The Sweet Christian Bride

Forgiveness in Marriage

by admin on April 12, 2012 in Faith, Family, Pre-Marital Counseling, Relationship with No Comments

Poison tastes so good.  I try to drink it as much as possible because I know that it helps give me what I want.  I feel vindicated and freed when I drink it.  Bottoms up!


You probably know the adage, “Bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get hurt.”  In other words, when we don’t forgive those who abuse or betray us, we drink poison every day.  The only ones who suffer from that are ourselves.

Marriage is a beautifully messy entanglement of two people’s vulnerabilities.  A husband and wife can bring healing and joy into each other’s hearts more deeply than any other person can.  But because the core of that intimacy is rooted in transparency, honesty, and trust, a husband and wife also learn the strategy and accumulate the arsenal for how to destroy one another.  This is why anger in marriage can be so damaging.  This is why we must practice forgiveness and self-control.

Instructing forgiveness in marriage seems fairly trite without context, but it’s God’s Truth nonetheless because when we cannot forgive someone, we separate ourselves from God.  That’s when our lives (and our marriages) begin to unravel.

My friend was recently challenged by God to do some penetrating forgiveness, so she sought God’s counsel for how to do that?  How does one conjure forgiveness when the crime was unjust, the wounds are still fresh, the loss is still felt, and the fear is still looming?

God first clarified some terminology for her.  Forgiveness is holding back the punishment that the offender deserves. Identifying injustice is a part of that, so by nature,  forgiveness does not mean that the victim is approving or ignoring the offense.

The victim will likely experience negative emotion around this offense in the form of mistrust (fear of future offense), fear of the ramifications or fall out from the offense, hurt or grief from the inflicted offense, and indignation that the enemy used him or her as a target.  This is where forgiveness gets murky.  We think that because we aren’t freed emotionally from the offense that we can’t yet forgive.  None of those negative feelings, however, are mutually exclusive with holding back the punishment someone deserves.  And all of those negative feelings are opportunities for God to bring holy growth in the victim’s life.

We can forgive even if we haven’t completely processed the other negative emotions involved.

God then showed my friend what the first step to forgiveness was: confession.  We are quick to poke our fingers in someone else’s eyes in hopes of smashing that speck around and causing them the pain we feel they deserve.  But we are much slower at examining the plank in our own eyes (or even admitting that we have one).

Someone’s offense might be totally random or objectively rooted in and covered by his or her own sin such that the victim has played no sinful role in the offense whatsoever.  Even if this is true and the offense is free from the victim’s sin (which often it is not), a victim’s response to the offense is a hot bed for sin.

When we do not love our enemies, we sin.  When we respond in anger, we sin.  When we compare our behaviors to theirs in order to justify our sins and tout our righteousness, we sin.  When we let unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, we sin.  When we push another’s buttons in attempts to inflict them, we sin.  When we step in front of God in attempts to vindicate ourselves rather than allow Him to vindicate us, we sin (yes, that’s called pride).

The first step to forgiving is confessing our own sins.  In doing so, we remember that we are just as sinful as the offender.  We too have received God’s grace and have been privy to His mercy, and so we have no platform on which to stand that justifies our withholding that from another, no matter how egregious his or her sin against us might be.  Standing instead on the platform of humility allows our hearts to un-harden and to even be grateful that not one of us is too sinful for the love of Christ to redeem us.

With clear conscience, humility, and strength of spirit, we can now tackle the next step, and actually, the last step: loving our enemies.  This is referring to loving as a chosen action not as a warm thought or feeling.

Redirecting our negative thoughts.  Holding back our venomous words to or about the offender.  Praying for the offender’s freedom and redemption in Christ from the evil that is holding him or her.

We can all choose to act in love even when we don’t feel love and even when we are still processing the negative emotions of an offense against us.  This is the power of Christ in us.

Of course this last step is a massive one.  It is a process that takes time, patience, and grace for ourselves.  But out of it comes the by-product of forgiveness.

It’s not the forgiveness that we can choose to act on.  It’s the love.  By the love, the forgiveness comes.

Especially in marriage, in family, and in the church, we have to step up in our commitment to choosing love in the face of abuse or betrayal.  It will be far from easy, but that is how people will know that we are Christ’s disciples…when they see His love through us.  It is in situations like these when we must call on the miraculous nature of God to overcome hurts, harmful patterns, and impasses.  God IS big enough.  Let’s give Him the opportunity to show His saving power in our lives.

By Lindsay

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