Q. My niece’s husband, in his early 40’s, was a church youth director. He has been in jail since July for distributing child porn. I pray to God to tell her what to do. I said she should divorce him and separate him from their two early teen children (a boy and a girl). My sister said Christians should not divorce but I know this is an utmost case of immorality, which calls for divorce and dissociation to protect the children. A Christian cannot be a pedophile. A Christian cannot be under the same yoke with a non-believer. I realize she must be distraught but is hesitating to divorce him. How can I persuade her to do the right thing according to God’s will?
A. Yes God hates divorce (Mal 2:16), but He provides an exception in the NT:
• M5 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.
The exception under which divorce is permitted is unchastity or immorality. Both words translate the Greek word porneia, from which we get our English word “pornography”. The literal meaning is “illicit sexual intercourse”, which includes:
• adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality (intercourse with animals);
• incest (sexual intercourse with close relatives), Lev 18;
• sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman, Mk 10:11-12.
The older lexicons did not list pedophile (sexual attraction towards children) or hebephile (sexual attraction towards adolescents) because these are relatively modern terms, but they would fall under the broad meaning of pornography. One must be careful to distinguish between an attraction and actually acting out one’s desire. The former is an urge which, if controlled, is not yet sin. The latter is unchecked lust and is sin.
For the youth director to distribute child porn, he has gone beyond private fantasy and crossed the line to sexual abuse of children. I don’t know whether he had molested children himself, but the materials he is distributing involved molesting and degrading children in their production, and fuel other pedophiles to perpetrate exploiting children. He had betrayed his family’s trust, and his wife has legitimate biblical grounds for divorce.
However, I must also add that while divorce is permissible, it is not mandatory. If he truly repents, God still forgives and so can his wife. It does take a long time to rebuild trust, but it is not impossible. Pedophilia is not the unpardonable sin. If she doubts his repentance, then for the sake of the children she should at least separate from him and take time to assess whether his repentance is genuine. This is protection for the children, and biblically permissible.