We can’t deny it, we ALL do things we should not. According to the Bible, that makes us sinners (even though we don’t want to think of ourselves in this way). Bible tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Marriage especially, can accelerate the process of bringing out our bad sides. It can be a cooking chamber for bringing out the good, bad, and in between. That’s why sooner or later, we will all need marriage forgiveness from our spouse. And they will need it from us.
After we say, “I do” that, which was buried deeper inside of us, comes out when our comfort zones are stepped upon by our spouse. It is inevitable. As a result, there are all kinds of lessons that can be learned, When Sinners Say, I Do. That’s why we’re excited that we came across a book by that title written by Dave Harvey. It’s one that teaches us some important principles we need in marital living. We recommend you read it.
We also came across a radio program series, titled, “Love Always Forgives.” It is produced by the terrific ministry of Family Life Today.
Below, we’re going to give 3 quotes from each program. This is so you can read a sneak preview. And then we will give a web site link for each. That way you can make your choice to either listen to the broadcasts or read the transcripts they make available.
The first program is titled What Really Matters in Marriage. It was originally aired on May 28, 2008. But it’s just as relevant today. The following are 3 quotes from that program.
On Marriage Forgiveness Dave Harvey said:
Ephesians 5 talks about how God has created marriage as a parable of Christ’s love for the church. And one of the realities about marriage is that it says something first about God and, in God, Christ’s love for the church. And to see that, we have the privilege of being caught up in something that’s so much bigger than any of us. It’s really about Christ and His passion for His people.
Dave explains a bit more about the above concept. And then goes on to talk about certain disagreements that he and his wife have had. (You may be able to relate to them.) They have taught him (and can teach us) some important lessons.
We’ve certainly experienced our share of conflicts in our marriage. And I would say that all of them follow a familiar pattern. We will engage each other. We will then be tempted to say things that we shouldn’t say. And then we have decisions to make about what we believe and how we want to relate to each other.
Have you been there? During this radio program, Dave talked about the lesson he learned. It involves how it has changed how he apologizes to his wife. He also discussed certain things he’s learned about how we sometimes back away from taking full responsibility for the things we do that we shouldn’t. And yet moving towards God requires more than that.
On marriage forgiveness he then says:
I do think that inherent to all, sin is an attempt to divert attention from the sin. And so when we actually confess, we’ll want to locate the responsibility for that sin outside of ourselves. I think part of moving towards God, part of applying the Gospel, is saying, “No, I am the man. I did that sin. This is the sin I did,” and then being specific. It’s one thing to say, “Well, I was a little upset with you, dear.” But it’s another thing to assign a biblical term. And then to say, “I was angry, I was feeling wrath in my heart.” Boy, that has a sting of conviction that those more generic terms don’t bring.
Day 2 of “When Sinners Say I Do”
Day two of the three day broadcast is titled, Love Always Forgives. This broadcast can truly challenge many who struggle with forgiving a spouse after they have been hurt by them. But Dave Harvey explains:
One of the reasons why God allows us to experience conflict is to recognize what is in our heart. And so part of God’s design in us coming together is to understand who we really are. Conflict is understandable; it’s to be expected. And yet it’s also an opportunity to go to school on who we really are. It helps us to apply the Gospel.
Dave gives further explanation on marriage forgiveness and then says:
Conflict is part of what happens when people come together. And it’s a part of what happens in marriage. It’s not as important that it happens, as much as it is what you’re doing with it. Plus it’s important what you’re learning from it. This is what happens when sinners say, “I do.”
Marriage Forgiveness is Challenged
He then tells of a couple named Jeremy and Cindy. They had a storybook married life. But eventually their foundation of trust in marriage and the process of forgiving was challenged. Jeremy committed adultery. Dave Harvey goes on to say:
Both of them came to a place where they never thought they would be. I mean, here they were Christians, and they had dedicated their lives to Christ. They had dedicated their lives to one another in marriage. And yet they were sitting there asking questions about whether this marriage was going to work. Could they go on?
…Our answer can’t begin with people. Our answer must go to God and must go to the Savior. And we have to be reminded of what happened when Jesus Christ died for our sins, and the sins and the tremendous offenses that we were forgiven of. It’s only the cross that puts the sins of other people into perspective. It’s only as we look and as we perceive what actually we’ve been forgiven of that we can turn to somebody else who has sinned grievously against us and forgive them.
Dave explains this concept further. And then tells of other friends who had to leave the mission field. They left because of adultery and the battle they had with forgiveness. It’s a compelling story.
