“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
-Matthew 10:42, NIV
What DO I say to an adultery victim as a pastor?
Yesterday’s post raised this question. Dr. Skinner suggested a pastor ought just to offer support and presence for the victim.
As an adultery victim and pastor myself, I believe adultery victims need more than that from their spiritual leaders and Christian friends.
I think offering support and nonjudgmental presence is a good start. However, a victim of soul rape is in a weakened state of major rejection. They need the moral strength a pastor ought to offer.
Here are some pointers:
1. Abusive adultery needs to be condemned explicitly!
A pastor unable or unwilling to condemn adultery and its accompanying abuse ought to seek employment elsewhere. This is no time to equivocate. Name adultery as evil (Deuteronomy 22:22).
It is a big deal!
And it is completely and totally wrong. The soul rape victim needs to hear this sin committed against them labelled as such.
Our society might shrug off adultery; the pastor needs to give voice to a biblical and godly perspective that absolutely condemns the sin of adultery.
2. Remind the soul rape victim did not deserve to be treated in this way.
No deserves to have their soul violated like this. No one. It does not matter how well or poorly the spouse performed as a wife or husband. No one deserves to be cheated on!
The victim’s mind will naturally drift back to lies about how they may have deserved this treatment. In fact, the cheater and others will likely feed these lies to him or her (see “The Shared Responsibility Lie“).
As pastors, we need to speak truth and life into the victims’ lives. We need to remind them that when people sin against us, we did not cause our own victimization. God will hold the perpetrator accountable for his or her own actions, not us (see 2 Corinthians 5:10).
3. Remind the soul rape victim of his or her agency in this situation. They are MORE THAN a victim.
They control precious little in this situation. However, they need to be reminded that they DO have options. The Bible allows them to divorce a cheater without shame (see Mt 1:19, 5:32, 19:9).
The faithful spouse needs to be reminded that this is THEIR choice whether to seek a divorce or not. However, they also need to be reminded that healing the marriage is only possible if the cheater repents and forsakes the path of sin. (And a cheater could unilaterally divorce them at anytime.)
They need to be asked:
Is this marriage situation acceptable to you?
The faithful spouse might want to work things through in their marriage. That is their choice.
However, I believe a loving and godly pastor ought to take the side opposed to sin and abuse in the relationship.
If the faithful spouse stays, the cheater needs to stop committing adultery and lying as that is abusive. I would encourage gentle pushes of the faithful spouse to leave the marriage if the cheater remains unrepentant.
4. A soul rape victim needs to be encouraged to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
In the exuberance of their flagrant sin, cheaters may not have worn protection while having illicit sex. This means faithful spouses are at risk of getting life-threatening diseases from the sexual activity of their partners.
This is not a pleasant reminder to make; however, a responsible and caring pastor will gently make this exhortation for the well-being of the adultery victim.
5. Jesus does not condemn a faithful spouse if they choose divorce from their adulterous abuser (see Mt 19:9).
This needs to be reinforced because the opposite message is very common in the Church. Jesus does not give us permission to sin; so, the faithful spouse choosing divorce cannot be sinning.
If the cheater is discarding the faithful spouse through divorce, please let them know that they need not bare any shame for this. God does not condemn them for this divorce, and truly godly people will not either.
*A version of this post ran previously.
Republished with permission from www.divorceminister.com.