I find it incredibly painful to hear scripture being used to keep the wife of a sex addict in an unhealthy place. Sometimes it’s her husband that’s quoting the passages, sometimes it’s her pastor or another Christian. Sometimes she herself is quoting scriptures to try and justify inaction in the face of evil.
The use of scripture for ends different than what God intended has been going on for a long time. How do I know? I see it in scripture: “You have heard it said… but I say…” (Matthew 5:38-48). There’s also the famous correction by Ezekiel (chapter 18) about the misunderstanding around God visiting the sins of the fathers on the children.
Thus, let’s remember that there's a human tendency to misunderstand or mis-use scripture. Still, it's a tendency that needs to be fought.
You Have Heard it Said…
Some of the more common scriptures used on/by women in a relationship with a sex addict are:
- 1 Corinthians 13:5 — Love keeps no record of wrongs
- Matthew 7: 1-2 — Do not judge, or you too will be judged…
- 1 Peter 4:8 — Love covers a multitude of sins
- Proverbs 19:11— It is good to overlook an offense
- Colosians 3 — Bear with each other and forgive one another… Forgive as the Lord forgave you
- Matthew 18:22 — I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times
Many of these types of scriptures pertain to life within the Body, i.e. the community of believers (those whose minds are governed by the Spirit and not the flesh — Romans 8). Moreover both in the body and in any relationship, “loving,” “not judging” and “forgiving” do not equal “turning a blind eye to sin and/or abuse.” Jesus sets the example of "tough love," in his interactions with the Pharisees of his day.
Even when we understand that real love includes boundaries and consequences and that forgiving doesn’t mean trusting, there are still some difficult passages in scripture. Many struggle with the Ephesians 5 submission passage and the oft-quoted “I hate divorce,” statement from Malachi. These scriptures, along with 1 Peter 3, 1 Corinthians 7, and Acts 16:31 (sometimes used to imply that an unconverted husband will be saved by his wife’s silent submission) cause the wife of an unrepentant sex addict a good deal of angst.
In Beyond Betrayal I dive deeply into the abuse of the Ephesians 5 submission passage. Pastor Gary Thomas — in this post — explains what exactly this “divorce” that God hates was at the time the passage was written. Marg Mowczki of New Life (Australia) takes an in-depth look at the 1 Peter 3 passage.
As regards the idea that our husband’s soul is on the line unless we quietly stick with him (1 Corinthians 7 and Acts 16:31), I have posted on this topic in the past. In short: Jesus (literally) saves, we can only influence towards salvation. I’ve heard one former pastor, repentent sex addict say it was his wife’s ultimatum that “saved” him. In other words it was her loving use of boundaries that influenced him to humble himself enough to seek help for his addiction.
Next week we’ll finish this post by examining some other scripture passages — some that would seem to say that in the face of evil, we should be acting. Moreover, we’ll look at the fact that while God’s love is never-ending and unconditional… we see in scripture that relationship with Him actually has conditions.
As followers of God, perhaps we are being challenged to be His imitators (Ephesians 5:1) in having conditions.