Friday, July 17, 2015
Part 3: Must Infidelity be Confessed to a Spouse? A Rebuttal to Questionable Counsel from Russell Moore
Part 1, here
Part 2, here
Part 4, here
Part 3: Third Section of Moore’s Advice
Having said that, I want to say to you be prepared for the consequences of your sin. And I think that you need to make it very clear when you confess this to your wife that she is more important to you than the risk that may come along with your confessing this to her. And so you need to own your sin. You need to communicate this to her as a sin, and do not give any indication that you blame her at all.
And I would also say don’t take her first reaction to be necessarily her last reaction. She is going to feel betrayed. She is going to feel outraged…and let her express the grief and the anger that comes out of this. You have been carrying this sin with you now for several years. It could feel to you almost as a relief to get it out in the open in front of her. But this is the first time she is hearing about this, and so, you can’t expect her to forgive you immediately, reconcile with you immediately, move on. She has to grieve this, and she has to express the sort of anger that she has. Let her do that, and then wait patiently for her to forgive you. Don’t expect that she owes you some sort of immediate reconciliation. You are going to have to spend in many ways the rest of your life in your marriage rebuilding the trust that is there, even when she does forgive you.
This final portion of Russell Moore’s prescription for whether or not to disclose marital infidelity, contains some concerning idealizations regarding the process as well as a wrongly assigned consequence. He states that when one discloses their adultery to their spouse that person needs to, “be prepared for the consequences of your sin”. Actually, what follows is not a consequence of the sin but the consequence of having divulged the matter. If the wife, in this case, never learned of the offense there would be no such consequence.
The actual consequence of the sin is the sin itself and any of its direct products (which may include divine initiatives of discipline toward the offender). Admitting infidelity to one’s spouse is an indirect consequence, at best, and one that is not a default repercussion. It is up to the offending party whether or not to involve their spouse which then, they must be accepting of its consequences.
Dr. Moore directs that the offending party needs to “own” their sin. I agree. However, by pulling an uninvolved spouse into the matter we need to be clear, we are now requiring her share the wound which up until now, she was not sharing in the injury. In other words, what Dr. Moore is actually directing the guilty party to do is to pass the injury around and extend its damages to his spouse, not owing and bearing it himself.
Assumptions about forgiveness
Here, Russell Moore suggests, regarding the reaction of the now injured spouse, that it will take time and that the offending husband should not take her first reaction, “to be necessarily her last reaction”. He then goes on to describe what he anticipates to be a processing cycle with the wife eventually forgiving him but warns that, “You are going to have to spend in many ways the rest of your life in your marriage rebuilding the trust that is there, even when she does forgive you.”
The rest of your life?
My initial reaction is one of astonishment that Moore believes every spouse can handle such knowledge and more so, that it will always eventually result in forgiveness (though not stating this directly his weakly qualified counsel assumes this outcome). But even then, the kind of forgiveness Russell Moore seems to be relating to us is one that is conditional, where the rest of a marriage is spent rebuilding a trust. Frankly, if it takes the rest of a marriage to rebuild a trust then the marriage is destroyed, in effect. Moreover, I would never teach any spouse that they have the liberty to force their offending spouse to spend the rest of their marriage enslaved to a point of failure in the marriage.
But to the earlier comment Dr. Moore makes, that her first reaction may not necessarily her last. Right, it might not be but what if it is? The marriage is destroyed and when not disclosing this information and possibly bearing the burden of the offense within one’s self, alone, and receiving the forgiveness of God, may have been the solution that kept the marriage together instead of destroying it. This leads me to my own observations which I will share in Part 4.