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 look at this life-giving commandment and learn how to love each other with God’s grace through confessing and forgiving. This week we will look at some vital truths Jesus shares that are necessary for genuine forgiveness to take place.
It’s inevitable. There will be times when we are hurt or offended by our spouse, and vice versa. We’re all sinners. Whether we mean to or not, we will eventually do something or say something that will harm the one we’re married to. And every time that happens, it causes a rift in our relationship that has to be mended by forgiveness. But sometimes we bring more grief on ourselves than necessary.
A Judgmental Heart
To forgive each other, we must have a heart of grace. But our tendency is a heart of judgment. Being judgmental makes it difficult to overlook even a minor offense and to forgive our spouse when they hurt us.
However, Jesus said in Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”
This is a straight-forward command. Does that mean we simply overlook every sin our spouse commits? As we discussed in last week’s post, no. But we must not make it our way of life to be judgmental. The tense of the Greek word translated “do not” means “not always, continually.” Jesus is telling us we should not continually look for faults in our spouse.
Continual judgment or fault-finding reaps terrible consequences–with our spouse and with God.
Jesus continues in Matthew 7:2: “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
If we are not gracious, merciful, and forgiving, we cannot expect God to be so with us. We cannot expect our spouse to be either. This makes for a miserable life and marriage.
Sabra and I walk several miles at least three times a week for both exercise and because it is a wonderful time to get away and talk with each other. Recently while we walked, I had pain in my foot so bad I had to stop and take off my shoe to see what was causing it. It was just a tiny pebble that had worked its way into my sneaker. But it had a profound effect.
Continual judgment and fault-finding are like that tiny stone. It may seem small and inconsequential, but over time it can bring a growing marriage to a halt.
Small things we don’t deal with in a biblical way will lead to bigger problems in a marriage.
All too often when people marry they begin to work on “improving” their spouse. And they might think the best way to do this is to “speak the truth in love.” After all, that’s what the Bible commands–to speak the truth in love as we confront sin. But the “truth,” as they interpret it, includes not only confronting actual sins, but also everything their spouse does that they don’t like. They reason that their spouse will gladly change if they lovingly show them their faults. But, not surprisingly, this rarely works.
Look First to Yourself
Jesus suggests something different in Matthew 7:3-5: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Jesus suggests–no, He commands–that we begin by looking at ourselves.
Change begins when we ask God to show us how we ourselves have sinned against our spouse. When He discloses to us ways we need to change to be the godly husband or wife described in His Word, we must then take action–ask for forgiveness and make the necessary changes. And then, we might just see our spouse respond to the change in us.
Only with God’s Help
Of course, none of this is possible without God’s help. His Word tells us that when we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are set free from living our old sinful ways and can live according to His ways through the Holy Spirit living in us. He is our helper to do those things we cannot do on our own.
Paul writes in Romans 8:4-9 that believers “do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God, it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.”
Jesus promised in John 14:25-26: “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit will give us wisdom and help us do what God wants us to do.
Experiencing God’s gracious love and forgiveness allows us to offer gracious love and forgiveness to our spouse.
A quote from the Hoosier Farmer (a publication of the Indiana Farm Bureau) speaks of this type of love. It states: “Love is the thing that enables a woman to sing while she mops up the floor after her husband has walked across it in his barn boots.”
Let’s not bring more grief into our marriage relationship than necessary. When we live with a heart of grace and not a heart of judgment, we will more easily overlook an offense and avoid a wounded relationship that needs mending. When we look first to see our own faults, we will more easily forgive our spouse theirs. By the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and power we will remember all God has forgiven us of, and our hearts will be more quick to forgive.
Questions for Discussion
- Do you have a struggle with not judging your husband or wife? If so, ask God to forgive you and help you. If you can think of a specific way you have been judgmental toward your spouse, confess it to them and ask their forgiveness.
- Is there sin in your life–“a plank in your eye,” as Jesus put it? Have you confessed it to God and your spouse? If not, do so. You might want to go back and read last week’s teaching to prepare to do so. You might even read it together.
- Pray together, asking God to use His Holy Spirit to draw you closer as one and to open your eyes to anything that hinders this oneness.
- If you have never accepted Christ as your Savior and, therefore, have not received His forgiveness, please read about what He has done for you in Meet Jesus.
Next week is Holy Week, celebrated by brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. We celebrate Christ’s life, His death on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, and His rising from the dead to defeat death and hell forever. He did all this so that “if you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). His death and resurrection has allowed us to be forgiven of our sins, so there is no better way to follow this teaching on forgiveness than by discussing next week the importance of Easter to our marriage.
May God continue to bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,
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.
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