Question:

Hi,

I'm glad I found this site. I am hoping I can get some unbiased answers to some questions I have concerning situations in my life and the church.

I did not attend church growing up. After college I met a member of the church of Christ. I dated her and eventually married her. I thought that she had great morals like I did, or I would have never had married her. During the first year of marriage I caught her receiving naked pictures while chatting online. I forgave her. During the second year of our marriage she confessed to having an affair. I kicked her out of the house. She begged and pleaded for months, seeming to be sincere. I agreed to take her back in and work on our marriage.

The next few years were extremely hard for me. She seemed to care, but she was not much help. After getting back together, we fought, and I said cruel things. She betrayed me and hurt me more than anyone ever has. She started telling her family about our fights, and soon she turned her family against me. At this point, I couldn't believe that she was getting sympathy. Her father and brother turned threatening, and I proceeded to call her father out on his sins. He had cheated on my wife's mother. Obviously, he did not like that, as the family likes to say, he is not the same man he was. I have come to find out that the whole family has basically cheated on each other. That behavior shouldn't be blamed on the church, but they don't seem to be too harsh about it.

By surprise I ended up being a father with my wife to a little girl. Things went well for a couple years. Her family was not nice, but I didn't care. Slowly my wife's attitude began to change. Then she stopped birth control on her own. She ended up pregnant by me in a deceitful way. I did not like what she did, but I accepted it. As the pregnancy went on her attitude changed drastically. She didn't care about how I was still struggling with her infidelity. She didn't care about how she went about getting pregnant. She also did not care about the damage she had continued to do over the years siding with her parents on every issue with me.

She has never admitted it, but I believe she thought I would never leave her if we had two kids, and she could treat me any way she wanted. I wrestled with my feelings for well over a year. I finally came to the realization that if I can't get over the betrayal after five years, I will likely never be able. I had repeatedly tried to discuss my feelings with my wife to no avail. She even turned down counseling.

As a side note: Throughout the marriage she withheld sex unless she wanted to get pregnant. It was on the frequency of once a month. Obviously, I did not like her making that decision for both of us since I could go nowhere else for my needs.

Sorry to be so long winded, but I needed to set up the questions with a back story. I quit going to church with her after the affair. It was embarrassing and I received no support from there. Obviously, at this point I still have not been baptized. I am worried that my wife, now that I am seeking a divorce, will say she is scriptural since I am not a member of her church. Everyone assumes I forgave her. When I took her back I told her I will try, but I may not ever be able to forgive her. She hasn't cared whether I forgave her for years. She assumes that there is some kind of limit of time to get over it. Her affair doesn't count anymore. She tells me she is good with God and that is all that matters.

Are the rules different when a Christian marries an agnostic? I have seen her family bend the words of the Bible to what they like for years. Is she correct in assuming that she has been forgiven due to time? Due to that belief I forgave her, is she allowed to remarry? Her unfaithful father changed churches to one that knew less about his past because he desperately wanted to be an elder. He finally became one after moving. If my wife remarries, will he have to give up his position in the church? What possible loopholes could they possibly use in these situations? Other family members have gone as far as saying their husband was gay to get out of marriage. Any insight you can give me will be greatly appreciated since I don't trust the sources near me.


Answer:

From my point of view, just because a church has "Church of Christ" above its doors, it doesn't make it a faithful congregation.

You raise several issues. First, there is only one religious law in effect today (Ephesians 4:4-6). Sin is the breaking of law (I John 3:4). The reason non-Christians are in sin is because they are not obeying God. Everyone, Christian and non-Christian will be judged by the same standard. "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him -- the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day" (John 12:48).

At the core of the issues is the concept of forgiveness. "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15). Forgiveness is really not an option, it is a requirement. The fact that you haven't forgiven your wife is a sad commentary on yourself. This doesn't mean that the sins which had been going on are acceptable -- far from it. But the point of being a Christian is overcoming sin.

Along with this, you've been sending mixed messages. You said you have not forgiven your wife, but I gather the topic really wasn't brought up much until recently. It isn't reasonable to expect anyone, including your wife, to read your mind. "For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?" (I Corinthians 2:11). The only thing people have to go on are your actions. "You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:16-20). Think about this from an outsider's point of view:

  • You took your wife back in,
  • You've had quarrels but nothing that lasted really long, and
  • You've had two children with her since that time.

That you didn't intend to have a second child is not something anyone else can see. All that people can see is evidence that you've accepted her back and that clearly her earlier affair wasn't bothering you that much since you were having sex with her. Your actions were signalling forgiveness. It isn't about time; it is about what you did.

From what I gather, your wife did not repeat her mistakes. She isn't seeing other men and hasn't for years. Though you haven't forgiven her, I would hope that she went to the Father for forgiveness. The parable of the 10,000 talents applies well here (Matthew 18:23-35). Your forgiveness does not control whether she received forgiveness of her sins from God. That there are other sins going on is true, and they need to be worked on, but it is her earlier adultery that is being considered.

"And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery" (Matthew 19:9).

A person may divorce his spouse because of her sexual sin, but the implication is it is an ongoing problem that has not been resolved. If you had decided that you could not accept what your wife did and had divorced her instead of taking her back in, then both your words and actions would have been consistent. As the innocent party you would have had the right to remarry, but she would not have that right.

As it stands, you and your wife are not getting along. You want to leave her and have filed for divorce. Such is not the best course of action, but if that divorce goes through the rule is "Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife" (I Corinthians 7:10-11). Neither of you would be eligible to marry again. Both of you would have to remain unmarried until the time you resolve your differences or one of you pass on. If either of you remarry, it is considered adultery.

You may have it in mind that this divorce is about the affair and that the current arguments have nothing to do with the decision. I can't read your mind, as I said before. I have to go by the things you do. The motive for your divorce is something you will have to take up with God in the Judgment, and He can see the truth. "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God" (I Corinthians 4:5).

But in answer to your question, your wife has no right in any case to another marriage. Some people misread I Corinthians 7:12-15 to say that if a non-Christian leaves a Christian that the marriage ends and the Christian is free to remarry. However, there is no mention of remarrying in this passage. All it says is that the Christian is not obligated to give up her Christian beliefs just to try an appease her husband and keep her marriage together. She would still have to remain unmarried if the reason the non-Christian left wasn't because he was having an affair.

People will do all sorts of things to twist God's word to suit themselves (II Peter 3:14-16). I can't predict what particular individuals or a church might do. I can only state what God said is supposed to be done.