As much as Jerry was in the wrong, it was his wife who would have to deal with her lack of forgiveness in order for their relationship to grow. Most of the time this kind of situation is not a quick fix. It often takes seeking out some counseling from a pastor or Christian therapist to work through all the issues. But it was important to their marriage that Jerry’s wife be willing to do what it took to find forgiveness in her heart. Only then could they hope to flourish in the area of spiritual intimacy.

Lack of Respect

Isn’t it amazing that two fairly normal and actually pretty nice people can get married and treat each other like complete idiots? Someone once said, “If you took all the problems in your neighborhood and threw them out in the street, after sifting through them, you would probably pick up your own problems and take them back home with you.” No one would disagree with the biblical statement “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Marriage brings out both the best in us ... and the worst. Cathy knows me at my very worst. She has every reason not to respect me and call me a hypocrite. Every married person can say the same about his or her spouse. Perhaps your spouse has some major issues, such as addictions, and it is very difficult to respect their behavior. I am not telling you to look the other way in major issues like that. But in the general areas of human frailty we need to overlook a lot if we want to grow together spiritually. It doesn’t take perfection to achieve spiritual intimacy—it takes transparency and integrity. You can still respect people without approving of their sin. The biblical term grace means unmerited favor. God gives us grace, and we in turn should give it to our spouse.

The Jews brought a woman to Jesus who was caught engaging in adultery. No doubt she was deeply ashamed as they discussed her fate in her presence.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, stone her. But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to her, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more” (John 8:4–11 nlt).

Jesus treated this woman who had definitely been caught in serious sin with amazing respect. He knew the law and did not gloss over her transgression. But he did not look down on her or treat her with scorn. His respect, gentleness, and mercy (while still admonishing her to leave this kind of behavior behind) is a good model for us as we interact with our spouse. Unlike Jesus, we can’t afford to be too smug as we point out other people’s faults since we are just as guilty as they are. If we are serious about building spiritual intimacy in our marriage we need to be careful. If we demonstrate a lack of respect and disdain for our partner we’ll forfeit the gains we are seeking.

Spiritual Warfare

I don’t know about you, but I believe there is a spiritual battle that takes place for the soul of every marriage. Satan opposes spiritual growth in couples for obvious reasons. I can’t speak for Satan, but I believe he never hesitates to go for the jugular, which is your marriage. Sure the power of evil brings sin into our lives, but Satan also does something else that is more subtle: He causes a couple to settle for a lack of spiritual intimacy. He knows there is heavenly power against him that can pay dividends for generations to come when a couple walks together spiritually!