Question: "What should be the response of a Christian whose spouse has had an affair?"
Answer: Infidelity creates a very difficult and painful situation, one that involves all the emotions, and, for the Christian, can stretch faith almost to the breaking point. The best thing to do is “turn all your worries over to Him. He cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7). Go to the Lord for comfort, wisdom, and direction on a daily basis. God can help us through the deepest of trials.
Adultery is always wrong. “God will judge the person who commits adultery” (Hebrews 13:4). The injured party should rest in the truth that God is the avenger. The person who has been sinned against does not have to fret over getting even. God will do a much better job of that. When we are betrayed, we need to commit the pain to the One who knows every detail and will deal with it appropriately.
FORGIVE. “Forgive people when they sin against you. If you do, your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive people their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14, 15). This may seem impossible, and it will take time, but with God’s grace the victim can make it an act of the will in obedience to God’s Word. To harbor bitterness will affect attitudes, emotions, and the desire to obey God, and it will negatively affect everyday decisions. Refusal to forgive is more detrimental to the offended party than it is to the offender. This does not mean that the betrayed spouse is not going to suffer the effects of deep hurt. Forgiveness also does not make the offense “okay.” Forgiveness is about receiving God’s grace and trusting Him to redeem everything in our lives. It is appropriate to engage the anger and hurt caused by infidelity. Expressing these emotions to God can be a first step toward true forgiveness. Forgiveness is an act of the will, but it also must be heartfelt. Giving our emotions and needs over to God allows Him to minister to our hearts so that we can let go of the offense and forgive as we have been forgiven.
BE FORGIVEN. “But God is faithful and fair. If we admit that we have sinned, He will forgive us our sins. He will forgive every wrong thing we have done. He will make us pure” (1 John 1:9). Both parties should ask God to help them see how each may have contributed to the whole situation and be released from the weight of guilt before God. From that point on, there will be freedom to seek His counsel and guidance. His Holy Spirit will enable them to do what they could not do on their own. “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Then, as God leads, forgiveness and reconciliation can follow. No matter how long it takes, every effort must be made to forgive and reconcile. (See Matthew 5:23–24.) As to whether to stay or to leave, “anyone who divorces his wife and gets married to another woman commits adultery. A man may divorce his wife only if she has not been faithful to him” (Matthew 19:9). While the innocent party may have grounds for divorce, God’s preference is forgiveness and reconciliation.
The Lord says, “I hate divorce!” (Malachi 2:16). It is far better to try to resolve the issues causing the problems, especially if there are children involved. Godly counsel from a Christian counselor or pastor is helpful. Prayer for guidance in all thoughts, words, actions, and decisions is crucial.