Summary: Discover how biblical forgiveness restores hope for marriage.
This morning we continue with our third message in the series: Restoring Hope for Marriage. No one I know goes into marriage planning to fail or to be miserable. Most go into marriage with great hopes and dreams. But over time, misunderstandings, selfishness, unmet expectations, violation of trust and careless words create a series of hurts that diminishes the hopes and fractures the dreams.
Tim Jackson, a licensed counselor in Michigan, noted, “If we’ve lived and loved long enough, we all know the pain of a broken relationship.”
A couple of weeks ago, I read a storybook to Esther. It was about a bunny that moved into a snail’s house. The bunny didn’t know the house belonged to the snail. Every time the bunny broke something in the house, the next morning, the vase or the plate would be repaired. The snail, named Gluey, glued the pieces back together overnight, but the bunny credited the house with magic.
There is no magic to mending relationships. Mending relationships can be complicated and messy, emotionally draining and without guarantee of success. Yet, God gives us the glue for fractured and broken relationships. He calls this glue “forgiveness.” But like God’s design for marriage and true love, forgiveness is often misunderstood and suffers from malpractice.
Some believe forgiveness minimizes the wrong done against a person. Others equate forgiveness with forgetting or restoring trust automatically. A college girl came to me and said her boyfriend hit her, and she is having a hard time forgiving him. By forgiving him, she meant deleting the hurtful event from her mind and trusting him again. To forget the event and trust someone who is untrustworthy is not forgiveness but foolishness.
Our text is Luke 17:1-6. From the words of Jesus, we will discover the true understanding and practice of biblical forgiveness.
Jesus tells his disciples that people will sin, and that includes his disciples. Christians are not perfect, but we are forgiven. If you cut a Christian he will bleed. Christians get angry. They will lie. A wise old lady once told me, “Pastor, be careful. Just because they hold a Bible in their hands and smile, doesn’t mean they are good.”
After Jesus’ sober introduction regarding the sinfulness of mankind, Jesus gives the remedy of forgiveness for sins against one another. He provides a four-step process for the practice of forgiveness. We will look at forgiveness in the context of the marriage relationship.
First, forgiveness is prompted by sin. “If your brother sins….” The process of forgiveness can begin right after someone sins against you.
When I counsel couples before marriage, we look at what the Bible teaches about mankind, that we are sinful. Mankind is selfish, rebellious and manipulative. And the sooner the couple accepts this truth about each other, the clearer they can understand and accept one another.
Early on as the pastor of this church, the Elders had a saying, “We’ve been married longer than you’ve been alive.” Now they didn’t say this to put me in my place. They love me more than I could understand. Anyway, all three of our Elders have been married about 40 years or more.
So in preparing for this message series, I interviewed the Elders about their marriage. In response to a question, one Elder wrote, “After the honeymoon period, [you will] know about your spouse’s weaknesses, faults, etc. Let go of high expectations.”
Steve Brown has written on the back cover of one of his Bibles, “I wouldn’t be so shocked at my own sins if I didn’t have such a high opinion of myself.”
We’re all sinners, Christians and non-Christians. If self-help books, seminars, philosophies or religion could fix us, God wouldn’t have sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to pay for our sins. We all need forgiveness, because we all have sinned.
The sooner we accept this truth, the better we understand and accept one another. And when we sin against someone or when someone sins against us, we don’t need to be so shocked. We can ask for forgiveness rather than blame, ignore or deny. And we can forgive rather than withdraw, hold a grudge or take revenge.
Before I move to the second step, I want to alert us to hurts and fractures in the marriage relationship that need coping and grieving skills more than forgiveness. For instance, the death of a baby can create a great deal of blame and anger between the husband and wife. The unemployment or illness of a spouse can create a great deal of anxiety and strain in the marriage. And when couples do not know how to cope in these situations, hurts can grow, and the marriage relationship can be fractured.
The hurt, bitterness and withdrawal of love that results in these marriage relationships require the husband and wife to learn healthy coping strategies to deal with unemployment, illness and grieving the loss of a child. So steps two, three and four of forgiveness may or may not apply when sin is not the direct cause of the fractured or broken relationship. And if forgiveness is needed in these situations, forgiveness alone will not resolve the relational stress and strain.