In Matthew 18:21-22, when Jesus told Peter that he should forgive "seventy-seven times," His intention was not that we should keep track of how many times someone sins against us. Rather, just as Abraham would have lost count staring up into the Middle Eastern sky to count the stars, Jesus is saying we should keep forgiving until we lose count, too. And nowhere is this more important than in marriage.
Many secular people today talk about forgiveness. But only those who have experienced the forgiveness of God, who know they have been forgiven much, can forgive others much. How can Christians intentionally develop this type of radical forgiveness in marriage?
Only those who have experienced the forgiveness of God, who know they have been forgiven much, can forgive others much.
First, it is important that we attack the insignificant. This is counterintuitive, and you may be thinking, "Doesn't it make more sense to focus on the major issues rather than the small things?" Normally it does, but to forgive in all things we have to start by learning to forgive the small things. When you train yourself by the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive your spouse the small offenses, you will be prepared for the hurricanes as well.
Next, we must arrest the incompatible, meaning that once we forgive and let go of the hurt, we need to obey 2 Corinthians 10:5 when it says, "[W]e must take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." You see, even after we have decided on forgiveness, we will still be tempted to hold a grudge. This is just what the enemy wants so he can lead us into sin. That's why whenever even a thought of unforgiveness enters your mind, you must arrest it, right then and there. Don't let it get a foothold in your soul.
Finally, we must hold fast to our true identity. We have offended a holy God; we have wounded the heart of Jesus. And yet, every time we come to Him in confession and repentance, He extends forgiveness to us. This same power to forgive is available to all God's children through the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Thus, husbands are able to freely forgive their wives, and wives, their husbands, as they remember their true identity.
It is not easy to forgive with this kind of freedom. But whenever feelings of unforgiveness come to mind, we can look to Christ and choose to "[f]orgive as the Lord forgave you" (Colossians 3:13).
Prayer: Father, help me to grasp the depth of Your love and grace for me. May I understand the dire state I was in before I received, through Christ, forgiveness and redemption. Then, by Your Spirit, I will forgive much in my relationships, just as I have been forgiven much. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Colossians 3:13).