After Affairs

There is little doubt that the church has often failed miserably in dealing with the aftershocks of affairs. I personally know of horrific stories of harsh treatment and judgment, of shunning and ignoring, of lack of compassion and love.

The inability or unwillingness to fully minister to or to empathize with those involved in the consequences of affairs was brought directly home to me several years ago. As a minister with a “scriptural divorce” on my resume, I was the sole recommendation of a search committee to a group of elders for a staff position at a church. When I received the call from the chairman of that eldership it was not to invite me to join them in their pursuit of kingdom work. Rather, it was to tell me that in their judgment- I, as a divorced man- was bascially disqualified from consideration.

Part of the problem in the response of the church has to be tied to the nature of the affair itself. Affairs usually create an atmosphere of accusations, confusion and shame. Anger and embarrassment can lead some churches to turn away from those involved. Self-righteous posturing and a need to protect the flock from a “worldy influence” motivate others. At best the church seems conflicted- not really knowing what to say or do.

How about starting with compassion- for all involved? Sinners need compassion. Jesus came to offer us a large dose. Compassion does not mean condoning. The example of Christ’s conversation with the women caught in the very act of having an affair illustrates this better than any words I can write.

The church should be a belonging place even for those whose lives have been injured by an affair- even for those who have fallen to this temptation.

The church should be a place of refuge; where those who hurt can find comfort and healing; where those who sin can rediscover hope and forgiveness.

It is not about judgment. That is God’s department anyway. It is about love. This is what we have been called to do and love- as James teaches us- covers a multitude of sins.

So, if you know someone who is mourning over the infedility of a spouse, who is left to pick-up the pieces of a broken marriage, who may blame themselves, and who may now be learning under-fire what it means to be a single parent- love them, hug them, rally to them, pray with them, welcome them to your home and church. Don’t judge, don’t ignore, don’t play the blame game, don’t view them as second-class citizens.

And, if you know someone who has fallen into an affair- love them too. Let them know the value and richness of God’s grace and forgiveness. Do not give up on them. Encourage them as Jesus did, to go and sin no more. Let them know too, that they are welcome at your church. 

The Son of Man came not for the whole, but for the sick.

After affairs, we have the chance as a church to compassionately minister and to share the grace and love of God in very real ways that can just possibly make an eternal difference to those struggling with the fallout.

What would Jesus do?

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16 Responses to After Affairs

  1. Donna says:

    Amen. That’s all I can add….amen!

  2. preacherman says:

    Danny,
    Great post.
    I believe that the church needs to show grace, mercy, love, compassion to those who are divorced and who have had affairs. We need to understand that we are all sinners in need of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. We all need to bear each others burrdens. Encourage one anther. I let my congregation know from the start that I am not perfect, that I sin and make mistakes, just like they do. I really believe that it makes me look like a really person in their eyes. It doesn’t make me look like a holier than thou; unappoachable; perfect; saint that is out of touch with what they are going through in their lives. I am normal. Yes, to some of the newer members it is taking some time for them to figure it out. I think some of the newer ultra-conservative members don’t like it that I admit that I sin and am normal, a human. I quote Paul alot to the congregation, “The things I do; I don’t; things I don’t want to do are things in which I do. We struggle with the flesh.” It is human nature. I havent had an affair but I have my our temptations and weakness. We all do. It is part of our human nature. I tell my congregation that as Christians we strive to do the will of God. As Christians we are cover by the grace of God which is so much bigger and greater than we can ever began to imagine. When we sin, we are not constantly jumping in and out of the grace of God. We should be thankful for that grace and because of the grace and love God has shown us; we in return should show others the same. Great post Danny; I hope you have a blessed weekend.

  3. You’re right. I just wish doing the things you say we should was easier. It aint. And we should still do them.

  4. Trey Morgan says:

    Danny, I think the church struggles with this because it doesn’t know what to do. It doesn’t know how to handle it. Some churches chose to just ignore it and pretend like it’s not happening, while other go to the other extreme.

    I’m not sure there is a pat answer for ever situation, but we’ve got to be concerned about the souls of everyone involved.

    I remember one of the hardest things I ever did was going with a man to his “lover” house to tell her he was breaking it off and staying with his wife. I was there for accountability. Besides she was going to try and talk him out of it. Situations like this are never fun.

