Everyone reading this article has attended weddings where they've witnessed couples profess their love for one another and enter into life-long marriage contracts, only to later see them end in bitter divorces. In fact, according to the Index of Leading Cultural Indicators, published by the Heritage Foundation, over the last three decades in the USA, the divorce rate has more than doubled, the percentage of children with single mothers has nearly tripled, and the percentage of births to unwed mothers has quintupled. We would all agree that none of these statistics represent anyone's stated objective. Rather, they are products of unresolved conflicts, broken promises, and self-centered behavior, just to mention a few of the obvious reasons.
One would expect Christian households, where the Word of God is accepted as the blueprint for living and where each member strives to follow its precepts, would provide the best role models for ideal marriages; however, almost 50% of those marriages end in divorce as well. When you consider the astounding rate at which Christians break their permanent marriage vows, we should wonder how long our free market economy would have lasted if American business owners breached their contracts at the a similar rate.
So far I have probably told you nothing you didn't already know, and you could read the volumes that have already been written about the decline of marriage and family, so what can I add to the mix? Especially from one whom, as a husband, has himself committed almost every major marital offense possible.
I am convinced that one of God's primary keys to biblical manhood and womanhood in marriage is forgiveness. Unfortunately, it has taken me almost 30 years of marriage to fully appreciate the power of forgiveness (even though God provided me two of the absolute best living examples for demonstrating forgiveness in the form of my mother and my wife). It wasn't until I came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ at the age of 36 that I began to recognize that one way God had been revealing His grace in my life was through, not only His forgiveness, but through the forgiveness of others.
I have finally learned that one of the functions of marriage is for husbands and wives to express God's grace to each other. Our marriages become reflections of our own personal relationships with Christ. Has God forgiven you of much, and set your feet on solid ground? Then men, realize that God expects active sacrifice as head of the home. Wives, appreciate the fact that your humble submission to your husband directly honors God.
Every one of us needs forgiveness because we all make mistakes. What do we do when your husband is insensitive or unkind? Do you expect him to recognize that he has made a mistake and then wait for him to ask for forgiveness? If you do, you will find two problems with that approach. First, in speaking for most men, we will only recognize about 25% of our mistakes, at best. So, you will either spend a long time waiting for an apology, or you will be disappointed most of the time. Second, and most importantly, your approach is not biblical. Has God only forgiven those sins that you have brought to His attention? Once we are justified, as Romans 4:5-8 tells us, God not only forgives our sins, but He also "counts them against us no more." He uses the Greek word logizomai, which means "no record." In other words, the record of wrongs is shredded. That is exactly what we must do. We recognize the sin or injustice, but we choose not to save it to our archives for later use. We must develop a habit of thought that forgives the wrongs then deletes the memory of that wrong before a seed of bitterness can destroy many.
Why is it so hard to develop an attitude of forgiveness? Satan preys on our sinful pride that manifests itself in the form of a reluctance and inability to readily forgive and forget, so he magnifies the injury and constantly reminds us of the injustice in an effort to encourage us to either seek vengeance or vindication. God, however, is responsible for dealing with both those issues, so if we truly trust in God and don't lean on our own understanding, we will know that His perfect justice will prevail. We won't need to keep a record of wrongs, nor will we need to refer to our list of rights as a means of preventing future injury.
What is truly exciting is that God has not only given us motivation to forgive others, but He has also promised to provide a blessing which is in direct proportion to the severity of the hurt we have forgiven. Jesus told us that if we don't forgive, we will not be forgiven, and He has promised that those who show mercy will receive mercy. I know I certainly want mercy, not His justice.
In a biblical marriage, each member is committed to an attitude of total forgiveness for the other. Those couples who refuse to forgive will experience lack of fellowship with God and will lose intimacy with Christ. God will then step back from that marriage, and let the unforgiving couple attempt to deal with their problems in their own strength. This is not a picture of biblical manhood and womanhood.
I have found two books in particular that have been of tremendous value in helping me understand this biblical concept of forgiveness. In fact, many of the ideas I have expressed in this article have come form these two writings. I would highly recommend both...Each for the Other by Bryan Chapell and Total Forgiveness by R.T. Kendall.
Grace and Peace
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