Those who walk with with wives of sex addicts can tell you that it's very difficult to help someone who spiritaulizes. Spiritualizing is when we excuse our actions (or more likely, inactions) using scripture or a religious precept.
Below are some of the more common passages of scripture that have been used by wives of sex addicts — or against them — to rationalize ignoring or enabling their husband's addiction. Next week I will look at a related issue: when grace is indeed called for.
I delve into the topic of submission, as Paul meant to communicate it, relatively in-depth in my upcoming book Beyond Betrayal. To summarize, Paul was asking both husbands and wives to lift each other up and fight for each other. The submission passage starts with the directive to submit ourselves to (probably better translated as “lift up”) each other. Go back earlier to the start of the chapter and you’ll find it begins with an exhortation to love followed by an exhortation to avoid any form of sexual impurity. For those who don’t, Paul warns there will be consequences. Then in verse 11 he goes on to add:
Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. (Ephesians 5: 11 NLT)
We cannot stand by silently while our spouse corrupts his body and endangers his soul. If we do, we fail to “love one another,” the new commandment direct from Jesus — and the one he calls the greatest commandment after “love God.”
1 Corinthians 7:14-16
One of my mentors is running a support group at the moment in which one woman is having a negative impact on the morale of the whole group. The issue? She excuses her bad boundaries using this scripture:
“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified (some translations: “saved”) through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband…”
The participant believes that her unbelieving, sex addicted, abusive husband will be saved if she stays with him: therefore she is obligated by God to do so.
Interestingly one skeptic uses this verse, much the same way as this woman, only his purpose is to show that the bible contradicts itself and therefore Christianity can be dismissed (a "part-to-whole" logical fallacy).
One of the tenets of Christianity is that Jesus alone saves people from their sins — even believing wives don’t have that capacity. Another is that salvation is on an individual basis — however, those of us who are saved can help sanctify (bless, influence spiritually) those around us toward salvation.
I almost wonder if the point of this verse isn’t more to encourage us not to worry about being spiritually defiled by the sinner we are married to: the Spirit in us is helping to sanctify them… not the other way around. Thus our children (v. 14b) are also sanctified (blessed, lead toward God).
As for “let them go if they want” (v15) — I would argue that the man who spends his evenings sharing his body with porn, prostitutes etc. doesn’t actually want to be married any more. He is already choosing to “marry” other women.
However, a live-in (choose one or more) ___________ maid, cook, roommate who helps pay the bills, babysitter, etc. is so convenient that he’s not going to actually leave the house. He has left in every way but physically.
As for Acts 16: 31 — “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household,” one commentator writes:
We have here an imperative form “Believe” with the result of salvation followed by the words “you and your household.” Of course the imperative “Believe” applies to “you” and “your household.” Belief is necessary for “you” as well as for the “household.” The translation could also be:“Believe in the Lord Jesus to be saved; you and your household.”
One of the problems with trying to live out “the letter of the law” is that we don't’ have the law in its original letters. We’re dealing with translations of translations. As far as the New Testament goes, it was originated by people who were translating (in their heads) from their native Aramaic and Hebrew to a foreign language (Greek) as they wrote.
Not that the real problem is bad translation. The ancient Hebrews had the scripture in the original language and their religious leaders still missed the point (see almost any of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees). The real problem is a failure to understand the nature of God as revealed by Jesus. The problem is also a failure to engage God and learn to discern his voice. Scripture is not understandable to those who try to approach it any other way. It quickly becomes a rationalization for all sorts of bad behavior.
Being traumatized by a sex addict can be an enormous challenge to a person’s relationship with God. If you feel ripped off by God because this has happened to you, you’re joining a very large club.
However, this journey can also be the greatest opportunity to come to know God intimately. Both in the 2014/2015 Survey of Wives of Sex Addicts and the JHJ survey on Body Image, I have read again and again how women have come to deeper levels of understanding of God since discovery. They have survived the trauma and pain because God has shown how much he delights in them, how concerned he is for their pain, how tender is his love for them.
That love and concern goes for the addict as well. However, one of the manifestations of God’s love for sinners is consequences. When there are consequences for our sins: there is opportunity to learn, repent and grow.
If you are tempted to protect your husband from the natural consequences of his sin, please spend some time talking to God about this. If you are sacrificing your emotional and spiritual (even physical) wellbeing for a man who is habitually unfaithful, a liar, or abusive, ask God to help you discern if that’s what He really wants for you and your children.
The God who loves you far more than anyone else does, has a better plan for your life (and for your family) than spiritualizing. It all starts with discernment.
For more on how to discern God's voice I recommend Whispers of My Abba.
Graham Cooke on Practicing Discernment