  5. johndobbs says:

    Dan, how about a top ten list of practical things you can do to reach out to those who have been wounded by marital unfaithfulness (either the one left behind or the one engaging in immorality). I ask this because I really do not know. I find myself speechless…hard to believe I know. I have several friends who have been in this predicament … because of their own doing … and I wanted to love them … let them know I still cared… but I didn’t know how.

  6. marquita says:

    I think the core of the issue, needs to be addressed. Why are people, members of christian communities, turning to affairs, sexual relatonships outside of marriage in the first place? I know that in any given church, there are people, men and women struggling with sexual sin. Again, is the church addressing…equpping people with tools to navigate this highly sexually charged world that we live in successfully. By the time an affair has occured, the sickness has already taken over. The heart, I believe is where issuse of lust, sex, power…need to be addressed and given the proper forum to be dealt with honestly, openly, and effectively.

  7. Frank says:

    Danny,

    I was sorry to read about your experience of being turned down for a preaching position because of a divorce. If a church prefers not to have a divorced preacher, they have to makea and live with that call. But it seems like churches should make up their minds before they consider a preacher as a candidate.

  8. Frank says:

    Oops. Wasn’t quite finished. In what other profession do candidates for a post find themselves in the running, only to find out later that they’re being turned down because of something that was a given all along?

  9. dannydodd says:

    Good thoughts all. I think your input is representative of the struggle the church as a whole feels in dealing with this.

    JD, I will think about what you suggested- eventhough as Try said- there are no pat answers.

    Marquita certainly makes a valid point. What are our churches doing to equip us to handle the sex-saturated culture in which we live- and how to navigate it and remain our purity? Maybe we should focus more on this.

    Frank, in this case, I believe the search committee did not know how the elders felt about this.

    And preach, Gatewat certainly knows I am human. 🙂

  10. odgie says:

    My cynicism is showing here, but I think that your specific experience was a little too “real” for those elders. Divorce shatters the image of middle-class comfort and tranquility that most churches want to project. The irony is that the church is supposed to be a group of people who minister to those whose lives are in turmoil.

  11. Jojo says:

    Hi Dan,
    As a member of the Lord’s church for over 30 years and daughter of an elder in the church, I can personally attest to the inability of God’s people to “handle” divorced members. My divorce was a scriptural one, but the horrible experience(s) I had in two churches, with two body of elders, is almost beyond words. Its been two years since my separation and divorce and I’m still healing from the hurt by men I trusted and a church I looked to for support and comfort. Today I’m involved with a divorce recovery program a the church I attend. Its my small way make sure no one has the trama of divorce and rejection by the church.
    Jo Ann Evans, Dallas
    http://www.lifeofbalancenpeace.com

  12. dannydodd says:

    I think you are right on the money odgie!

    And Jo Ann (thanks for dropping in and posting) just reinforced that with her comment. I am very sorry that you have gone through not only the divorce but the hurt caused by men called to shephard.

    Affiars, divorce, etc are real, but they do tend to invade upon the neat and artifical world we sometimes build in our churches.

  13. John Mark HIcks spoke this morning at Sycamore View about this very thing. Why is it that we in the churches of Christ think that divorce or spiritual immorality is the “unforgiveable sin”? In God’s eyes, sin is sin and if I read the scriptures correctly and have been taught in my counseling program at Harding Grad correctly, yes, God does hate divorce, but God hates all sin and that does not give us permission to judge or condemn or turn our backs on those who are hurting or broken because of divorce or an affair or any other sin for that matter. No, we are not to condone sin, but we certainly are commanded to love the sinner (don’t we all fit into that category?) and offer love, understanding, friendship, and grace and forgiveness just as God does. As I think I’ve said in another post here, the church must be a hospital to offer comfort and healing if we are to help the world see Jesus through us! And Danny, you are a great guy, who has had a godly influence on people all around the world. The eldership who turned you down missed out on a wonderful man!

  14. dannydodd says:

    Thanks Tammie for your kind words- and amen to your post and amen to John Mark!

    This is a topic that needs much more exposure and discussion and I will revisit this again later on this blog.

  15. Jim Martin says:

    Danny,
    I appreciate your words and candor.

    I want to echo JD. A top five or ten might be very helpful.

    Thanks.

  16. Danny these are good thoughts. One does not normally find such thinking coming from a preacher … I am grateful to have wise and gracious words from you.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

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