce should be viewed as a last resort.

Why should we offer our spouse grace?

Because that is what Christ offers us. Over and over and over again. 

Unfortunately, both parties are not always willing to let God transform their marriage...grace is not always received...the guilty party often returns to his/her sinful ways...The sin becomes habitual and destructive to everyone involved.

In these situations, if you are walking closely with God, you will be able to recognize when God is speaking to you and what He is telling you to do.

I would be amiss without stating that we should never say that divorce is a "preferable" option.  Not only is that statement faulty, but it also sets a dangerous precedent within the church that there are certain loopholes and when you become dissatisfied within your marriage you may seek those loopholes to escape the promise you have made to your spouse and to God.

Where sin abounds, grace abounds even more so.  

I am convinced that no marriage is beyond God's ability to restore.  These restored marriages are living testimonies of the power of the Cross.


Notes on remarriage:

1)   You can remarry if your spouse was sexually unfaithful.  Your spouse cannot biblically remarry.  If he/she does, they are committing adultery.
2)   You can remarry if an unbelieving spouse divorces you (abandons you), but you can only remarry a Christian.  Your spouse cannot biblically remarry.  If he/she does, they are committing adultery.

3)   You can remarry if your spouse dies. 

Obviously, a lot of questions can arise from this discussion.  One of which is:                                 
What about the person who had an unbiblical divorce before they were born again and even after?
For that I would say:
 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Romans 3:23
God is greater than any sin and is able to forgive us.  The best we can do is offer up true repentance to God and anyone we hurt in the process.   God knows our heart. He is able to restore our broken past.  Will you let him? Will you honor him in your new life or new marriage?

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