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The Kind of Spouse Who Cheats

I thought Anna and Don Walker* had the kind of marriage I wanted – maybe they did at the time.

That was 15 years ago, when I was in college.  Back then, Anna and Don were the kind of couple you never dreamed would divorce.  They were steady, salt-of-the-earth folks who effortlessly served others and gave the impression that they really liked each other.

After I graduated from college, the only contact I had with the Walkers was through Anna, and that was just through Facebook, where she wasn’t very active.  But it was through Facebook that I noticed something strange the other day: her name wasn’t Walker anymore.

I sent a message to a mutual friend and asked if something had happened to Anna and Don.  He replied, “I am sorry to say that Don divorced Anna last year.  It is a long and bitter story that broke my heart.  Please lift them both up in prayer.”

I went to Anna’s Facebook page and found a cryptic post that provided a little more detail.  It said,

“[O]ne year ago today my world came crashing down around me.  I felt like life was taken from me – that a part of me died.  I was in a place in life I never thought I would be.  I felt hopeless.  There was darkness all around me, BUT GOD WAS THERE.  I am telling you this to let you know that no matter how dark it gets, His light shines.  He has sustained me.  I am still standing because I serve a wonderful, loving God.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.  Sometimes we don’t understand the things that happen in our lives, but we don’t have to understand, we just have to trust the one that does. 

I pray that this is an encouragement for someone.  Sometimes you just need to hear, ‘It’s going to be okay.’  You will get through this no matter how many times the enemy tells you that you won’t make it.  I’m here to tell you it will be okay.  Just keep your eyes on Jesus.  He is working on your behalf!  He loves you!  He has a hope and a future for you!  He will never leave you!  I know this to be true!”

I was inspired, but I also grieved for Anna, especially after I later learned that Don left her for someone else.

There was a time when I thought I could never do what Don did to Anna, where I truly believed I was above that kind of mistake.  I am no longer so foolish.

Don didn’t leave the house, meet someone new, and pack his bags.  He didn’t wake up one morning and say, “What the heck – I think I’ll destroy my family and my good reputation today.”  I’m sure, as my mom once said about another man, “he did it one bad decision at a time.”

I just wonder what that series of bad decisions looked like for Don, and what they would look like for me.  Maybe I would stop flirting with my wife or start dabbling in online porn or just go to bed angry.  But the interesting thing is, in a recent conversation with Anna, she offered this explanation for why her husband left: “He fell out of love with God long before he fell out of love with me.”

As I thought about all this, about how far Don had gone in the wrong direction over the last 15 years, I realized it’s not that hard to make a series of poor choices, and it’s not that hard to disengage from fellowship with the Lord.  And that’s why, outside of God’s grace and making good choices, I too am the kind of spouse who cheats.

*Anna and Don Walker are pseudonyms I have chosen after receiving permission from Anna to post this article. 

18 Comments
  1. This is sad yet encouraging that Anna is moving on with God. A month doesn't go by without Betsy and I hearing about another Christian family we walked with divorcing. I know it goes the other way many times but in just about all these cases it's the man who has strayed. I used to be surprised. I am no longer surprised. I'm convinced our American evangelical culture has long been compromised with the world and we own bad theology and awful priorities. These men are responsible for their betrayals but the church has to own that we do not provide much purpose for men. As Bets says often in many ways we've just sanctified the American Dream. If that is all there is no wonder there is so much restlessness. We have a fundamental misunderstanding of grace and what it does in us!

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    January 29, 2013
  2. Blah, deleted my own comment :-)Josh, great article. Jim, well said.

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    January 29, 2013
  3. As an abandoned wife and now a single mother of 3, I am reading "Why Men Hate the Church" by David Murrow in hopes of raising my son to be different from his father. I hate to cast blame, but I do feel that much blame falls on the shoulders of the church. If you look at where our churches are today compared to where they were in Jesus' day, I don't think this is what Christ intended when he said to go and make fishers of men. When I refer to the church, I don't mean the pastor alone. It starts there, but the male members are next.

