When the Holy Spirit trumps godly counsel in the case of infidelity

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 In this short series of posts, I relate some of my experiences as a pastor for close to 30 years, and the ministry lessons I have learnt from each.  Given my many years  in ministry,  I have potentially over a 100 of these to share, but before I do, I would like to hear from you whether or not you found them interesting or useful. So if you do, won’t you give them a thumbs up and ‘Like’ each post or feel free to leave a comment or send me an email! I would love to hear from you!

One of my church members came to me  for advice on a delicate situation. He had cheated on his wife many years ago but now he felt the need to confess… to her.  “Do you think I should?”, he asked with downcast eyes.  “Well Bart”, I responded (of course his name was not really Bart), “Do you think it is in her best interest if you did that?” I explained my belief that such a confession would simply be self-serving unless it helped her in some meaningful way. I quoted Philippians  2:3-4;Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” I then expressed my opinion that she would probably be devastated and although he would be left feeling relieved, she would be bitterly unhappy. He agreed, smiled tightly, and departed.

About a week later Bart phoned me to say that, contrary to my counsel, he had confessed his past transgression to his wife. And, yes, she had been shocked, devastated and bitterly unhappy. I ‘tsk tsked’ to myself thinking; ‘Silly blighter, he should have listened to me.’ “But”, continued Bart, “after a couple of days she came to me and told me that my confession now allowed her to tell me that she too had been unfaithful in the past.” The result of all this was that they forgave each other and their marriage relationship improved hugely. Just a short while after this Bart was diagnosed with cancer and he died not too long after that. He and his wife shared his last months together with wonderful  love and genuine affection, with no unfinished emotional business  between them to attend to.

When it comes to counselling, pastors sometimes think that they have better judgement and greater wisdom than the people they counsel. We often don’t! Sometimes too pastors mistakenly believe that they are responsible for solving others’ problems. We aren’t! It is the Holy Spirit’s prerogative to change lives, and He alone is the true counsellor (John 14:26)It is the pastors responsibility to point out biblical principles and precedents, to help the counselee to work through the problem in a Christ-like manner, and to pray. Only the Holy Spirit knows the hearts of men and women and only He knows the future course of our lives.  I learned this lesson from Bart … thank you my departed friend.

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