Vol.XVIII No.VI Pg.7
August 1981

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Dear brother Turner:

If a man (or woman) has an affair unknown to the spouse, what obligation does the guilty party have to the spouse? Should the affair be told in order to allow the innocent one the option of divorce? Would a confession of this sort be necessary to be forgiven by God? What is the marital status before God of such a couple? Note, the guilty party is trying to do the right thing. P.S. This is not hypothetical. Thank you! Unsigned


The easiest course (for me) would be to throw this in the waste can. Or, as one suggested, tell the party to write Ann Landers. I can't do either, for this seems to be someone reaching out for help in a desperate strait. On the other hand, I have no absolute solution for most of the questions, and I am not certain of my judgment.

To begin at the beginning, the guilty party must unreservedly confess this sin before God, asking His forgiveness, and determining never to so sin again. It is true the guilty party has sinned against the spouse, and should not lie if asked about it. But confession (one to another) seems related to genuine contriteness on the sinners part — to help express this — and not simply so others can know of the wrong. In the above case, it might do more harm than good, but I can not know this, not knowing the disposition of the spouse. If my remarks are taken as excuse for hiding sin, rather than a sincere endeavor to spare the spouse anguish, then my statement has not been used as intended, and I wish I had not said it.

I do not believe the innocent one is commanded of God to divorce an unfaithful partner. The unbelieving husband of 1 Cor. 7:13 might well have been part of a pagan religion which practiced fornication, but "if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him." I have known a few cases where the innocent party was so determined to salve human pride that this may have contributed to further sin by the partner. Our Lord, under direct attack and scrutiny, could say "Neither do I condemn thee: go thy way; from henceforth sin no more" (Jn. 8:11), but we are a bit too "holy" to say a thing like that. Adultery is a grievous sin, tearing at the character of the sinner, denying the sanctity of marriage, giving the temple of God's Spirit to unholy use. It is a just cause for divorce (Matt. 19:9), but it can be forgiven — by the creature who is hurt, even as by the Creator, who is hurt (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

Bro. Lipscomb once wrote: "A daughter does not cease to be a daughter when she is guilty of fornication. The duty still rests on the mother to do what she can to save her daughter. If refusing to eat with her or driving her from home would help to save her from her sinful course, the mother should do it. If it would dishearten her, discourage her, and drive her deeper and more surely into sin, it would be wrong for her to send her away. The law regulating the duty of the mother to the child takes precedence of the duty to show disapproval of sin, and should govern the case." (Queries and Answers, p. 182) To my querist, pray for wisdom and strength to do right, in the sight of God.