Self, Heartbreak

How To Handle A Cheater, According To The Bible

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What Does The Bible Say About Adultery?

There are so many ways relationships come to end, but the one at the top of everyone’s list as the worst is cheating.

In marriage, cheating is called 'adultery'.

In a relationship between unmarried people, sex before marriage with each other or with a third person outside of your relationship is termed, 'infidelity.'

When someone you love and are committed to has an emotional, physical or sexual relationship with a person other than you it hurts.

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I’ve never personally experienced this, but I’ve known people who have. It’s an awful thing to happen and it ruins so much more than the relationship itself.

Cheating will well up feelings of anger and payback and all sorts of other nasty thoughts.

But what if you’re a Christian? Does a relationship with God change the way a person thinks, feels, or responds to a cheating spouse?

The Bible talks about love and forgiveness. There's a verse that says, "Love covers a multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8)

Lots of questions about love and forgiveness come up in the mind of a Christian when they realize their spouse was unfaithful.

  • Can love cover adultery?
  • Does God want me to forgive the person and start all over again?
  • Does cheating end the relationship?
  • Can I get a divorce after an affair? Can I remarry if I'm the person who was faithful but my partner was not?
  • Can love guarantee the person won't cheat on you again?
  • Does God's word say how to know if the unfaithful person is sorry and how to rebuild broken trust back again?
  • Does that mean Christians or couples married in a holy sacrement forfeit their rights when their better half has an affair?
  • Does having faith require a big, forgiving heart?

All great questions. The answer for each is easier said than done.

Undeniably, at the core of the Christian faith is the belief that humans have a nature prone to making mistakes. (Romans 8:6-26)

The Bible calls this word 'sin'. Non-believers may call it personality or character defects and fatal flaws.

When a person caves into their carnal desires and hurts their partner, yes, they abandon their marriage in a big way.

But no, that doesn't mean they get a free pass and forgiveness wipes the slate clean.

The apostle Paul talks about love and sin and how people abuse it to do what they want without consequences.

That isn't what Christianity is all about.

In fact, that's not what a Christian marriage is supposed to be like at all.

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Yes, humans make mistakes. Whether it’s as basic as an impulse purchase or as severe as sexual desire with someone other than your partner, there are things in life that are hard to resist. Still it's our jobs to try and avoid them, at all costs.

No matter how hard you try you won’t rid yourself of your own desires, and neither can a cheating person even if they are sorry.

There's a reason why people cheat and even though it has nothing to do with you, generally it's to fill a void that is complicated and hard to find the bottom of.

Cheaters, like everyone else, can learn to control their body.

In Christian marriage, an individual's body is not their own.

Biblically, marriage makes 'two people one flesh' so, each person is responsible for his or her own actions.

They are also responsible for the consequences for when they harm themselves and their marriage.

What is cheating, according to the Bible?

There are different ways people are unfaithful. There are two specific types of cheating, according to the Bible.

If you believe the person you’re dating or are married to is guilty of this, then they’ve been cheating on you.

Visual cheating

Matthew 5:28: “But I can guarantee that whoever looks with lust at a woman has already committed adultery in his heart.”

These were words spoken by Jesus. He goes beyond the traditional definition of adultery by saying that even looking at someone in a sexual way and/or with lust is adultery.

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Physical cheating

Proverbs 6:32: “Whoever commits adultery with a woman is out of his mind; by doing so he corrupts his own soul.”

Both having sex with someone other than your partner along with even looking at someone else with lustful eyes are forms of infidelity.

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What to do if you've been cheated on?

Human nature will be for us to feel angry and hurt and maybe go as far as getting some sort of revenge.

You want payback for being betrayed, especially after thinking the person you were with loved you the most. However, I’ve got some bad news for you if that’s your plan.

1. Hold the person accountable.

Luke 17:3-4 says: “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

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2. Forgive them.

Personally I’ve found this to be a very tricky topic. That doesn’t mean unconditional forgiveness though.

No one wants to stay with someone who hurt them. My advice would be that this is an instance of forgive but don’t forget.

What I mean is that you’ll have to find it in your heart to forgive the person that cheated on you, but don’t forget that they did that either and take them back.

Forgiveness is for yourself, not the other person. It can help you heal regardless if they are sorry or not. You weren't the reason they cheated.

I can’t tell you to actually forgive them or not. Honestly it depends on the situation. But if it seems that it truly was a lapse in judgement, the Bible does say to forgive.

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3. Ask if the person is sorry and expect them to show signs of contrition.

The person that cheats should, at the very least, feel guilty and want to be forgiven.

But it also says that if a person keeps sinning there is no more grace left for them. If God doesn't extend grace, then there comes a point that you don't have to either. (Hebrews 10:26)

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4. Find out if there's a sincere desire to work things out.

Even though the times have changed, divorce is still viewed as something that can be sinful, especially if your reasons are impure.

So if your spouse has cheated, and you want to stay together, it’s time for a lot of marriage counseling.

You may be in a position to get a divorce, especially if the harm causes you to be in danger in any way.

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5. If they are a repeat offender, you may have to separate.

The Bible clearly states that if that other person wants a divorce, then they can get one, but it's their sin, not yours.

You have to forgive but you don't have to live with a cheater who isn't sorry for what they are doing to you.

While I certainly can’t even pretend to guess what God is thinking, I think that it’d be a good guess to assume that while He does love everyone and asks you to be forgiving,

He doesn’t want to see you continually hurt either. In reality, an issue like this all comes down to personal judgement.

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Jesse Oakley is a writer who writes about love, relationships, self-care and spirituality/astrology.