Thursday, July 10, 2014

Forgiveness: Christ Commands us to to not Cast our 'Stones' at our Sinning Mate

Disappointment is inevitable in marriage and in life. One way or another, people will let you down. The severity of disappointment often varies by offense. Your spouse can let you down by mocking you and being a bad communicator, or they can disappoint you by committing infidelity which lists as the #3 reason couples get divorced. No matter how disappointed you are by your spouse, if you want to continue your relationship and live according to Christ's plan, it is critical to be in a place where you can forgive them and work towards restitution.

I think most married people would agree that one of the greatest offenses their spouse could commit (and the hardest to forgive) is infidelity. For people already struggling with insecurity or feelings of low self worth, the blow from infidelity can be almost unbearable. However, whether it be infidelity or any other offense, the hardest thing to rebuild after committing a serious sin against your spouse is trust.

Rebuilding trust and moving forward from any offense requires the commitment of both spouses. It requires the offending spouse to realize what they did was wrong and that they have the desire to repent and change from their ways. For the offended spouse, it is key to learn to forgive and work forward like Christ commands.

Whenever I've been hurt by Marisa in the past, I always tried focus on the lesson learned through Christ's forgiveness of the woman caught in the act of adultery in John 8. In the time of the Pharisees, the "law of Moses commanded [the people] to stone" women caught in the act of adultery (John 8:5). The punishment for this act wasn't just a separation from her husband (like it is so often today), but her brutal execution by her neighbors.

Christ forgave the woman caught in the
act of adultery! He encourages us to forgive
one another an give grace freely. Source
The people in this story were preparing to stone the woman for her sin, fulfilling the punishment that the law commanded. Sometimes we use our own stones from our hurt and pain to "stone" our mate. Even if you do not terminate the relationship, your words and actions can sometimes result in the spiritual death of your mate, causing your mate to be suffocated by so much grief and guilt for what they did.

Instead of stoning our spouse, we need to drop the stone and come to their aid, no matter how hard it seems. Christ protected this adulterous woman, proclaiming to the crowd "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her," (John 8:5). The crowd left from the oldest to the youngest, realizing that nobody was without sin and that nobody deserved to stone her for what she did.

You have NO right to "stone" your spouse for what they did to you, no matter how bad you are hurt. If you want to work forward from whatever transgression occurred, you must embrace the forgiveness of Christ and extend it to your spouse, realizing that the forgiveness and grace you are giving to your spouse is the very same forgiveness and grace Christ has given all of us.

Forgiving your spouse and working towards restitution are two different things. Forgiveness only involves yourself... it is your choice and it helps you! Working towards restitution means that your spouse is actively interested in forsaking their past sin and moving forward. Christ told the woman that he "does not condemn her," but also "to go and sin no more."

The blessing of grace is the gift of a another chance. Christ has given us a second chance. Lay your hurt at the foot of the cross, pray, and extend the love of God to your sinning spouse in the same way Christ forgave the adulterous woman... the same way he forgives us and gives us grace.

I was inspired to write today's post when I flipped open my copy of The First Five Years of Marriage  to a chapter entitled "How Can I get my Spouse to Forgive Me?" The answer to this question is that you really cannot force your spouse to forgive you, but encourage them to forgive. One couple that experienced the pain of infidelity told the author of this chapter that the following scripture was central to their recovery from the affair:
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice: And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31-32). 
Forgiveness is a process, and it takes time. This author from Focus on the Family gives us 4 points to remember when going through the process of forgiving our spouse (or anyone, for that matter):

  1. Recognize that forgiveness is a process
  2. Realize that fear can be a barrier to forgiveness
  3. Seek outside guidance (e.g. a counselor)
  4. Be honest with yourself 

Forgiveness and restitution can be the most rewarding experiences in growing your relationship as a couple and growing your relationship with Christ. Marisa and I have both hurt and disappointed one another multiple times. However, by following Christ's commandment to forgive, Marisa and I have deepened our love greatly for each other and nurtured our relationship with Christ. By extending Christ's forgiveness and grace to your spouse, you can truly learn what it means and how awesome it is that we are forgiven and unconditionally loved by God! 

Have you been hurt by something your spouse has done? Have you overcame disappointment through forgiveness and grace? As always, Marisa and I love to hear what you have been through in your relationship and walk with Christ! We encourage you to comment on our posts or email us at showing with your testimony, questions, and points of discussion.

God bless you, and I hope you have an amazing weekend!

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