Good morning friends,
Today I’m in sunny (hopefully) Texas at a getaway with some girlfriends who I meet with once a year to learn from, cry with, be accountable to and have fun with. We’ve been doing this for four or five years now and I always look forward to this time of reflection, redirection and sometimes even rebuke.
Let me ask you a question. What do you think people would say if you invited them to tell you something about yourself that’s obvious to them but you don’t see? Scary isn’t it? Yet we all have blind spots and we all need those in our lives courageous and loving enough who will tell us the truth, not just what we want to hear. Hebrews 3:13 says, “Let us encourage one another day after day unless any one of us become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” But don’t forget, telling someone the truth without love can sound harsh, and we usually aren’t very receptive to it. It’s easier to take it in when we know that the one who tells us has our very best interests at heart.
Today’s question addresses that issue in marriage.
Question: I’m pretty sure our marriage is emotionally destructive based on all I’ve read and everything you said, but I know that I am as much a sinner as much husband is. I am no more deserving of grace than he is. We are all utterly sinful and only by God’s sheer undeserving grace are we loved and saved and brought into God’s family. The bible teaches us that “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). And, “It is good for us to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11).
As I think about that powerful gospel truth…I wonder…is it right of me to hold my husband’s sin/blindness to his own sin against him? Shouldn’t I just keep quiet and minister to him, and pray that he will see God’s love in me?
Answer: Some of you might be struggling with this same question. Who are we to judge our husband or ask him to change when we have plenty of our own sins? Jesus makes it clear. It is not our right or responsibility to judge or condemn anyone (Matthew 7:1,2).
God instructs believers to forbear with and forgive one another. We know we all fail one another (James 3:2), and we’ve already seen that we should take the log out of our own eye before attempting to deal with the speck in someone else’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5). To bring up each and every offense in any relationship would become tiresome indeed.
Love does cover a multitude of sins but not all sins. The scriptures tell us to warn those who are lazy (1 Thessalonians 5:14). We are not to participate in unfruitful deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). We’re instructed to bring a brother back who has wandered from the truth (James 5:19), as well as restore someone who is caught in a trespass (Galatians 6:1). When someone offends us, we’re to go talk with them so that our relationship can be repaired (Matthew 18:15-17).
Yes, we ought to forgive and forbear, overlooking minor offenses hoping others will do the same for us. And, we are to speak up when someone’s sin is hurting them, hurting others, or hurting us. It’s not either or, but both.
Serious and repetitive sin is lethal to any relationship. We would not be loving our husband or doing him good if we kept quiet and colluded with his self-deception or enabled his sin to flourish without any attempt to speak truth into his life (Ephesians 4:15). Yes, we are called to be imitators of Christ and live a life of love, however, let’s be careful that we do not put a heavy burden on ourselves (or allow someone else to put it on us) to do something that God himself does not do. God is gracious to the saint and unrepentant sinner alike, but he does not have close relationship with both. He says our sins separate us from him (Isaiah 59:2; Jeremiah 5:25).
When someone repeatedly and seriously sins against us and is not willing to look at what he’s done and is not willing to change, it is not possible to have a warm or close relationship. We’ve misunderstood (or been taught) that unconditional love requires unconditional relationship. There is an important distinction. God does not have intimate fellowship with the person who will not see, take responsibility for, or ask forgiveness for his or her sin. Jesus’ conversations with the Pharisee’s are examples of him challenging their self-deception and pride so they would repent and experience true fellowship with him (Matthew 23). He loved them, but they did not enjoy a loving or safe relationship. Jesus never pretended otherwise.
A marriage that has no boundaries or conditions is not psychologically healthy nor is it spiritually sound. It enables someone to continue to believe that the rules of life don’t apply to me, and if I do something hurtful or sinful, I shouldn’t have to suffer the relational fallout. That thinking is not biblical, healthy, or true. For the good of our spouse, our marriage, ourselves, and our children, there are times we must make some tough choices. We must speak up, set boundaries and implement consequences when our husband’s behavior is destroying what God holds so precious—people, marriage, and family. Scripture warns, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper” (Proverbs 28:18).
Yes, your husband desperately needs to see God’s love, but he also desperately needs to see himself more truthfully so that he can wake up and ask God to help him make necessary changes. Staying mindful that you too are a sinner is important because it keeps you on level playing ground with your spouse. You are not better and God doesn’t love you more than he loves your husband. You are both broken and in desperate need of God’s healing grace. The problem is that he’s been unwilling to see his part of the destruction. He’s been unwilling to confess or take responsibility or get the help he needs to change his destructive ways. Instead he’s minimized, denied, lied, excused, rationalized, or blamed others (mostly you).
Confronting someone and/or implementing tough consequences should never be done to scold, shame, condemn, or punish. We have one purpose—to jolt someone awake. We hope that by doing so, they will come to their senses, turn to God and stop their destructive behaviors.