“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” — Colossians 3:12-14
Forgiveness is important in every relationship. And in marriage, where husband and wife are to be one, it is essential. This month in A Couple’s Bible Study we will study this life-giving commandment and learn how to love each other with God’s grace through confessing and forgiving.
When we get married, it is always helpful to remember that we are both sinners. Neither of us is perfect. We will mess up. We will at times hurt each other. And we will need to practice forgiveness.
Throughout my years as a pastor and counselor, I have many times heard a wife say something like, “I know I should forgive him. But I just don’t see how I can ever forgive him for _____.” Or a husband say, “I know I should forgive her. But you just don’t know what my wife has done to me.” And yes, as I listen to what each spouse has done, it would be easy to agree with their statements–as a sinful human being myself. Some things we do to or against each other can hurt deeply. But as a follower of Christ, God tells us we must forgive. It’s not only possible…it’s a command.
Forgiveness—real forgiveness—comes from grace and love. And in order for us to forgive, we must have first experienced God’s forgiveness ourselves.
Remember God’s Love and Grace to You
When we are hurt or upset by what our spouse has done, we must remember what God has done for us through His love and grace. You see, the only way to forgive our spouse and let go of whatever sin they have committed against us, is to remember our own sins forgiven by Christ.
God’s Word tells us: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And “all” in that verse means every one of us. We must remind ourselves that God has forgiven us so much. We don’t deserve His forgiveness, but through His love and grace we have received it.
Remember the Cost of God’s Forgiveness
God’s forgiveness came at a very high cost. John writes in John 3:16: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God sacrificed His one and only Son!
And Paul writes in Romans 5:8: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
How could anything we give up to forgive our spouse compare to what Jesus Christ gave up for us?
Remember the Power of God’s Grace
There is no question there are things that are painful and very hard to forgive. The truth is we cannot do it on our own. We need God’s help and the power of His grace to love our spouse in this sacrificial way. And He promises to hear and to help as we ask for and do His will.
We are told in 1 John 5:14-15: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”
Because we know it is God’s will that we forgive, this scripture tells us we know God will answer. In time and continually seeking God’s help to do so, we will forgive our spouse.
God is always with us, ready to help us. In Hebrews 13:5, He says: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
And Luke tells us in Luke 18:1: “…Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (Read the parable in Luke 18:2-8.) We must keep praying and never give up.
The Lord’s grace is powerful. And He will give us grace to follow His command to forgive.
Remember God’s Purpose in Marriage
We have discussed before the first and greatest purpose in marriage is to show how God loves all of us. But a husband and wife cannot be a reflection of His love to others until they show love and grace to each other. And part of this is forgiveness.
Listen to Paul in Colossians 3:12-14: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Jesus taught in John 15:12-13: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Who is a closer friend than a husband or wife? How can we show Christ’s love to our spouse and to the world around us any more than to lay down our life–our pain and pride–by forgiving his or her sin against us? If we do this, we will honor and please our Lord. We will be His witnesses. We will show the world what being a Christ-follower is really all about and what a difference He makes in a life and marriage.
Next week, we will continue our study on the important role confession and forgiveness play in marriage.
We hope you will use the questions below to discuss this teaching as a couple. May God bless you as you seek to live a Christ-centered marriage and grow closer to one another and to Him.
Questions for Discussion
- What does it mean to you that God has forgiven you of your sins?
- In light of God’s forgiveness to you, what is your attitude about how you should respond when your spouse does something you see as wrong against you?
- Is there something you are holding against your spouse right now that you need to forgive? Why not forgive him or her right now, and ask God to give you the gracious love you will need to do this and live this out?
- If you are unable to forgive your spouse because you have never received God’s forgiveness, please read about how to receive His forgiveness on this page: Meet Jesus.
If you have any questions or prayer requests you would like us to answer personally, please send us an email through our Contact Us page. It would be our privilege to pray specific requests for you and your marriage.
May God bless you in all His wonderful ways,
Other posts in the FORGIVENESS IN MARRIAGE series:
Part 2–The Need for Confession
Part 3–God’s Steps to Reconciliation
Part 4–Seeing with Clear Eyes
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Photo by copperscaledragon via pixabay (CC0), cropped/text added.