Hi Ernest. I would like to say thank you for the ministry that you and your wife are doing. I have personally been blessed and I have learned to put my trust in Christ whenever I face obstacles in my life. But I’m writing to you on a different note. I am a born again Christian and I was in a courtship relationship that was leading to marriage. I say “was” because the relationship ended one month ago. I found out from a friend that my fiancé had slept with another friend of mine. Apparently, everyone in our circle of friends knew but me! I was so embarrassed. I confronted him and he denied it completely. However, later, he confessed it himself and told me it was true. Ernest, I was so angry and hurt. I shouted at him and cried a lot. Naturally, I called off the engagement and the relationship. I have been unable to sleep on some days because I feel I have wasted so much time being in a relationship with this guy. He has been calling me and asking to meet up. He says he is sorry and he just wants us to be together again. The thing is, I really love him. I thought we would be together. Other people even look up to us. The guy is born again as well, which makes me even more angry. To add to my anger, we were walking in purity and were both waiting for sex until marriage and I feel he has betrayed me. He has persisted in reaching out and still wants us to get married this year. He says he asked God for forgiveness and he will be a good husband to me. I forgave him, because Jesus Christ demands that we do so, but the pain is still raw. He kept calling and I started to ignore him. There are days I think, “This is just another obstacle in life, why shouldn’t I marry him?” Then there are days I feel so hurt and I think evil thoughts towards him and I feel like I haven’t forgiven him at all. As crazy as it sounds, I have actually considered marrying him despite him cheating on me. Recently, we met at an event and he was so sorry I even felt bad for ignoring him. I told him I would respond in two weeks about the marriage. My biggest worry is that I don’t trust him. So, the question is, should I still marry this guy? (PS: if you can write an article about this in your blog, it can help many people, I believe)
I have read through your email and my heart goes out to you. Firstly, I am very sorry for that breach of trust and for the hurt that you feel. I want you to know that I am praying for you and that God is with you in the midst of the pain. Sexual sin hurts a lot and is a deal-breaker for so many people. Here are some guidelines to help your decision:
- Firstly, do not marry someone you do not trust.
- Secondly, getting married does not cure sexual sin and bad character
- Thirdly, the joy of marriage will not take away the pain of infidelity.
- Fourthly, sexual sin does not happen overnight.
- Fifthly, do not marry someone you have not forgiven from your heart.
Firstly, do not marry someone you do not trust
Marriage is a very sacred institution in God’s eyes. It binds you for life. The scriptures are clear that God hates divorce. He loves divorcees but he hates divorce. In your case, you are not married so God wouldn’t hate the break up if you go that route. God’s answer to any unmarried person would be to ensure you marry well so that the pain of divorce is miles from you. You’d rather start off a marriage with a strong foundation and live in peace than start it off with a poor foundation and live in torment. You said that your biggest worry is broken trust. If a breach of trust has occurred and you have no confidence in your partner, do not marry them. Marriage brings out our vulnerability to the highest degree and you must get into it only with someone you trust. Do not marry someone you do not trust. Trust is a foundation for a marriage. Infidelity shatters that foundation. It will take lots of time and healing to restore the trust from a cheating partner.
Secondly, Getting married does not cure sexual sin and bad character
One of the most deceptive trains of thought among many unmarried people that we meet is a train of thought that sounds like this: “I can fool around now but when I get married I will be serious and faithful.” Loving faithfully and living honourably is not a superpower acquired by slipping a wedding band on your finger. Having a wedding and saying vows to be faithful till death do you part does not make you capable; it makes you accountable. Getting married will not transform him into a fantastic husband. That is a fantasy of irresponsible living. If you relate loosely and carelessly when single, a change of relationship status will not result in a change of heart. Getting married does not cure sexual sin and bad character.
Thirdly, the joy of marriage will not take away the pain of infidelity
In a bid to suppress the pain, some people imagine that the joy of marriage will erase the pain of infidelity. Not true. The human heart does not have an on/off switch on its emotions. The heart feels and the soul craves- and his is part of our nature. Unless the pain and bitterness in one’s heart is done away with, no alternative joy will replace it. The joy of marriage will not take away the pain of infidelity.
Fourthly, sexual sin does not happen overnight
When you say your partner cheated on you by sleeping with someone else, you must realize that sexual sin does not happen overnight. People don’t fall into sexual sin; they drift into it. By the time you sleep with someone, you had been flirting and compromising on your purity a long time ago. It may not have been purely physical, but you may have started lusting after them a long time ago in your heart. To get to the point where you sleep with them means that you already did it in your heart before you manifested it in the physical. The choice of your flesh over the truth did not happen when you were in the heat of the moment; it happened at the desire stage. That is why the scriptures in 1st Peter 2:11 teach us to ward off sin at the desire stage:
“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.” 1st Peter 2:11
If the person who cheated is a genuine follower of Jesus, it means that they ignored the prompting of the Holy Spirit and they ignored the respect and love they had for you. They chose to give themselves brief moments of carnal pleasure as opposed to a lifetime of love with you. Those brief minutes joins the souls of the person they slept with. It is a big deal. The scriptures say in 1st Corinthians 6:16 that if you sleep with someone you become one with them. It’s more than a flesh on flesh experience. It’s a binding emotional and spiritual connection even if it just happened once. Sexual sin may be brief but its repercussions are miles long and we must realize its genesis isn’t an overnight experience. If they slept with someone else, they had already cheated on you long before it was manifested physically. People don’t fall into sexual sin; they drift into it.
