Summary: Most of us know that we’re supposed to forgive and we understand what God says about forgiveness, but we still fight it. It could be because we think we have some valid reasons to not forgive.
Forgiving and Forgetting
Rev. Brian Bill
How many of you got into a fight on your way home from church last Sunday as a result of the two-part assignment I gave to married couples? The first part was to assign your marriage a number grade from 1 to 10, with “1” standing for isolation and “10” representing intimacy. That proved to be the easy part of the assignment. The second part was more risky as you were encouraged to share this number with your spouse.
Since I gave the assignment, I knew I had to complete this homework so I waited until early evening when Beth and I were driving to our small group get-together. I thought this would be safer to discuss in the dark. By the way, I hope you’re in a small group where you can go deeper in your faith and in fellowship. Talk to Pastor Dick if you’d like to plug into one of these little platoons. I took a deep breath and told Beth that I thought our marriage was at an “8” because there’s still a lot more that I can do to be a better husband. She agreed with that and gave ourselves the same number.
When we arrived at our small group, most of the couples were reticent to share how their conversations had gone but one divulged their discussion with the rest of the group. It was so good that I asked the husband to write it out for me. This is how he remembered what happened. When they got in the car, his wife asked, “So what number do you think we are?” The husband responded in a way that I suspect many others did: “I don’t want to play that game. I don’t know why that preacher wants to meddle with us.” After about a minute went by, the husband finally said, “Okay, I think we are a number “10,” how about you?” The wife replied by saying she thought there were at “9.75.” This made the husband mad so by the time they reached home, they were done to a “4”!
This same person wondered why I didn’t exegete Genesis 2:25: “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” I think he thought I was afraid to talk about nakedness in church. I decided to ask him for his perspective. He had some tremendous insight: “If Adam and Eve were to give themselves a grade, they would have been at a perfect “10.” They were totally comfortable with each other and had nothing to hide. They had no shame in their nakedness because sin had not yet separated them from God and from each other. Shame came when they sinned. As a result of their disobedience they were no longer one with the Almighty or with each other.”
In the short ride from chapter two to chapter three, they came screeching to a number “1,” as they felt extremely isolated, hiding from God’s holiness and hiding their hearts from their mate. And God has been wooing His creation back to Himself, and husbands and wives back to each other, ever since. Don’t forget that sin entered the human race in the midst of the marriage relationship.
In Genesis 3:12, Adam blamed his bride for his own decision and men and women still play the blame game today. Let me share the first rule of marriage: sinners live there. Their marital mess was eventually passed on to their offspring as anger erupts in Genesis 4:5, when “Cain became very angry, and his face was downcast.” God gives Cain some grace, wrapped up in a warning in verse 7: “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Cain caved in to the sin crouching at his door when he killed his brother Abel, and ever since then, anger and wrath rises up between people, especially in the marriage relationship.
Leigh Sullan sent me an email recently in which she referred to a couple who were driving down the road for several miles, not saying a word. An earlier discussion had led to an argument and neither one of them wanted to concede their position. Maybe they had been arguing over the assignment last Sunday! As they passed a barnyard of mules, goats and pigs, the wife sarcastically asked, “Relatives of yours?” To which the husband replied, “Yep. In-laws.” I also heard about a husband who was relaxing next to his wife on the couch after their last child had left for college. He carefully removed his glasses and his wife said, “You know, honey, without your glasses you look like the same handsome young man I married.” The husband replied with a grin: “Without my glasses, you still look pretty good too!” Instead of digging each other, many husbands and wives just dig at each other, like the wife who said, “Sometimes I wake up grumpy…but mostly I let him sleep in.”