Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. Matthew 6:11-13
There is a difference between acceptance and forgiveness. You may accept many things about your spouse that you do not particularly like, such as a habit that you find annoying. In fact, such acceptance is necessary in healthy marriages. But wrong, unfair, or unjust treatment—which the Bible calls sin—cannot be accepted. Sin needs to be forgiven.
When a spouse continues to persist in sinning, the relationship will be strained. Ideally the wrongdoer will confess his or her failures and request forgiveness.
That’s the biblical model. When we choose to forgive someone, we are saying, “I will no longer hold this sin against you. I will respond to you as though it had not happened. I will continue working with you on our relationship. I love you.”
But what are we to do when our spouse does not confess wrongdoing and, in fact, persists in sinful behavior? We are to release the person to God, along with our anger. Then we are free to return good for evil and thus have a positive influence on our spouse.
The challenge of Scripture is to forgive one another as God forgives us. Jesus stated this plainly when he taught his disciples what we know as the Lord’s Prayer.
The concept is echoed other times, including in Ephesians 4, where Paul tells his listeners to “be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). Our goal is clear, but we may need to learn how to get there.
Father, I can’t thank you enough for your glorious forgiveness through Christ. It’s an amazing gift. Since you have done this wonderful thing for me, I know that I, too, need to forgive those who sin against me. Please help me as I strive to be better at forgiving my spouse when I need to. Thank you.