Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. — Colossians 3:13
Ruth Graham, whose marriage to Billy lasted over sixty happy, God-glorifying years, was often heard to say, “A good marriage is made of two good forgivers.” Her comment, while true for every marriage, applies especially to a Love and Respect couple, because forgiveness is the ultimate strategy for halting the Crazy Cycle or, better yet, for preventing it from getting started. A paraphrase of today’s verse says it all: forgive each other as Christ forgave you.
We know we should forgive, but between the knowing and the doing there can be a big gap. And when you are sitting on the unforgiving side of that gap, you can pay a price. Jesus warned His followers of how big that price can be when He taught,
But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. — Matthew 6:15
Was Jesus saying that unforgiveness could cost you your salvation? No, but it can disrupt your fellowship and favor with the Lord. God does not damn us for unforgiveness, but He does enact discipline. Sarah and I learned this early in our marriage, when a typical morning scene would find us in an angry spat, neither one willing to forgive or ask forgiveness. Still smoldering, I would leave for my office at the church to work on my sermon for the coming Sunday. But when I sat down to pray and read the Scriptures, the heavens would not open. God seemed to have something on His mind. I heard no audible voice, but He spoke quite clearly nonetheless: If you do not forgive Sarah and seek her forgiveness, I cannot allow My Spirit to touch your spirit. Things will not be right until you call her and reconcile.
More often than not, I would reach for the phone to make that call and it would ring first. It would be Sarah, wanting to reconcile because she had been getting exactly the same message from the Lord!
Our spats were usually small stuff—two young married people butting heads over very little. Our conflicts were nothing compared to what some couples go through due to adultery, abuse, or desertion. But whether the matter is major or minor, the path to forgiveness is to realize that the issue that prompts your need to forgive isn’t primarily about your relationship to your spouse; it’s about your relationship to God. Suppose Sarah is 100 percent guilty in wronging me. Her guilt cannot justify my unforgiving heart. I can remain unforgiving of Sarah as long as I wish. While I lick my wounds, I can argue with God and explain my “right” to be unforgiving. But God’s spiritual law stands firm: if I don’t forgive, I remain in a place where God’s forgiveness will not go because sin blocks our fellowship.
Insight: To not forgive is to shoot yourself in the foot and put extra gas in the Crazy Cycle.
Do you remember the scene where Peter comes to Jesus, wanting to know how many times he must forgive? He gives an estimate that he hopes will impress Jesus: seven times. That was twice what the law required, but Jesus simply replies, “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22 NIV). His hyperbole makes the message clear to every couple — forgive indefinitely.
Granted, right about here you may be asking, okay, Emerson, to be right with God, does forgiving mean just letting the same hurtful, unloving, or disrespectful stuff go by over and over without ever talking about it?
No, not at all, but that’s part II of our study of forgiveness (see chapter 27 of Love and Respect). For now, focus on the fact that your Love and Respect marriage does take two good forgivers. You make allowance for each other’s faults as you forgive as many times as it takes. And you both forgive for one simple but profound reason: because you know Christ has forgiven you!
Prayer: Thank God for forgiving you through the sacrifice of His Son. Ask Him for the wisdom and courage to forgive each other seventy times or as many times as it takes. (Also consider bringing up people whom you need to forgive at work, at church, or in other situations, because these issues could be affecting how you treat your spouse or children.)
Action: practice “quick forgiveness” this week no matter what the offense. Don’t let “little things” fester. Pick up that phone and make that call.
Excerpted with permission from The Love & Respect Experience: A Husband-Friendly Devotional That Wives Truly Love by Emerson Eggerichs, copyright Emerson Eggerichs.
* * *
We know Scripture teaches us to forgive and make allowances for each other’s faults (Colossians 3:13), but we can give good reasons (to ourselves) why we can’t forgive (at least not right away). Which of these sounds like you?
- “I don’t deserve to be treated this way! This is unfair!”
- “I can’t let my spouse off the hook for this. Justice must be served!”
- “I have a right to feel this way. Jesus understands what I go through.”
- Other: ________
- Why don’t any of the above cut it with Jesus? (See Matthew 6:15.)
How often must you forgive each other? Isn’t there some kind of standard? (See Matthew 18:21.) Many of us battle a tendency to be too quick to take offense. Use the Action item and talk about practicing “quick forgiveness” instead.
You’re invited to leave your answers to these questions from Love and Respect on our blog. We’d love to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily