Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:13-14 (NIV)
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)
In our study of the attributes of love articulated in 1 Corinthians 13 we come to: ‘love … keeps no record of wrongs’.
Why do you think Paul included the idea of love including ‘keeps no record of wrongs’? It must be because he knew human nature and how easy it is to drag up the past and throw it in our partner’s face in the heat of an argument.
The context for forgiveness in Christian marriage is set out in the verses from Colossians 3 as ‘forgive as the Lord forgave you’. Within the context of the forgiveness that has been lavished on us through Christ’s death and resurrection, forgiving our spouse should be relatively straightforward. Matthew’s gospel contains details of an incident where Peter asked Jesus about forgiveness and Jesus uses the question not only to clarify things, but also to illustrate how forgiveness should affect our attitudes to others.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)
Jesus told Peter that the number of times forgiveness should be offered should not be counted. Remember that the ‘seventy-seven times’ is not meant to be a literal number. Peter thought he was being ‘good’ by offering to forgive seven times (beyond the requirement of the law), but Jesus goes way beyond this by giving a very large number that would challenge Peter’s understanding of forgiveness. In Matthew 18:23:35 Jesus uses the illustration of the ‘unforgiving servant’ to challenge his hearers. The crux of the issue is that the enormous forgiveness we have received from God, should change our lives positively. In marriage this means forgiving and forgiving. Don’t ever forget that ‘forgiving’ is ‘for giving’. Look back at the verses from Colossians 3, do you see that because you have been forgiven you can pass it on to your spouse?
So why is it that some married couples find it hard to forgive, other than at a superficial level? Saying you forgive someone and showing by your actions that they are forgiven, can be two different things. The verse from 1 Peter 4 tells us to love one another ‘… deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins’. Is it the lack of depth of our love for each other, or the lack of depth of our love for God that prevents us from forgiving? I think it has to be both.
Keeping no record of wrongs does not mean that we pretend the hurt did not happen, nor does it mean that we put a brave face on things and carry on stoically. It does mean that the issue can be confronted and dealt with, offering forgiveness and reconciliation.
Forgiveness is first and foremost a choice, not a feeling. So choose to forgive.
[Archives – click on the icon at the top of the page]