Years ago at about the same time, two Christian men told me they were involved in extra-marital affairs. The men did not know each other, but each came to me for counsel. There were similarities in how they were dealing with it, but I especially noted some key differences.
First, here’s what they had in common:
- Both knew what they were doing was “wrong” (duh)
- Both called it sin and had a measure of shame
- Both were still involved, without an “exit plan” yet
- Both wanted to stay married, and reported they loved their wives
- Both claimed Christian faith and had given evidence of real fruit of the Spirit over the years (despite the adultery)
- Both had a measure of responsibility in their local churches, though not high-profile (or paid) positions
There were, however, these notable differences:
- Man A had never lied about it — he had merely been silent; Man B was confronted and initially denied it
- Man A came to me voluntarily and admitted what he was doing; Man B had finally gotten caught, and had to drop the deception
- Man A admitted his responsibility and focused on that; Man B complained about how his wife wasn’t meeting his needs … and that’s why he sought the embrace of someone who would make him feel valued
- Man A was thinking he should step down from his ministry responsibilities to work on his issues; Man B felt like nobody should judge him given the fact that every man he knew was struggling with some form of sexual sin (lust, pornography, emotional affairs, etc.) — if he had to stop volunteering at church, then shouldn’t every man he knew?
I suggested to Man A that he could probably stay in his ministry position as long as he pursued his personal work. He agreed to immediately break off the affair. He told his wife about it, and they got into counseling together. Last I heard, they were still together, and he has remained faithful to her since.
I strongly urged Man B to step away from his responsibilities while he worked on his own issues. I told him his deceit, blaming and minimizing were compounding the problem. To his credit, he came clean with his wife. The last I heard, they were still together. And also to his credit, he has remained faithful to her since.
Man A was grateful for me shooting straight with him and expressed that. Man B is still angry and hurt, and feels I was judgmental and hypocritical.
What do you think?
- Was I too soft on Man A?
- Was I too hard on Man B?
- Was Man B right that any man who struggles with lust should not serve at his church? And if some can and some can’t, where’s the line?
By Judson Poling
Judson met Greg Huston (The Crucible Project’s founder) in 2002 and staffed his first initial weekend the following spring. Judson is a founding board member of The Crucible Project and co-developer of The Crucible Project’s four second-level weekends. He also served on staff of Willow Creek Community Church for 29 years. Judson is now a best-selling author and President of Cambia Resources, LLC, doing consulting, coaching and freelance writing.
Photo Credit: Bill Strain via Creative Commons.