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?