Bible Question:

My husband has cheated on me with several women. He leads a worldly lifestyle and goes out to drink and womanize. I want to forgive him and restore our marriage, but he denies any wrong doing and continues. He has cursed my womb and says that he does not want to have any children with me. He is a born again but backslidden Christian. Staying with him is too heavy a yoke for me to bear especially in a childless and loveless marriage. I do not want to be the aggressor in a court of law by divorcing him despite all of these hard challenges, but I am failing. Are we to forgive even those who throw away our offering of forgiveness? What is God's perfect will in this situation? What do I do?

Bible Answer:

When a spouse violates the marriage relationship by having sexual relations outside of  the marriage, it is normal for a wife or a husband to be severely hurt, angry, offended and to wonder what God’s will is for them. It is important to understand God does allow divorce in such situations with the right to remarry with His approval. Forever, God also desires the offended spouse to forgive the offending spouse and rescue the marriage, if possible.

My husband has cheated on me. What is God’s will?

God Allows Divorce For Two Reasons

Sex Outside of Marriage. Sexual activity outside of the marriage or adultery is the oldest reason for divorce. Adultery is one of two reasons for which God allows divorce. In Matthew 5:31-32 Jesus said,

It was said, “WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE”; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Matthew 5:31-32 (NASB)

Here Jesus permits divorce if  “unchastity, fornication or marital unfaithfulness” has occurred. The Greek word that Jesus uses for “unchastity, fornication or marital unfaithfulness” is porneia. The Greek word means more than just sexual relations outside of marriage with someone of the opposite sex. The Greek word porneia includes “fornication, unchastity, incest, homosexuality, and bestiality. This means that there are a wide range of sexual activities outside of the marriage relationship for which God will allow  divorce with His blessing.

Non-Christian Wants To Divorce A Christian. The second reason for which God allows divorce is when an unbelieving spouse wants to leave a Christian (1 Corinthians 7:12-16). In this case, the apostle Paul says the Christian is to let the non-Christian leave. Then the Christian is free to remarry with God’s blessing.

There are a number of previous Q&A which provide God’s view about divorce and explain when God allows divorce and remarriage. The questions are entitled, “Biblical Divorce and Remarriage,” “Is sex before marriage a sin?” and “If you are divorced and remarry, are you living in adultery?

God Calls Us To Forgive

In Matthew 19:8-9 Jesus repeats the same message about divorce, except this time He adds that divorce is permitted only because we have difficulty forgiving an offending spouse. Jesus referred to unforgiving hearts as hardness of heart.

He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery. Matthew 19:8-9 (NASB)

Forgiveness is the God-honoring response when the other spouse sins. Jesus is our ultimate example of forgiveness. He forgave His executioners and the cheering crowd when He was dying on the cross. He asked the Father to forgive them even while they were insulting Him. Stephen forgave also while he was being stoned in Acts 7:59-60. In Matthew 18:21-22 Jesus told Peter that he should forgive seventy times seven. That is, he should never stop forgiving.

Therefore, God calls us to forgive others and our spouses. Yet, sexual violations of the marriage involves more than the physical act of intercourse. It is a violation of trust, love, friendship and commitment to the other spouse. It is a violation of Malachi 2:14. Therefore, God allows a biblical divorce with the right to remarry with His blessing.

Your Situation

Your husband is guilty of marital unfaithfulness and therefore God will not withhold His blessing from you if you divorce him. God has granted you the right to divorce him, even though He hates divorce (Malachi 2:14-16). Yes, it is possible that your husband is born again. He may be like one of the many Christians in the ancient city of Corinth who did not act or live like a believer. But the Apostle Paul was very concerned that they were not real and so he urged them to evaluate their own lives and ask themselves if they were real (2 Corinthians 13:5).

It is common for a person to claim or think he/she is a Christian, experience a period of joy, enjoy being with Christians for awhile, but not be a real Christian. The proof of their faith is whether he or she really has a changed life. The book of 1 John was written so that we might know that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13). Real change occurs only when the Holy Spirit makes the change.

Conclusion:

Even though you have the right to divorce him, God wants you to try to save your marriage and to forgive your husband. However, forgiveness does not mean that you ignore what has happened. We suggest that you seek counseling from your pastor or a very good Christian counselor. If your husband still says that he is a Christian, then he might be willing to go to counseling with you. Your pastor may need to exercise church discipline in an attempt to motivate your husband to stop sinning. Ask God to heal your marriage and to have your husband repent of his sins. That should be your second step if you have not already taken it. The first step that we recommend is to forgive your spouse. Therefore, we suggest the sermon series “Pursuing Holiness – Forgiving & Offending.” It is about forgiveness.

Reference Links:

Study of 1 John
Biblical Divorce and Remarriage
Is sex before marriage a sin?
If you are divorced and remarry, are you living in adultery?
Why does one have the “right to remarry” after a “Biblical Divorce”?
Pursuing Holiness - Forgiving & Offending