Question:

I have a complicated question. My husband is a preacher. I cannot possibly tell you our life stories, but suffice it to say that we did not have normal upbringings and both became Christians when we were young adults.

The first several years of our marriage were filled with much anger, resentment, abuse and depression. The abuse continued for a long time, though I can honestly say that he is a sincere Christian struggling with what seems to be an addiction that rears its ugly head every few months, maybe more at times.

I understand you'll have to take my word for it. Though I spent years seething with bitterness, I never revealed our issues because I felt for whatever reason it was sinful or selfish or unsubmissive on my part. However, finally, the last time it happened, he finally sorrowfully inquired why I had never called the police. Something about his question opened my eyes and since then we've buckled down and read books on battering, employed a recovery medallion system, and he has two accountability partners in the church. I have put much effort into helping him overcome, but it doesn't compare to how much effort he himself has put in since resolving to extinguish this ugliness from our lives.

My problem is this: despite it all, I still struggle with a longing for some sort of justice. Though I don't desire for him to be arrested or fired, I long for honesty and transparency with our congregation. Of course, now that I feel right in demanding that if he were to relapse, he seems to be getting better. So of course, he "gets away with it." And not only that, but he continues to get praise for his sermons, even ones that touch very close to the topic of abuse yet without revealing the extent of his own sins in that area.

I fully expect you to gently remind me of forgiveness. And I know that I am just as sinful as he, that we are so similar, and so in need of mercy. I guess I'm still hoping there's some justification for the way that I feel. I want our marriage to get better, and it is, but I'm very torn. He has confessed to one elder, with no repercussions (because he always confesses after the fact, under the shield of repentance, even if it is real and different this time).

Only one of the three people who know have ever talked to me about how I'm doing, and it wasn't the elder. Is it wrong to want a public confession? Am I being selfish? How might such a confession affect the church?


Answer:

It sounds to me that you are longing for some attention, even if it has to be the negative attention of sympathy for what you have been dealing with. In this longing for sympathy, you are losing sight of the goal, which is for you and your husband to reach heaven. Your husband is not getting away with sin, he is battling sin. Getting away with sin is not actually possible since we all eventually face God in judgment (See Psalms 73). But to claim that someone is getting away with sin in this life, is to claim that they are continuing the sin, this is not true with your husband.

Another way to look at this is to ask how airing your husband's dirty laundry is going to improve the situation and encourage his continued change. When there is a problem between two Christians steps were given to solve the issue. "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector" (Matthew 18:15-17). Notice that the aim is to solve the issue, not to punish the wrong doer. In solving the issue, at each step the minimum number of people are involved. Sins that are being dealt with not broadcast, but covered. "Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20). Sympathy is offered to the former sinner to save him from the embarrassment of his past sins.

In regards to lessons, I often find that helps me to discuss topics that I have struggles with. Being able to explain to others why something is wrong means I am also convincing myself the reasons it is wrong. There is no reason to assume that your husband is pretending to be something he is not -- not when he is actively working on his problems and making progress.