This has been banging around in my head awhile. A comment on The sex sin the church ignores (a two year old post I tweeted recently) pushed me to write on it.

The comment was from a man whose wife had an affair. Some in his church asked him ”What did you do to force your wife to have an affair?”

I have seen this far too often. I happens with adultery, abuse, sexless marriages, and divorce – the one who is being wronged is asked what they did to cause it. It is particularity common when they complain they are not getting enough sex – it must be something you did!

Abused Wife © David Castillo Dominici | freedigitalphotos.net

I must admit I have done this at times. Not intentionally, but it was the result. Aside from abuse, I figure you start with the spouse in front of you. They cannot change their spouse; they can change them self. More often than not, the victim has done things that help push their spouse towards their sin. Dealing with those things is necessary if the marriage is going to heal. There are times when the victim is completely innocent, but it is not the norm in my experience.

The problem is I fail to start by making it clear to the victim they are not to blame. No matter what they may have contributed, their spouse choose to sin. The sin, and the reason their spouse was willing to sin, must be resolved for the marriage to heal. No amount of change by the victim will do this.

The other common error is attacking the one who sinned and ignoring any wrong behaviour on the part of the victim.  It is as if horrible sin by one spouse absolves the other of minor sins. This is just as wrong from a heal-the-marriage standpoint. Real healing requires dealing with all the issues. If one spouse is unwilling to even come to the table the only choice it to help the one who will work on it. This means looking at their stuff, as this is the part they have the power to change. This is not “fair” but it is the only option. 

My goal for the future is to be better about communicating all this. Agree with the victim they have been wronged, and mourn with them. Then move forward in whatever way is possible. I encourage us all, and leaders in particular, to adopt this approach.

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