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    January 29, 2013
  4. Very good article. Jim, loved your comments. And I've got to get my hands on "Why Men Hate the Church". God opened my eyes months ago that the Enemy is seeking to devour the family & the church through men. Consistently at our church we run high numbers in the women's Bible studies and during the alter calls after the sermon, it's women who come forward. I keep looking over the 1000 or so folks in the room on Sunday & ask the Lord, "Where are your sons? Where are your men?" I am praying for revival for the men of Faith. Breaks my heart for what is happening in our Family.

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    January 29, 2013
  5. Joshua, you've hit it out of the park again with another excellent article. Not trying to blame anyone, but I had a wake up call about some of our supposed safety valves that the church has set up to help guide the flock. The pastor that did the premarital counseling with one of my daughters and her finance told me at her wedding reception that he hoped that they make it. I was quite shocked that this was the time he chose to speak up about his misgivings about their union. My daughter had thought she was just having the pre-wedding jitters when she felt like calling off the wedding. It would've helped to have someone outside of the emotions to give guidance. Eight years later she would be divorced with five children.

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    January 29, 2013
    • Tony #

      As her father – did you have any reservations about who your daughter was marrying?

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      August 22, 2015
  6. That is really disturbing, and is probably due, in part, to the permissive attitude towards divorce that permeates the Church now. "I hope they make it (implied: but if they don't, they can always divorce)."

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    January 29, 2013
  7. Great article Josh! Nothing damages the Church more than when a Church family is destroyed by divorce! I know first hand. But I also know that God is in control, and He will never leave me! He allows us to go through trials so we can see Him more clearly, and so one day we can minister to others that are hurting. We must keep our eyes on God and stay on His path for our lives…yes, it could happen to anyone. God bless you and your precious family!

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    January 30, 2013
  8. This article when probed into deeply gives rise to thoughts about the Calvinist doctrine of "the perseverance of the saints" (i.e. once-saved-always-saved). The church I attend supports the Calvinist line. In case anyone wants to know of scriptures backing up this doctrine, J. C. Ryle, when asked for supporting evidence, came up with 44 scriptural passages backing it up. There are even more than that. Off the top of my head, I can think of John 10:27-29 and 1Peter 1:23.We are very aware of characters like Don, i.e. ones who we believed to be born again, but who turned out to be completely unconverted. To sum up the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints when it comes to Don, he was never in love with God in the first place (i.e. born again). A person may perform some good deeds and appear to be caring, but unless a person has acquired true and profound repentance, that person is unsaved. He mentioned an example of a former pastor he knew who was a firm proponent of Calvinistic doctrines and all of a sudden, renounced his apparently-Christian lifestyle, left his position and his wife and frequently attacked the doctrines he had pledged his support to. My pastor said that in hindsight, the only sign that something was out-of-place that he recalls, was that he was very ambitious for himself. However, in any case, we fallen humans will sometimes make errors of judgement, despite our best intentions and efforts to familiarise ourselves with what the scriptures say about the marks of a truly born again person.This does not mean to say that genuinely born again people don't suffer lapses. This is what we call "backsliding". My pastor briefly mentioned on one occasion that the difference between a backslidden person and someone who was never born again in the first place is that the backslidden person will, to some extent, have some signs of a battle against sin, even in his/her lowest state. God reacts according to the two different categories. If the person is not among the elect, he will give that person up to his/her sins (see Romans 1). On the other hand, God will take steps (be it negative experiences as consequences of stupidity or whatever) to bring a backslidden person into line (mentioned in passages such as Proverbs 3:12, Hebrews 12:6 and Revelation 3:19).As it happens, I am doubtful that men in Western society are to blame in as high a proportion of cases as is made out. I'm pretty sure that in the USA and UK, a majority of people filing for divorce are women. I've known women to just get bored of their husbands for no apparent reason.As for men losing interest in the church and how to reverse the trend, I think the best thing we can do is to look into everything we can find in the scriptures about how we are to run our churches, follow the directions to the letter and trust God to do the rest, i.e. the old saying of "take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves". We don't need any great new strategies: – as is made clear by Deuteronomy 30:11-14 and Romans 10:6-8, we know all we need to know as far as salvation goes. If we simply run our churches as God instructs us, there is no reason why we shouldn't have thriving male populations in our congregations.

