So, does this mean that, in order to practice New Testament grace and forgiveness you should offer your husband a clean slate every time he apologizes and never bring it up again…even if the sin happens repeatedly? That’s what a lot of husbands – and pastors – believe. In fact, many churches will discipline a wife if she implements boundaries and consequences against her husband. If a man apologizes and is willing to go to counseling, that should be enough.
Friend, this is a twisted understanding of scripture. How quickly we label the victim as hard-hearted and unforgiving when she refuses to pretend anymore that her husband’s repentance is real. So let’s really wrestle with the hard questions:
1. Do claims of repentance immediately cancel out any negative consequences of a person’s sin?
2. Does grace and forgiveness mean zero relational fallout? No broken trust?
3. Is there ever a need to prove one’s repentance is real?
4. Does the New Testament teach one should make amends for sin?
Let’s look at Romans 13:10. “Love does no harm…” Does that mean we are to placate and ignore habitual sin? Or, is it possible that boundaries and consequences are evidence of godly love? Proverbs 27:6 says, “Blessed are the wounds of a friend.” That certainly doesn’t mean we would take joy in seeing someone, even an enemy, suffer. But it does mean that sometimes the truth hurts. And, sometimes boundaries and consequences can serve as a wake-up call for someone to finally see the truth of his or her sin. (Matthew 23, Mark 7:6-12)
When a wife refuses to continue in a destructive dance she is showing biblical love. How? By acting in the best interest of her husband. Putting up with and ignoring sin is, in no way, in the best interest of your husband.
Now, let’s say you’ve implemented a boundary. Maybe you’ve even separated. Your husband runs to the pastor in tears, testifying of the work God has done in his heart. In this instance, a wise pastor would look for the meaning behind those tears. Is he saying, “I’m so sorry. I’ve sinned against my spouse and God?” Or, is he saying, “Poor me. I’m devastated that my wife has left and I’m hurting?” One is repentance. The other is not.
To have true repentance a person must be aware of the pain he’s caused. Does he show concern for the suffering he’s inflicted or is he mainly aware of his own pain? Is he focused on himself and defending his actions? Genuine repentance acknowledges that serious and repetitive sin does have negative consequences on relationships. Genuine repentance accepts these consequences and works to make amends for the damage his sin has caused.
If you do not see any of these things, then it isn’t genuine repentance. Sorry is just a word. Repentance is action taken over time. (Matthew 7:20, 1 Corinthians 4:20)