Marriage in the 21st Century can often seem much different than those marriages forged by our grandparents and great-grandparents in the early- to mid-20th Century. Marriages today often seem rushed into, with neither party truly understanding the needs or personality of the other which may lead to miscommunications or disagreements. Unfortunately, these miscommunications, while not major or serious, can begin to crush a marriage from the inside out, disintegrating the basic foundation of love and trust from the mere absence of repentance and forgiveness.
Repentance – the act of sincerely apologizing for one’s actions or words, often seems like a lost form of communication. The Greek word where repentance is used as a noun is “metanoia” which means “a change of mind.”How many times do you say something to your spouse that is unkind or hurtful? How many of those times have you actually apologized, or have you just attempted to move on and ignore the comments and their impact going forward? Sadly, more and more couples are opting for the latter of the aforementioned situations. Rather than humbling oneself and repenting, we are ignoring the hurt caused by our actions and or words and allowing negative feelings to fester as a result of them.
In a marriage, both husband and wife must practice forgiveness. That doesn’t mean saying, “Don’t worry about what you did, I’m fine with it and we all make mistakes.” Sure, that sounds impressively spiritual and great coming out of our mouths, but, in truth, you are being a total hypocrite. You are filled with pain, anger, bitterness, and resentment. Forgiveness is not lip service.
Forgiveness says from your heart…
“I no longer hold this offense against you.”
“I won’t bring this up to you again and hold it over your head.”
“I won’t talk about this offense with others behind your back.”
And forgiveness follows through with action.
Marriage restoration – repentance and forgiveness
To truly restore the faith and trust in one another within your marriage, repentance must be present and wholly genuine. Luke 17:3 states, “So watch yourselves. If your brother or sistersins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.”James says we all stumble in many ways (James 3:2). That means you and your spouse will stumble…in many ways. You can’t be surprised when your partner sins, you just have to be committed to live out the “or worse” part of your vows and be ready to forgive.
Christ taught there are times when we must simply forgive and pray for the Lord to lead the other to repent.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15: “If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” He also says in Mark 11:25: “When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
It is true that there can be forgiveness without repentance by the other person (also referred to as unconditional forgiveness), this is not enough for a complete reconciliation between spouses. Jesus teaches in Luke 17:3-4: “Watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
Jesus obviously knows there will not be complete reconciliation while a sin stands in the midst of a relationship. This is especially true of a husband and wife. If they are to be truly one, sins must be discussed and dealt with. They cannot be hidden from one another. There must be openness, honesty, confession, repentance, forgiveness, and full reconciliation. Anything less will not allow the marriage to flourish, but instead begin to slowly kill it through a lack of peace, to guilt, discouragement, resentment, and bitterness. Do not allow these things to dwell within yourself or your spouse. Confession and true repentance are needed to bring peace, joy, and a strong relationship between the husband and wife, and between the couple and God.
It will never be easy
No one ever said a successful Godly marriage was easy. If someone did, boy oh boy, did they lie to you! (Wait, what’s the theme of this article? Oh right… forgiveness! *wink*) But a successful marriage is possible. You are going to make mistakes. Your spouse is going to make mistakes. Remember this, and be sincere in your repentance and honest in your forgiveness. There is something freeing in being able to tell your husband or wife “I forgive you.”