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    January 30, 2013
  9. It's a wonderful ideal — but after watching many Christian relationships, I've seen more fall into the category I talked about, than those you speak of. It's tough. We are all human. Curious – do you believe that it is God's will for all married couples to stay together? How do you explain those that don't? (is it only because someone has FAILED to live up to the ideal — does that mean God abandoned that person? ) I have a much different view now, after watching couples over many years, going through many kinds of situations, and sometimes coming out still together and sometimes not.But what is more important, just to me personally, is recognizing how judgmental we are about others' relationships. Jesus said not to judge — so why do we feel so compelled to judge? Why do we have that fearful response, and look to see who we can blame for the breakup, when we really don't know the relationship or what happened? I can go into my own marriage with the intent to rely on God, and follow my faith……but that's different than how I view or judge someone else's relationship, and that's the dynamic I am interested in. Two separate things. I love your stuff and the discussions, as always!

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    February 3, 2013
  10. Scripture teaches that we don't judge those outside the church, but we actually do judge those inside the church. By "judge," I don't at all think it means that people are entitled to condemn me when I miss the mark, but if I am going to claim that the Spirit of God has miraculously taken up residence inside me, then I hope people will be kind enough to point out stark inconsistencies between my life and Christ's life when they see them.

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    February 12, 2013
  11. I read a book a long time ago that compared the approaches of Barnabas and Paul in the Bible. I know that I am a Barnabas at heart. I understand why we need both types of Christians – those who take a more "tough love" approach like Paul (given Paul's background, it makes total sense that he had a strict approach), and those who always want to encourage, see the best in people, and give others a second chance like Barnabas. The book is called Encouraging People by Donald Bubna. http://meaningofstrife.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/encouraging-people/

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    February 20, 2013
  12. Would you feel the same way about a dad who decided that, in his broken humanity, he just couldn't do it anymore and suddenly abandoned his little children, never to see them again? I mean, sometimes the best encouragement is hard encouragement, like, "Grow up, man. Think about someone other than yourself before you do this foolish thing that will wreak havoc on your family." I don't see the two situations any differently, maybe because I know so many fathers who have done both, with horrible consequences for their wives and children.

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    March 17, 2013
  13. I'm sorry, but I need to point out that Don made a choice to leave the marriage. This was not the church's decision, it was not Anna's decision, it was HIS decision. Where is the outrage at his behavior? I hear so much in the comments about how the church is failing men, and how the church is responsible for his behavior? I'm sorry, but that is absurd to me. This man needs to be held RESPONSIBLE for HIS behavior. It was a breakdown in HIS moral values that allowed him to walk out on his wife and family. This is HIS fault, not the church's. I had a supposed "Christian" man who left me for a woman who was 15 years younger than he. I don't blame the church he attended, for not tending to his spiritual needs. Nor do I blame the men in the church, for not guiding him. I blame HIM, for making a horrendous choice and breaking a family apart. My relationship with God has been strengthened through all of this, but I am less likely to attend church now. I actually find myself moving further and further way from Christianity in general (for the reasons I already mentioned, as well as many others). I do love this blog, and appreciate your words.

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    April 5, 2013
  14. I'm sorry your husband broke his vows and did so much damage to you. I do want to point out that on the one hand, you're frustrated that people blame the church for unfaithful men. But on the other hand, you say that part of the reason you're moving away from the church is because of your husband's unfaithfulness. So it's like you're saying, "I don't want others to blame the church for unfaithful men, but I will." I'm sure there's more to the story, but that's how the comment read. Either way, it's awful when this happens to a marriage, and I pray I never get too prideful to think I couldn't do the same thing.

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    April 8, 2013
  15. Lola #

    My husband was a ‘great husband and family man’ to all who observed his ‘performance’ in his career and our marriage …including me! We have been married 33 + years and I home-schooled our three children , two of which went on to graduate with honors from a prestigious and difficult University.