Day 3 of “When Sinners Say I Do”
The third day of the three day radio broadcasts on the subject of “when sinners say I do” is titled “Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment.” On this subject, Dave Harvey says:
Mercy acknowledges the reality that we live in a fallen world. It acknowledges that we have limitations and weaknesses. And it acknowledges that we are called to relate to one another in kindness in those things. This is to be, even if we’re correcting our spouse, or we’re being corrected. Even there, there is a heart of mercy that we are to bring to one another. That is because marriage is fundamentally about ministering to each other.
Dave further explains the issue of mercy. He tells of a woman named Emma who was deeply hurt by her husband Gordon. And yet she displayed Christ-like mercy in how she reacted to his injustices.
Gordon and Emma met as he was new in ministry and met at a church function. They got married shortly thereafter. And on their honeymoon, Gordon informed her that he didn’t love her. He said he married her because he thought that that was the best thing to do in ministry, to be married. That began 40 years of Emma having an experience of a distant husband. He was disconnected, and probably unconverted.
Yet Emma’s disposition was not one where she was living, just always responding to the next thing he did do or didn’t do. But she drew her guidelines for how to respond from what she saw in Christ. It was what she saw in the Gospel. And she used that to determine how she would live with Gordon.
Dave further explains what he learned of Christ through Emma’s actions.
We are commanded in Scripture to be merciful as our Father in heaven is merciful. And yet what we don’t often realize is that mercy is specifically referencing sin. When it says that God is merciful, that means that He has suffered with sinners and for sinners. It defines His disposition towards us despite the fact that we are weak, that we are fallen, and that, apart from Jesus Christ, we are bent in the wrong direction. We are bent to disobey God. And yet, even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He came towards us out of a merciful heart to draw us to Him. So it’s God in relationship to us, as sinners, that really defines that mercy.
You can listen to or read the rest of this radio interview (which we highly recommend) by going to the web site for Family Life Today at familylife.com. Look for the radio series, “Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment.”
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.
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Filed under: Bitterness and Forgiveness
One response to “Marriage Forgiveness: When Sinners Say “I DO””
(US OF A) I’m struggling with this right now. My wife of 14 almost 15 years started out madly in love. After having two kids, we started living the party lifestyle. We walked away from God and entered a life of partying and sexual sin. On my 40th birthday, she invited her friend to give me oral sex at a party -but only for a few minutes. A few months later, me, her and her friend went out and got wasted and came back to our place and my wife passed out and her friend did the same thing. This time to completion. I told my wife about it later, out of guilt. This was 4 1/2 years ago.
Her friend has come on to me since then, and I was able to brush her off. Then, last summer, my wife started hanging out with another friend and they both had affairs on their husbands. A few months of meeting for full blown sex at motels. Her friend divorced her husband for her fling. My wife’s lover dumped her out of guilt. She went out and had a one night stand after that. Then, I started figuring things out and confronted her. It took her a week or two to confess. I confessed everything that I had done and she confessed everything that she had done. I became a born again Christian after that. I’m SO ashamed for the life I had led. My wife turned around, also, and we decided to ‘try’ to repair our marriage -though she told me she was pretty much done.
So, here we are, 4 months into trying to save our marriage -going to Christian Counselors and trying to save our marriage for our two beautiful children -ages 12 and 9. But, we have one sticking point. My wife -who used to be against divorce is now in her mind that she cannot forgive me for my past adultery -even though she invited it upon me (which I should have NOT agreed to –I DID commit adultery) and even though I have completely forgiven her and have done everything I can to change my life, change myself and express true repentance. My wife struggles with coming to God and changing her life. She just recovered from Cancer and wants to live life to the fullest every single second -and knows what she should do -forgive, repent & reconcile -but struggles with the sins of the flesh of wanting to be selfish and live for herself. When our counselor asks her why she can’t forgive my small adultery, when I so graciously and truly have forgiven her large adultery -she replies that if she were me, she wouldn’t and she is only staying her by that Grace.
When I sneak into her private journals, I see the actual struggle. She is struggling with Satan -who I let in to our marriage -versus God. She was always the more spiritual one in our marriage and now we’ve flipped. All I can do is pray, pray, pray. I don’t pray for our marriage -I pray for my strength in faith in God and for my wife’s walk with God and our children. This is a fallen world. In 100 years, I hope we’re all in Heaven, looking back at what a mess this place was and how we helped mess it up.