Angela and Bill began attending Third Baptist Church about three months before their wedding, informing the young pastor that they had recently returned to Christ. He agreed to officiate the ceremony, charmed by their obvious adoration of each other and their apparent zeal for the Lord. Once married, they joined the church. Within a year, Angela began serving as a deaconess, and a few years later Bill became and elder.
Eventually someone in the church learned that Angela and Bill had met in a church ten years prior to their wedding. Angela was, at that time, married to a man who struggled with alcoholism. Bill’s wife had been in a car accident that left her so physically and cognitively disabled that she needed to live in a nursing home.
At first, the couple merely turned to each other for mutual support. Predictably, it didn’t take long before they fell in love. Nobody knows whether or not they became physically involved, but at some point Bill suggested that they divorce their respective spouses, move to another town with a church that didn’t know them, and get married. Angela was thrilled!
Both Angela and Bill took delight in their relationship. After a difficult marriage to a man whose drinking made it impossible for him to keep a job, the emotional and financial security she found in Bill felt heavenly. She praised God for rescuing her from her painful marriage by giving her a strong, reliable man. She never asked herself what would happen if a catastrophic accident landed her in a nursing home.
Bill enjoyed having a wife who could respond intellectually and sexually. He never wondered what would happen if he ever started drinking again (he never bothered telling her that he had a brief drinking problem after his first wife’s accident).
As they rejoiced in their relationship and their involvement in Third Baptist Church, someone in the church found out about their prior marriages and unbiblical divorces. That person went to them privately, gently confronting them with their adultery (Matthew 5:32).
Thankfully, Angela and Bill realized that they had sinned against each other, their former spouses and Third Baptist Church. Although divorcing each other and returning to their previous marriages would only compound their sin, they immediately resigned from the deaconess and elder boards, tearfully confessing their deception. They went to their exes, humbly asking forgiveness. Bill told Angela about his brief drinking problem and they agreed to take divorce off the table no matter what. They still serve at Third Baptist Church, though they can never have leadership positions again.
As painful as the discovery of their sin was, the joy they experienced as a result of repentance turned out to be exceedingly greater than the joy they felt when they first married.
[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. ~~1 Corinthians 13:6 (ESV)
Angela and Bill are based on a couple I actually know. I’ve fictionalized various aspects of their story, but I can report that I witnessed their repentance.