I want to come back to Beth Moore’s questions.
Now we assumed that the two questions were hypothetical and that they were about two distinct scenarios. However, suppose that they weren’t. Of course, only Beth Moore knows the answer to that.
Certainly I get the feel that they are at least based on her wealth of pastoral engagement with women and if she did not have two (or one) specific marriages in mind, the cases will typify them. This leads us on to something important because some of us will have scratched our heads as pastors about the first question. Why would our answer to that be different because we were complementarian? However, if you have even lightly followed some of the stuff going on in the States then you will recognise something here. You see the suspicion (and this seems to be based in some experiences) is that if a husband is morally culpable then the elders will side with him and tell his wife.
- That she needs to keep forgiving him
- That it is probably due to her failings in some way as a wife that he has sought sexual pleasure elsewhere.
Now, we will want to say: “that should not be the case.” However, I know that I have heard people share this as their experience. Isn’t that shocking? Imagine if Nathan, instead of going in to David had gone to his other wives like Abigail and said “you are letting the side down.” Imagine if he had done exactly what many modern commentators and preachers have tended towards and had words with Bathsheba who was obviously the temptress in that context?
So, the problem is that we are hearing too many people saying that Beth’s questions don’t sound that hypothetical.
Secondly, what if they are linked? First of all, what if the man’s behaviour reflects something of his medical state? Would that affect our pastoral approach. Let’s be clear that this does not excuse sin. However, I am reminded of a workshop I ran with one of our elders with medical experience on pastoral care right at the start of my ministry in Bearwood. He set out a scenario of immorality and betrayal. Would we leap in to discipline. He then dropped the bombshell. The man in the scenario turned out to be suffering from Huntington’s Syndrome and it is possible that some of the symptoms of this might include a social and moral deterioration. This might cause us to pause and think more deeply about the situation. Once again, remember, we don’t excuse sin. Furthermore, I suspect that health issues expose underlying heart issues as we lose control rather than simply change our character.
However, things work the other way too. What if the reason for the erratic behaviour and the emotional distress that the husband suffers is either rooted in or at least exacerbated by his porn addiction. Surely then, this would start to affect how we approach the second question?
I don’t want to rush to answers here. At this stage, this potential additional information should simply lead to more questions. What it does remind us to do is to ask all the questions and not to simply jump in with answers based on our frameworks.