How Ought A Faithful Christian Spouse Treat An Unfaithful Spouse Who Has Been Withdrawn By The Congregation?
In the context of this question, the “unfaithful spouse” is referring to the Christian who is persisting in a sin habitually, that is known publicly by the members of the church, and refuses to repent of it. The Christian has received numerous opportunities to hear what the Bible teaches on that certain sin (by the eldership, the preacher, or some brethren), correction from the eldership (or the brethren), reproof from the eldership (or the brethren), the outpouring of love from the eldership (or the brethren) to repent of their sin, and the special, abiding fellowship that they have had in the past that can no longer be sustained if this Christian persists in their sin (2 Timothy 3:16,17). We are not necessarily referring to the sin of fornication or adultery in this context (Matthew 5:31,32; 19:1-12) because we understand in the nature of this case that the innocent spouse would have the Divine right to put that guilty mate away for that reason (although it would be best if the couple could work it out through repentance and a restoration of the marriage). How should a faithful Christian spouse treat an unfaithful spouse who has been withdrawn from by the congregation?
First, the faithful spouse ought to agree with the decision that was made by the congregation to withdraw fellowship from this member of the church (1 Corinthians 5:1–13). The faithful spouse ought to acknowledge to their spouse that their relationship will change drastically. The faithful spouse ought not to give any signs of approval of the unfaithful spouse's sin (Romans 1:32).
Second, the faithful spouse needs to take heed to the Divine instructions on how to treat a brother or sister in Christ in the “withdrawal” passages. The passages on withdrawal are not strong suggestions or recommendations. They are commandments. They are enjoined upon the church to follow if the situation were to rise. The congregation does not have the right to turn a blind eye to those who are living in darkness. In Matthew 18:15–17, those who are withdrawn from are to be treated like tax collectors and Gentiles. They are not to be interacted with socially in the sense of showing approval of their actions. In 2 Thessalonians 3:6, the command is to not keep company - do not mix repeatedly – in social or entertainment type situations (eating a meal and enjoying the fellowship). Paul does not want faithful Christians to misunderstand, but the end goal is to encourage the unfaithful Christian to want to change. It is their own sinful behavior that has brought shame and reproach. Love is what causes us to discipline someone (Hebrews 12:5–11). They need to know that they are loved. A faithful Christian (especially a spouse) is to help them to see the error of their ways before it is too late.
Third, a faithful Christian needs to examine himself/herself to make sure that they do not have the wrong attitude. They are to admonish them not as an enemy, but as a member of God's family. In 2 Corinthians 2, the brother who had committed fornication had turned away from his sin and Paul commanded the congregation to reaffirm their love for him showing that he had been forgiven by God of his sin. We can so easily be deceived and become like the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal sons who needed to be glad that his brother had come back to the household instead of showing the prideful attitude that he had and wanted nothing to do with him (Luke 15:22–32). We must try to persuade, love, and encourage this fallen away brother or sister to come back to the Lord.
Fourth, the duties of the spouses would remain the same. Husbands and wives ought to fulfill their obligations and duties toward each other. That would include the laundry, cooking, having sexual interaction (1 Corinthians 7:1–5), doing the work in the yard, fixing things around the house, etc. From 1 Corinthians 5:1–13, this social interaction would need to be qualified because they would be eating together, yet it should be the case that the faithful spouse would not want to show that he/she is in approval of the other spouse's sinful behavior.
This material is copyrighted by The Gospel of Christ and its authors. This information is free to use in its entirety without further consent, however, modifications should not be made without contacting email@example.com for permission. Any and all images contained herein are believed to be free for all distribution and content.