This week we complete our study of what God’s Word has to say about the sexual relationship between a husband and wife and the role it has in marriage.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” — Ephesians 4:32
God’s Word warns of two specific dangers to watch out for in our relationship with our spouse. Failure to heed these warnings will bring a wedge between us and push us away from each other. Our physical relationship will become less desirable and our intimacy will grow weaker, to the point we might not want to spend time together at all. Being careful to deal with these problems when they arise will help keep our marriages Christ-honoring and our intimacy strong.
Watch Out for Unconfessed Sin and Unforgiveness
We must always be on the lookout for unconfessed sin in our own life and a lack of forgiveness for your spouse’s wrongs.
Ephesians 4:32 says: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Christ is our example to be followed in every area of our lives–certainly in our marriages.
We are told many times in God’s Word that being like Christ is our goal as His followers. Paul writes about it in these verses…
“You became imitators of us and of the Lord.” — 1 Thessalonians 1:6
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” — 1 Corinthians 11:1
“…be conformed to the image of his Son.” — Romans 8:29
God tells us, over and over again, that we are to forgive. Unforgiveness will harm our relationship with our spouse and with God. Jesus’ teaches in Mark 11:25: “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Here we see clearly that unforgiveness is a sin and must be dealt with immediately.
When we forgive, we must truly let the offense go and not continue to hold it against the other person. If we do not let it go completely, it will affect our relationship with our spouse and with God. The oneness in our marriage will be damaged.
God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows how difficult it will be for us not to hang onto an offense. So we are also told that forgiveness becomes complete when we ask to be forgiven and it is granted to us. Or when our spouse asks for forgiveness and we truly forgive him or her.
True forgiveness means we don’t hold the offense against them, we don’t keep bringing it back up, and we show love to them more strongly than we did before. This will be difficult–extremely difficult in some situations. But God will help us.
We must always remember what God has forgiven us for and pray for His help to do the same for others. Forgiving others is His will for us, and He promises to answer us when we pray according to His will (see 1 John 5:14-15).
In Luke 17:3-4, Jesus said: “So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” Two key truths are taught us here by Christ.
If you believe your spouse has sinned against you and you cannot simply overlook it, don’t hold it in. It will only fester and grow larger. Instead, talk lovingly with your spouse about it.
Ephesians 4:15 says: “…speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Make sure you pray before you speak. Be careful that the intent of your heart is to accomplish God’s purpose and speak in love. Don’t let off steam or try to make your spouse hurt as much as you hurt.
And when your spouse asks for your forgiveness, forgive completely and let it go, as mentioned above.
A godly marriage is not possible when we do not deal with sin between us. Guilt and unforgiveness will never allow God’s love to flow through us–love that is necessary for a healthy sex life.
Forgive your spouse as often as he or she asks you for it. Forgiveness is an ongoing thing. It may take time for trust to build back up, but we can forgive immediately.
A healthy marriage is not self-centered. It is not spouse-centered. It is Christ-centered.
Self-centeredness is a sin and one of the great hindrances to intimacy in marriage. If we love Christ above all, we will love our spouses ahead of ourselves. Remember, that’s what Christ’s “agape” love is. Loving another above ourselves.
This is exactly how husbands are called to love their wives. God through Paul says in Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” We’ve quoted this many times in our teaching on marriage because it is so vital. Again, Christ is our example.
And wives are called to show “agape” love to their husbands as well. We are all told to love others this way in 1 John 4:7: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” Jesus teaches us in Matthew 22:37-40: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” And who is our closest neighbor? The only person God says we become one with–our spouse.
This command is given yet again in Ephesians 5:1-2: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
When we love God first, we will love our spouse and others ahead of ourselves, and God will take care of the rest. He will bless us.
There is a popular teaching that has been going around for quite some time. It says you can’t love someone else unless you first love yourself. This is man’s worldly wisdom. We are told to stay away from that type of “wisdom.” Paul warned of this in Colossians 2:8: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”
Christians have bought into this lie, saying this is what Jesus meant in Matthew 22:37-40 quoted above. He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If we look at the context of these words, we discover what Jesus was teaching. He is responding to a question asked by the Pharisees, who were trying to test and embarrass Him (see Matthew 22:34-36). Jesus has already condemned the Pharisees for their self-love, and, in fact, also does so immediately after this teaching on loving our neighbor (see Matthew 23:1-7).
Jesus tells us we are full of self-love, like the Pharisees. And if we will just love others as much as we already love ourselves, we will fulfill this command. But Christ’s example to us is to go beyond this and love others with a selfless, agape love, beginning with our spouse. This is putting others before ourselves. And when we love our spouse this way, it will lead to the marriage that God intends us to have. This will include the beautiful sexual relationship He designed to be a part of marriage.
A beautiful marriage which includes an intimate sexual relationship between the husband and wife is the desire of God. It will only happen when both strive to love the other with the same love Christ has for us—unconditional, sacrificial, forgiving love.
Questions for Discussion
- Are you able to discuss things that bother you openly with each other? Do you feel free to do so and safe when you do? If not, talk to each other about ways that might help you in this area. Do not condemn or argue about what the other person is saying. Listen and think about how you personally can improve in this area. Pray together and ask God to help you.
- Do you find it difficult to forgive your spouse when they hurt you?
- Is there something you need to confess and ask forgiveness for right now?
- Is there something you need to forgive your spouse for right now that you are holding on to?
- How can you die to yourself and live for your wife or husband this week?
- What can you do to show love to your spouse without any regard for yourself? What is at least one specific thing you can do? If you are not sure, ask your spouse. Just asking will show your love and concern.
- If your spouse asks you what he or she can do to show love to you, don’t condemn or belittle them. Accept it as an act of love, and be thankful that they care enough about you and your marriage to ask.
Sabra and I have been praying that this month’s series of teachings on the physical aspects of marriage have been a blessing to you. This final teaching in the series has included what I believe to be one of the most important things in our marriages–the ability to be open and honest with each other about our sins and to forgive each other when we become aware of those sins in one another. Therefore, next month we will focus on the importance of gracious, loving openness, confession, and forgiveness in our marriages.
Until then, may God bless you in all His wonderful ways,
Other posts in the SEX AND MARRIAGE series:
Part 1–Created by God
Part 2–Love and Understanding
Part 3–For the Good of the Other
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.