A friend of mine has in the past served as an elder and evangelist. He recently stepped down as an elder, but continues to work as an evangelist with a congregation not too far from where I live. The circumstances under which he resigned as an elder, yet continues to serve as an evangelist are quite simple: He found out his wife of approximately thirty years was having an affair.
As it turns out, not only was his wife having an affair, but the man with whom she was having the affair was also a member of the church where my friend works. When the affair was discovered my friend’s wife not only failed to deny it, she continued in it, and does so to this day (it’s been a little over two years now). This led to the dissolution of the marriage of the man with whom she was having the affair, and to both of them being “disfellowshipped” (read out or excommunicated) from the church.
As it stands so far the story is disturbing but all too common. I fear the situation has been made worse, however, due to the fact that my friend refuses to file for divorce. His wife has moved out, openly flaunts the fact that she is engaged in sexual relationships with other men, and puts a public shame to the work my friend has tried to accomplish. She makes no pretense of remorse or repentance, and gives every indication of enjoying her lifestyle as the town pump. She is, in other words, the adulteress who unashamedly wipes her mouth and says she has done no wrong.
The fact that my friend refuses to divorce her is a source of consternation for many within the congregation where he works. Yet not only will he not file for divorce, he continues to meet with his wife on “dates”, apparently in the hope of winning back her love. I have actually run into them in a restaurant while out with my wife. At first I thought they must have reconciled, but then they made me aware they were just out together.
My friend’s behavior is, quite frankly, pathological. He has ignored the dictate of Paul to the Corinthians “not to eat with such a one.” He is “dating” his own wife while she services any number of other men at will. It is a sick relationship both spiritually and psychologically. Yet none of this is what troubles me most.
What troubles me most is other friends who work as preachers holding this man up as an example of “sacrificial love.” Because he tolerates his wife’s adultery and refuses to be done with her he is held up as a positive role model. It’s enough to make me puke. It seems that I remember a time when a husband’s sacrificial love meant working hard to support his family, enduring physical hardship, pain and danger to meet his wife and children’s needs, standing up for the truth in God’s word and teaching his family to do the same, and providing a model of hard work and discipline to his children. Now some of my Christian brethren seem to think actively enabling your wife to be a common slut rises to the same level.
Christ’s church is His bride. Yet Christ warned several churches that he would “divorce” them as it were in John’s letters to the seven churches in Asia found in the first part of Revelation. The Hebrew writer warns us that every son who is received will be scourged (Heb. 12). We are commanded to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove (expose) them.” How is any of this consistent with actively enabling a spouse who lives a hedonistic lifestyle and divides the church and other families? I fear the only thing my friend is “sacrificing” is the peace of the congregation he is duty bound to protect, and all to pursue a woman who openly humiliates him (and seems to enjoy doing so). This is not “sacrificial love.” This is a failure of leadership, and the fact that other church leaders hold it up as a positive example speaks volumes about the the state of the “stand” Christians are taking on marriage in our country today.