Question:

I have been married for 20 years. It has not been an easy marriage in many respects, but after reading a lot of the questions and problems of other people on your web site, I realize that it could have been much worse.  Anyway, I will not go into all of the problems of my marriage, just suffice it to say that after feeling like I just couldn't take it anymore, I met someone else and have been having an affair for the past year. I have fallen very much in love with this woman, and no matter what you may think about a woman who is involved with a married man, she has treated me better in one year than my wife has in 20. Here is the thing. It took an entire year for me to decide that I would go ahead and leave my wife. The day before I was going to tell her that I was going to divorce her, I suddenly had a thought cross my head completely out of nowhere. I decided to see what the Bible had to say about divorce. Like most people who live in our modern society, I had always figured that divorce was an easy way out, and that God would rather that I was happy instead of miserable (and trust me, I have been most miserable).

Well, lo and behold, I found out that it ain't so easy to get divorced in God's eyes. So now I have had to slam on the brakes and instantly do a 180 on this subject. I realize that I am going to have to stop seeing this woman, and try to rebuild my marriage. The problems that I have are several. First, I realize that I need to stop seeing this woman. I love her to death, and I know that these feelings are not going to go away overnight. I love her more than I have ever loved my wife. I guess my first question is that even though I have decided to obey God and do what he says, how can I feel repentance over something that I don't really regret. This last year, and the time spent with her was the best year I have spent in my 46 years.  I am going to stop seeing her purely because I have decided to obey God (because He is the creator of the universe, and a lot bigger than I am), not because I feel like I have wronged my wife. If anything, I feel like I have wronged God, but my wife got what was coming to her. I feel like she sowed the seeds of this for 20 years. Nothing is going to change the fact that I have enjoyed every minute with this woman.

Here is my conundrum. Although I am willing to do my best to obey God, I do not feel particularly bad about the affair. I know that in order to get my heart right with God, I will need to repent, but I don't really know how. How can you repent of something that you do not feel particularly bad about. I want to change my heart, but I don't know how.

The next question that I have is: If I can have an affair for a year, and come to within one day of leaving my wife, am I really a Christian?  I am not discounting the idea that it was God who put the idea into my head to look into the Bible for answers on the subject of divorce, so maybe he hasn't counted me out yet. I do not really want to be one of those folks who say that they are a Christian , but don't live like it, but I have always had a hard time living up to God's standards. Sometimes it seems like being a Christian gives me more stress and fear than if I just wasn't one. It is so hard to discern the truth from the Bible. Better theologians than I have been disagreeing on the finer points of the Bible for hundreds of years, and if they can't agree on things (once saved, always saved  vs  you can lose your salvation,  etc....) how am I supposed to know what's real. If biblical scholars can't agree on many of the points of the Bible, how do I know that what I am told by pastors, or read in books is the biblical truth. It would seem that it is just that particular scholar's "truth." Which makes me wonder about the rules for divorce. How do I know that the way in which they have been interpreted is the way that God really intended? Different Pastors can't even really agree on who can divorce and why in different situations. Some say that you can divorce if your spouse cheats on you, others say that you cannot even divorce then. If learned men of God cannot agree on things (and you know as well as I do that there are MANY bones of contention about biblical truth in many areas of biblical study) then what am I to do, or think? Is God revealing different things to different people? I don't think that He works that way, yet, anyone who makes his living teaching the Bible will tell you that they pray, study and receive wisdom from God when they study. Does everyone receive different wisdom?

How hard is it to adhere to what God teaches in the Bible when there is no clear direction? I am sorry if I seem to be rambling, but this stuff has been bothering me for a long time and to tell you the truth, these questions do keep me at arms length from God. I do want to do what He wants, but most of the time, I have so many questions that just do not seem to be answered by anyone. If I ask five different pastors a biblical question, most of the time I will get at least 3-4 variations of an answer, and no clear winner. I am frustrated being a Christian and this is why sometimes I think it would be easier just to walk away and accept that I will spend an eternity in hell.  

Again, sorry for rambling. Any help you could give would be appreciated. 


Answer:

Your approach to religion makes absolutely no sense, so I'm not surprised that you claim to be confused.

Let's start at the basics. A person who calls himself a Christian is stating that he is a follower of Christ -- that is what the word "Christian" means. But you tell me that you don't follow Christ, you poll various preachers, pick the answer most gives or the one that interests you the most.

"For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?"" (I Corinthians 1:11-13).

"I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase" (I Corinthians 3:2-7).

A preacher's duty is to help you learn what God's will is for you. So when you don't know what God has said on a certain matter, asking a preacher for references and thoughts on applying the Scriptures is wonderful. But in the end, what matters is that you open your Bible and see for yourself that what is being taught is true. "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). After all, there are a lot of false teachers out in the world and the only way you can be assured of the truth is to examine it for yourself. "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1).

Actually, all your doing is excusing your unbelief. You claim that God is unable to deliver instruction that can be understood by the common man, despite the command: "Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:17). Because teachers who teach falsely have disagreements over what they want the Bible to say does not imply that the Bible is unclear or contradictory.

Yet contradictions abound in your letter. You claim to be afraid of God, yet you are willing to shrug your shoulders and live in eternal torment because temporary pleasure is more important to you than lasting pleasure. "By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible" (Hebrews 11:24-27).

Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). Yet from your note you state:

  • You've committed adultery for over a year.
    "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 6:9-10).
  • When you married, you made vows which include being faithful to your wife. Thus, you broke your word to God, your wife, and all those who witnessed your marriage.
    "If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth" (Numbers 30:2).
    "And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and crying; so He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. Yet you say, "For what reason?" Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant" (Malachi 2:13-14).
  • In order to carry on this affair, you had to tell lies to cover your tracks.
    "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8).
  • And in spite of these sins, you say you can't repent because you don't feel you did wrong. Personal feelings don't define sin, God does that. He tells us that certain behaviors causes harm and we are to do do those things. But because you liked cheating on your wife, you find no cause to repent of your sins.
    "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3).
  • Oh, and to top it off, you justify your adultery by stating your wife "deserved" it. As if one sin fixes another sin.
    "And why not say, "Let us do evil that good may come"? --as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just" (Romans 3:8).
  • But what you describe is a desire for revenge. Because you perceive harm from your wife, you feel that justifies doing harm in return.
    "Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:17-21).

Yet, what really irks me is that you suddenly realize that divorce is wrong according to God. Yet it appears you have no clue as to why it is wrong. "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery" (Luke 16:18). So the adulterer is concerned that if he divorces his wife to marry another woman that he will be guilty of adultery?

Typically it is sorrow that drives a person to want to repent, but sorrow is not repentance. "Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death" (II Corinthians 7:9-10). Repentance is changing your behavior to make it conform to God's will. People do this because of their love for God and their fellow man. ""Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him,"'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'"" (Matthew 22:36-39).

You ask if you are acting as a Christian, and I think that last verse says it all. God is not number one in your life and the people around, including your wife, are not number two in your life. It doesn't have to be this way. You can make something of yourself. "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (I Corinthians 6:9-11). But not when you insist that your personal pleasure is the most important thing to you.