    Twenty six years into our marriage and ‘wonderful life’ I discovered photos of two children and an email from the Ow who he had a secret life with for the past 14 years of our marriage!

    Shock and near heart failure as this was a totally unexpected revelation to me that I was not even looking for . The details of how this happened are too long to recount.

    I was in ministry for 13 years before we married . He was enthusiastically involved in the ministry and had no reservations about this walk but indeed was fairly untried and younger than I both in age and in walk.

    He simply did not go the distance and I think that if a man does not have a change of IDENTITY from UNSAVED to SAVED in terms of how they are willing to allow God to take the lead and teach them it will be extremely difficult for them to have a change of identity from Single guy to Married man.

    My husband had a change of career which involve him becoming a ‘boss’ in a work culture that involved most people who were ambitious, worldly , and not particularly of any moral character which respected marriage. He began by spending his time and concern for how to ‘build the office moral’ at the expense of our marriage and family.

    He has told me that about that time as we had our first baby and his mom was dying that he decided that he would not divorce me but remain married and seek to have a separate life!

    He is very intelligent and handsome and had many opportunities to indulge this desire and he was very good at deceiving me by way of excusing himself due to having so much ‘responsibility at work’ and so I ‘supported and encourage his life goals’ . I never would have believed him capable of this kind of behavior because he seemed so concerned about his integrity and self image. I guess being married to me as a committed Christian and trusting wife gave him a good ‘facade’ and cover story for his preferred life.

    Though he had several OW his final choice was a woman who also did not care for God or marriage and made more of a ‘business deal’ to be his adulterous partner. Of course his financial status was one of the big KEYS in her following our family around for many years and then demanding he give her children. I read one of his letters to her which was only one of two that were saved …It expressed his admiration for how she researched being a “single mom by choice’ and how wise she was in how she handled her parents ..who he then reminded her of how much he loved her dad because of how ‘great he was about’ their relationship even knowing he had a wife and three small children at home and the two of them had the understanding that he would never divorce me or marry her …from the first time she solicited him in a restaurant while he was transferred ahead of our family.

    I know this sounds so extremely fantastic…I still have trouble some 7 years now getting my head around this being our reality and how people could DO such a thing to anyone ..including two children that they have both USED for their own separate individual agendas…her for money guaranteed for at least until they are our of high school and my husband ..? Well he always has been a over achiever.

    One of the first things my husband said to me when I confronted him after he came home and told him what I had accidentally discovered while trying to find some papers he had wanted me to look for was ” If God knows everything why did he let you marry me knowing what I was going to do? !!

    This smacks of how Adam blamed GOD for the woman that God gave him rather than own his own disobedience!

    I told my husband that there was nothing about me or marriage that he did not know when he insisted that he was not going to go on in life without marrying me . That was HIS decision and his urging me was not a blind decision.

    He simply left off wanting to learn anything more from the Word of GOD and did not want to be around believers and that included me when he grew to get more and more involved with his co workers . Evil communications do indeed corrupt good morals …no doubt about it.

    Since that D Day ..his having the two children out of adultery put a huge obstacle in the mix for our dealing with this traumatic discovery. He “worked ‘ at the marriage for about a year and then resumed his relationship with the kids …not the OW who he said he hated ….but he lied to me and soon I found out about his sneaking around again. He kept staying in our home but put more and more distance between us and then left to live doing a house sitting for some guy he found needing one online.

    This man is highly educated , was very successful in his career , had made a more than sufficient income which is now GONE due to his ‘generosity’ with the OW ‘s demands and his feeling obligated to provide for the children to HER standards .

    So it is extremely painful for me and my adult daughters who were raised to wait upon the Lord for a husband but this tsunami, though they are strong and wonderful believers has put a bit of a detour in trust of any man that might appear to be a believer and all perfection in all ways .

    The man they had for a father was so good at deceit. The man was capable to demonstrate love WHEN his schedule allowed it . I often felt guilty because worked so hard and so when weekends came and he would ask if I minded if he played golf I assured him that he had earned it ….

