Q. We’ve been married over 20 years but my adulterous husband lost our store and all our savings at the casino. On top of that he has a mistress who is only after his money. Can I divorce him, or should I forgive such a deadbeat dad?
A. It is extremely difficult when your husband is like that, when the man you have entrusted your life to caused all the pain by his philandering and gambling addiction. Whether you should divorce or forgive him depend on two biblical principles and his repentance.
Although God hates divorce (Mal 2:16), He allows it under one exception:
• Mt 5:32 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.
• Mt 19:9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
Unchastity or immorality is any illicit sexual intercourse, including adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, sexual relationship with close relatives (Lev 18), and with a divorced man or woman (Mk 10:11-12). When a husband or wife is unchaste or immoral, they have broken their marriage covenant, and the innocent spouse is allowed to divorce the guilty party. This is a permissible exception to the general rule of “no divorce”, though not mandatory. Forgiveness is possible if the guilty party repents.
The second principle is based on how Jesus dealt with the situation in John 8:3-15. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus to test Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger. Then He straightened up and said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” They began to go out one by one, and He and the woman were left alone. Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”
The Bible did not say what Jesus wrote, but scholars have suggested the 10 Commandments as the essence of the Law, or the sins the crowd were guilty of. They did not condemn her because they themselves are not without sin, so were not qualified to stone her. Jesus forgave the adulteress, but with a condition, that she sin no more. He asked her to repent.
The same applies to us. Which one of us is without sin? We may not have committed the act of adultery, but Jesus said in Mt 5:28 that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. We may not be compulsive gamblers, but if we have been greedy we are covetous and will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Co 6:10; Eph 5:5). If God has forgiven us our sins, we can forgive those who sin against us, including unfaithful and squandering spouse, provided they repent.
What if the womanizing and prodigal spouse does not repent? Do we still take him back? In this case I believe the right thing to do is to protect the children. They are innocent and do not deserve to be dragged down with their irresponsible father. The tough love option is to let the delinquent husband-dad go and suffer the consequences of his folly. Let the other woman desert him after his money is gone so that he’ll wake up. Do not cover his debts for him. Get on with your own life for the sake of your children. Let God deal with your husband in His way and His time. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb 10:31).