Fifthly, true repentance is characterised by change
Sometimes we are sorry we were caught; we are not sorry that what we did was wrong. Paul the Apostle calls the former worldly sorrow and the latter godly sorrow.
“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” 2nd Corinthians 7:10 (NKJV)
Worldly sorrow feels bad it was caught but never turns away from its evil. Godly sorrow is proved genuine in that it turns away from the sin. I know of a man who cheated on his girlfriend. After she found out she was obviously hurt and I can guess she was livid. He begged her for her forgiveness. She was, of course, confused and perplexed but did forgive him and they resumed the relationship. However, he repeated the infidelity and she found out again. She was doubly hurt and she felt like a fool for trusting him again. Later, she found out the infidelity was more than the two times she knew. She realized his repentance was worldly and selfish. He was sorry he was caught. He wasn’t sorry for what he did. Another man I knew cheated on his girlfriend and she found out. Amidst the pleas for forgiveness he proposed to her. The proposal was perhaps a way to placate her to forgive him. I warned the girl that the proposal was a rush especially in light of what was going on. Love is patient, the scriptures say. A girl I knew cheated on her partner several times and he kept accepting her back whilst telling us “This time she will change.” It wasn’t long before he realized she was sorry she was caught but she was not sorry for the hurt she caused. True godly sorrow and repentance is characterised by doing away with the sin. Does the person agree with God about their sin? Have they taken steps to seek spiritual restoration? Have they asked for forgiveness and are open to what their partner will do, including ending the relationship?
Sixthly, do not marry someone you have not forgiven from your heart
Do not marry someone you have not forgiven from your heart. I don’t say this to judge your partner’s repentance, but rather because the breach of trust with sexual sin is an indicator of character flaw. Character is not restored through an apology. It is restored through refinement of virtue and the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Sexual sin kills a person’s vision. Sexual sin kills destiny. An apology means one is sorry for the hurt but only restoration guarantees a person you can marry. If true repentance is not in place, do not think the offense of infidelity will not be possible when you are married. I would not encourage anyone to continue with a relationship after an unmarried partner has cheated on them. Why?
- Firstly, you are not bound by law or by God to be with this person.
- Secondly, sexual sin draws in multiple consequences unlike other sins. (Not that other sins are better. They just bring less repercussions)
- Thirdly, sexual purity prior to marriage is a test of our patience and self-control. A wedding band around your finger does not grant you commitment and anti-infidelity powers. People choose not to cheat because they choose not to cheat. It’s a character issue.
- Fourthly, forgiveness does not mean you must stay in that relationship. Nothing binds you. Forgiveness just means you must release the hurt and bitterness in your heart and get right with God and the person who hurt you. Forgiveness does not mean you have to marry them. Wisdom may dictate that you forgive him but you leave him for the sake of peace.
But Ernest, you ask, is it possible to forgive, get back together and move on? Yes it is, Beloved. But for that to happen, you must understand forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not an option; it’s the only choice
For a born-again Christian, forgiveness is not an option; it’s the only choice. Beloved, forgiveness is a must. If you are a follower of Jesus, you realise that the scriptures teach us if we do not forgive others who sin against us, God will not forgive us when we sin against him. The biggest incentive for forgiveness is the cross of Christ. If the Son of God dying and bleeding, bruised and battered, mocked and jeered (all in your place) does not move you to genuinely forgive one who has hurt you, nothing will. Unbelievers who do not have the Spirit of God in them will see forgiveness as weakness. It is not weakness but meekness. We must forgive because it also frees our hearts. One author said that forgiveness is like opening the prison doors only to discover that the prisoner was you. Unforgiveness is spiritual toxicity. However, many people when hurt misunderstand forgiveness.
Forgiveness does not mean you are endorsing this person’s bad behaviour. Some people think that if they forgive their partner, they will be letting them go scot free. But hear what the word of God says in Romans 12:19-21 “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.” (NKJV)
People, through the power of God, can repent, be restored and have a marriage up ahead. But we must remember to NEVER start a marriage if the foundation is shaky, unsure or unstable. You are compelled and strengthened by the Gospel to forgive but remember you can’t change people. They must be willing to abandon their sin and return to God. You have to ask God through prayer to help you forgive him. For more on forgiveness, download for free this four-sermon series by Pastor John MacArthur: http://www.gty.org/resources/sermon-series/227.
I pray this helps, Beloved. After the two weeks, do not feel compelled to give an answer on marriage if you have not resolved all these things. On April 10th at CITAM Valley Road, my wife, Turi, and I will be hosting the 4th Volume of BOY MEETS GIRL. The theme is FOUNDATIONS. We are getting back to the basics because we realise that things don’t go wrong; they start wrong. If you have a good foundation in your faith, you can build without worrying. I welcome you to come. Meanwhile, we are praying for you. Psalm 34:18 says “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted”