Questions From Readers
a man (or, a woman) ran off with another’s mate, could he be forgiven and
accepted back into the Christian congregation?
In the unusual case brought up in the question, scheming and
deceit may well have been manifest. For example, a man (perhaps himself
married) gets infatuated with someone else’s wife. There then may be hidden
flirting, secret meetings and unrevealed displays of passion. Lies and deceit
may be used to keep this from others, particularly the innocent mate or mates.
In time the pair might run off together, and after unscriptural divorce may
marry each other. They may well have calculated the outcome, realizing that
disfellowshiping will follow. But they think that “maybe in a year or so” they
can claim repentance and get reinstated, thus having things just the way they
want. However, it is a grave mistake to presume on divine mercy. Galatians 6:7 guarantees: “God is not one to be
mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” That Jehovah
looks with disapproval upon fornication is seen in many scriptures and this
should not be overlooked by those entertaining wrong desires.—Compare Revelation 21:8; 22:15.
time such a disfellowshiped person comes to the spiritual elders representing
the congregation and asks to be reinstated, what occurred, as well as the
wrongdoer’s attitude, would have to be considered. Regarding the unity of
the faith, Paul spoke of not being influenced by “the trickery of men, by means
of cunning in contriving error.” (Eph. 4:13, 14) That is true in avoiding doctrinal
error and it is equally so in avoiding having in the congregation persons who
deliberately have used deceit and trickery to accomplish wickedness.—Compare 2 Corinthians 11:13; Psalm 101:7; 119:118.
committee of elders handling such a request for reinstatement would want to
give thought to the difference between a person who succumbs to sin in a moment
of weakness and someone who conspires to sin. We can recall that God showed
mercy to Peter after he denied Jesus three times; yet God executed Ananias and
Sapphira, who schemed in their hearts how to carry out their deceit.—Acts 5:1-11.
thus need to exercise great caution in cases where hypocritical pretense and
conspiracy are involved. A person may profess sorrow and repentance, but if he
were back where he started, would he “do it all over again”? Would he
leave his mate for another? Of course, now he has entered a new marriage and so
cannot simply end it and return to the way things were before; the former marriage
ended with the divorce, adultery and remarriage. (Matt. 19:9) Yet, does he manifest genuine repentance,
being “crushed” and cut to the heart? (Isa. 57:15) Does he have a repulsion for the sin he
committed, rather than mere sorrow that he is disfellowshiped and is not able
to enjoy Christian association? Has he over a sufficient period of time, which
is not predetermined, produced the fruit that befits repentance? The elders
would need to be convinced, without a doubt, that there is true repentance. If
they do not sincerely feel confident on this, they may decide to wait and meet
again to review the matter after more evidence has accumulated.