Over the last several weeks we have been deconstructing some of the lies wives of sex addicts (as well as their friends and spouses) are being told about “what she needs to be doing.”
A website that I have sent people to for years posted one extremely disappointing article in August. In that post Christians were told that in order to support the wife of a porn addict they need to:
- Preach the gospel to her
- Remind her of grace
- Remind her to respect her husband
- Tell her that his sin is not about her (wow, something actually helpful)
- Encourage her not to withhold intimacy from him
- Pray with her (forget the fact that prayer from someone who has “preached at you” and given you a “gentle rebuke” for expressing your anger towards your husband is likely to feel more like spiritual abuse).
Grace to Him... Nuts to You
The first three points did talk about hope and the need to speak to the wife about her identity in Christ (where our ultimate hope lies); but otherwise the message delivered is — “you need to show him grace and speak kindly of him, and if you don’t, I’m going to give you a gentle rebuke.”
This is uncaring. It's damaging. It's potentially abusive. Moreover, it flies in the face of God's request that we "weep with those who weep" (Rom. 12:15 ESV).
My biggest concern with the "you need to show grace now" message is that the more you tell a victim that she needs to extend grace, the more she will long for justice. Being given an opportunity for justice often has to come before she can give grace from her heart.
I Just Want Him to Get It!!
When everyone in the church is talking "grace," it can feel somehow wrong to say, "I want justice." I've seen women struggle with this again and again. I have struggled with it myself. We feel (and we may be told) that we're being vengeful and unforgiving. And yet somehow, that doesn't feel like it fits.
When I look at Isaiah 61 I begin to understand that grace, healing and justice don't exist apart from each other.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God... (Isaiah 61:1-2 NIV)
We often leave out that last bit... because we aren't comfortable with the concept of justice. We can't see how it could possibly play into "freedom" and "healing" and "good news." We forget that when God introduced himself to Moses he lead by talking about his grace, love and patience and ended by explaining He's the guy, "who does not leave the guilty unpunished." (Exodus 34:7). He balances all of these things perfectly. Perhaps justice is only perfected where there's grace and grace where there is justice.
I believe that the justice we are longing for is simply that he (our husband) will "get it" and "stop it." That is, we long for him to come to a deep, awareness of the pain he has caused/is causing us. Maybe that he would even experience that pain briefly... for a purpose. What purpose? So that he will deeply understand and repent of the sin that has caused our suffering, and connect with us in our grief.
After that heartfelt repentance and grieving, there's one further sign that they've "gotten it." Luke, in chapter 19 of his gospel, gives us a story illustrating another sinner's, "got it" moment.
“But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost’” (verses 8-10).
From Zacchaeus’ words, we see that he was remorseful over his past actions and committed to making restitution. From Jesus’ words, we understand that Zacchaeus was forgiven and saved that day (encountered grace) and the evidence of his salvation was both his public confession and his willingness to make restitution (act justly) to those he'd defrauded.
When our husband repents, connects with us in our grief and shows a willingness to make restitution (see Worthy of Her Trust by Jason Martinkus for ideas on how this works) I believe it satisfies our longing for justice. When he does this, grace for him feels possible... if not immediately, then usually in time.
Grace (to our spouse) is not impossible without justice, but it's harder. If that's the situation you find yourself in, seek out those who can weep with you... rather than preach at you. Know also that your Heavenly Father—who is a righteous judge—will:
...comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes, the oil of joy
instead of mourning...
Next week I'll be looking to counter more of the lies from the aforementioned blog post.
For now, let's consider that Micah 6:8 also reminds us of God's requirement for justice to be part of our journey.