“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
as God in Christ forgave you.”
A trip to Trader Joe’s last week produced an unusual conversation between a young man working the cash register and my friends and me. Out of the blue he asked my friends, “What’s the secret to a long marriage?”
I guess that’s one way to start a conversation!
When I offered my opinion on the answer—knowing Christ and forgiving your spouse—the cashier followed up with another surprisingly direct question, “Well, what if your husband committed adultery?”
*Gulp* Whatever happened to “Paper or plastic?”
I acknowledged how painful that trial would be, but told him that if my husband repented, I would hope I could… No…I knew that with God all things would be possible. Although my answers may have sounded far too simple for such complex questions, I do believe them to be true. Forgiveness, although difficult, holds the promise of untold freedom, while unforgiveness and bitterness will only produce ongoing misery within marriage.
In his recent message on FamilyLife Today, Pastor Voddie Baucham addressed the vital role of forgiveness within marriage and explained how the power of the Gospel makes it possible. He included sober warnings for those who would ignore the Scripture’s clear command to forgive as we have been forgiven in Christ. Here’s an excerpt…
I’m going to say this as gently as I can—if you’re a person who’s not forgiving, then, you are actually a disobedient, arrogant hypocrite who does not appreciate the body of Christ…
Why disobedience?—because you are commanded to do it. If you don’t forgive your spouse, you are in sin because you’ve been commanded to forgive. By the way, it is difficult for us to understand that unless we know what forgiveness is; right?
Forgiveness is a cancellation of debt. That’s what it means. Forgiveness means I give up my right to punish you for what you did. If I come over to your house…I knock over a lamp, and I break the lamp. You look at me and say, “No, brother, that’s okay. I forgive you;” and then, you say, “but that will be $195,” you didn’t really forgive me because you’re making me pay. Forgiveness is the cancellation of debt; okay?
Why is this important?
Remember—our experience of forgiveness is rooted in our understanding of the forgiveness that we’ve received in Christ. If I am a person that doesn’t understand forgiveness as a cancellation of debt—and forgiveness just means I say, “I forgive you,” but I still make you pay—then, my understanding of salvation is going to be the same. Then, my forgiveness from God is something that doesn’t cancel my debt. I still have to work to earn that which I’ve already been given.
It’s all rooted in the fact that I do not comprehend this concept of forgiveness because remember that first point. These things are linked inexorably. It’s a cancellation of debt. That means that if I say to my wife, “I forgive you,”—but then, we have an argument, like a couple of days later, and I bring it back up—now, I’m punishing you when I said I would give up my right to do so—which means I lied. If the debt is cancelled, it’s cancelled. Again, first of all, if we’re not forgiving, we’re not obedient.
Secondly, if we’re not forgiving, we’re arrogant. Here’s why—because, basically, here is what I say if I’m not forgiving—and let’s just keep this in marriage; okay—here’s what I say if I’m not forgiving my wife—what I say if I’m not forgiving my wife is this, “All those things that I have done to offend God—those things are absolutely forgivable because that’s how good God is. However, my standard is higher than God’s standard; so, though He can forgive you, I can’t.” That’s the height of arrogance…
You can read or listen to Voddie Baucham’s entire message [broadcast date March 7, 2012] HERE.
Photo: kamil kantarcıoğlu