    So my ‘loving’ support and sacrifice in order to draw my husband back to the Lord and to recognize my love for him by not hindering him , nagging him, whining or intruding when he indicated that he wanted ‘time for himself was not useful toward our marriage but enabled him to go off and do whatever without any cause for worry about me.

    I DID make effort to gently speak to him about what we and HE was missing out in the lives of our children and that I did not get married to go everywhere alone or only with our children . His heart was gone. He would usually only be home just before bedtime and if we did have any time it was when he was so ‘tired’ he would doze off while I spoke with him

    I had NO inkling that he would risk all for immorality of this kind .

    He KNEW the cost and it did not matter to him because in the midst of this kind of fog and spiritual darkness that grew from his turning from the Lord he minimized the depth of the harm.

    Now he insists that he will not be back but I have taken all of these years to investigate in the word what to do and how all of this mess came to be in what one would have thought was the perfect family and he coming from a ‘Leave it to Beaver;’ family of origin.

    As I now must recall his own father and mother outright rejected the Lord and asked me not to speak of Him in their home! it was too late ..we were married but I recall my husband did not defend me but was silent.

    Men are SO influential by God’s design and in our gender neutralizing culture it is become a plague …Feminism was not aimed at gaining women it was aimed FIRST at men . It was to cause men to BELIEVE hat women took that mantra …In the beginning of it it was not as important that WOMEN believed in it but that MEN did .

    Men were given the jurisdiction of WORK …and among men after the Fall , work became an exercise in competition. With women entering into the god given jurisdiction of the work place men began to function around women as they did men. Competition and the women became a threat ..which no man could overtly contend with.

    This attitude also effected men’s overall view of women ..we are speaking here of men who know not God or His word as it was to change attitudes in men following the Lord …but natual men and men unlearned would grow to resent this ‘trap’ that PC corporate training would put in place to protect them from legal action due to perceived ‘bias’ or ‘sexual harassment’ or some other such ‘discrimination’ all working toward the changing of the family landscape and destruction of the family unit.

    So many things became clear as I have been studying day and night to learn what has brought about this tragic development . The doctrinal twists and neglect of sound biblical teaching surely has been a huge part but EACH person is responsible to read ,study and know the Word of GOD and to live by it as they are told in Christ.

    Men apart from biblical understanding are hard put to recognize the subtle effects of the drip drip drip of social engineering that has been at work since the 1800’s toward the destruction of the family and the ripping off from men the ORDER that GOD ordained for them.

    The entrance of women in the various God ordained areas of work as Adam was given has brought about developments in men who do not put on the mind of Christ who are not aware of how this positioning of women in the work place works not only there in the ‘competitive ‘ arena but that attitude becomes a lens through which they view their wives at home.

    The agenda also at the same time has denigrated the homemaker , wife and marriage. I was a successful woman in my music career but gladly laid it aside after the many many years of preparation and road work to be a stay at home wife and mother . I loved that and it was always my dream.

    God demonstrates the function of the man to be not only the provider of financial but the provider of all other aspects for his WIFE by way of KNOWING her ..as she is sensitive emotionally . The man is to be the protector of his WIFE and not keep ‘shopping’ ..eyeing other women in any form of appreciation is very damaging to his wife’s feeling attractive and secure in her husband’s eyes. Men who begin to treat women as ‘men’ as they are called upon to do in the workplace and women who find that they must somehow take on themselves some of the attitudes of men …will destroy the DISTINCTIONS that cause men to treat their wives with the deference that GOD has instructed will bring the best closeness and security not only to the wife but to the children.

    MY husband outright told me that he did not WANT to learn to be a husband or a father but that and that he was ‘not the man I wanted him to be ‘ even though I did not criticism or demand anything of him but that he would continue to study the word and fellowship with me.

    He refused even after a good number of years enjoying fellowships and classes. He has a bible full of his own notes and even our premarital letters were filled with his biblical comments and rejoicing!

    Some of the greatest changes came in his personality when he began his training in corporate and along with his insistence that he carry out the way he had to lead the office and be approachable.

    He had not become rooted and grounded in the things of GOD and did not develop toward that end as he began to work among unbelievers and dive into the ways he had to climb the corporate ladder by their culture.

