Forgiveness in Marriage and The Gospel

I spent a considerable amount of time in our Nearly/Newly Wed class this Sunday laying the Scriptural foundation of marriage in class in order to demonstrate that the purpose of marriage, as Paul highlights in Ephesians 5:31-32, is to demonstrate Christ and His glory to the world.

One implication of thinking about marriage this way is that if we fail in marriage, we preach a false gospel and become a heretic.  If the calling of marriage is viewed so highly by God, then how can we possibly hope to live up to this?  The answer I proposed is only by the power of the Gospel through the grace of God can we ever hope to live up to our calling in marriage.

I posted some thoughts for the “Nearly” crowd on the gospel and considering marriage yesterday, and I wanted to work through one more point today about the gospel applied in marriage.  This is a pseudo-repost of an idea that I had the last time I taught, but I thought I’d expand on it a little more.

For those that have been married for any length of time, forgiveness is something you end up doing a lot of.  There are a ton of benefits of forgiveness: restoration of relationship, moving past awkward tension, finally communicating after some time of silence after an argument…the list could go on.  Everyone, for the most part, knows that they ought to forgive in marriage, and usually it’s a matter of time before forgiveness is extended from the injured party.

As I have been thinking on the Gospel in marriage, however, I’m realizing that forgiveness for me is often done out of an “I ought to do this” mentality, rather than reminding me of the depth of my depravity and the forgiveness of the Gospel.  To be more clear, I think I tend to forgive and forget, without ever even considering the power and depth of the Gospel.

Forgiveness has often become an assumed, automatic response in order to minimize a particular instance of sin in my relationship.  It is not gospel driven response that causes me to reflect on my own depravity, understand the depth of God’s mercy, and ultimately stir my affections for Christ and my love for my wife.

The question then becomes, “how can I remove myself from a cycle of mechanical obedience to a Godly principle and move toward a deep understanding of the grace of God and His gospel in my marriage?”  I think the answer is by practicing the discipline of tying forgiveness back to Christ’s forgiveness of us.  Each time I forgive my wife, am I going back to the cross, looking at the forgiveness that was extended to me, and then forgiving my wife out of the power of forgiveness that Christ has? Or instead, do I rob the cross of its power and extend forgiveness in my flesh only to cover over the momentary sin?

One response deals with the surface issue and placates ourselves and covers over a sin.  The other response leads to a deep understanding mercy and grace in the gospel. Pray this Gospel-driven thinking would work in our marriages!

By Todd Engstrom

Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth.

God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

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