    I find it sad that even now he is but a hollow man who is a fair weather father to the children of adultery and is still trying to maintain some kind of relationship with our children but not willing to go through any of the hard things that really meet the needs of those who he has done so much damage to .

    I feel that he is still all about himself though we have all extended the forgiveness and open door for him. He said he just ‘can’t do it’

    I know that Rejoice Ministries has been supportive of those who suffer the loss of a spouse through adultery and it may help to know about them for those here . This is a lot bigger than I ever imagined as I had gone on line to seek what to do. I now offer encouragement to others to hang in there because GOD created marriage and it is HIS ..He takes the vows of covenant marriage very seriously since the man is a representative of Christ.

    So I thank you for your views so very helpful to people who also hold the vows high and desire to make the best effort to remain in marriage “til death do we part ‘ . in truth a man who is willing to be unfaithful is actually proclaiming that he won’t learn to love ONE woman and apparently he is still just a child.

    Men who are encouraged to be fathers without investing in making the relationship of husband and wife as the foundational way to love their kids. Kids who have only one parent lose the example of HOW men and women are to function faithfully together so then my husband wants to ‘father’ those kids but he is not honest with them and feels the truth is too harsh for them ..so they will learn that though he is married with a family that he and their mother CHOSE to have them and that there is nothing wrong with adultery!

    They are being taught to normalize sin! This is not what is meant by God to ‘father’ a child in truth it is almost MORE damaging to try to solicit children who do not want to lose the love of their parent …to accept a sinful relationship as normal.

    I know forgiveness is due and doable and it is seventy times seven a practice throughout our lives…but what is sad is how many kids are growing up being taught to accept all kinds of sin as normal and if not desirable …’unavoidable’ and with the ‘proviso’ that it is because of ‘love’

    The Bible says that ‘Love does no ILL TO HIS NEIGHBOR” and adultery is as “ill ‘ as it gets at any age of ‘child’

    Sorry this was so long …I hope it encourages and informs to some degree …nothing more painful to go through …We are not divorced and I don’t want or believe it is best …I strive to believe God for reconciliation in His due time .

    Some people ask” HOW can you still love this man who did such a thing?”

    I wondered that myself and I came to think ” I SOWED LOVE DAILY …” not only the Word and effort to keep following whatever the Word said …but I SOWED LOVE INTO MY SPOUSE”

    He did not …he has lived a shallow and phony life that was kept going by people who had something to gain from him by flattery .

    Flattery is a hard thing to ignore when it is all you desire because GOD does not flatter us but warns us what is in us and around us to avoid so we then may live and leave a godly legacy for anyone with a heart to gain from that encounter.

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    June 6, 2014
  16. Josh, I follow you on FB but since we are not friends any private message I send to you won’t readily be available. That said, I’d like to offer you a different perspective on this topic – but I’d rather not do it here, in public forum, on the off chance you’d like to use my story as a follow up post. You can find me with the email/website information I’ll leave below. – Deanna

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    August 22, 2015
  17. Graeme Phillips #

    Why is it that so many of us are wringing our hands and asking what to do about this happening in the church? The simple solution is to apply church membership policies in line with biblical teaching.

    When it comes to admitting people to membership, churches should be doing their due diligence to check for the signs of true conversion. Too many pastors have the attitude of “baptising people before they change their minds”. It is possible for people to backslide, but J. C. Ryle, when challenged about the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints (once-saved-always-saved), cited 44 Bible verses in support of the doctrines.

    Also, when it comes to discipline, churches should be applying discipline when bad behaviour appears in their congregations. The method of discipline cited by Christ is warnings, followed by exclusion: – one-on-one warning, two-or-three-on-one warning, a warning before the congregation, exclusion.

    Although the membership system is flawless in its design, it is administered by flawed humans. However, church leaders enforcing membership system rules rigidly should provide some assurance to people seeking a spouse within the church. I cannot speculate too much on what happened in all the churches alluded to in all the comments here, but I suspect they were not checking for signs of true conversion before admitting people to membership.

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    August 23, 2015

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