If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.1 John 4:20-21 ESV
I think the commandment for us to love our spouses as ourselves is most challenging when we are called to forgive them. We can overlook a difficult nature or a disagreement in principle, we can even move past harsh words or insensitive actions, but it can be nearly impossible to move past hurt, especially when the wound is deep.
Forgiveness can be difficult, and it comes in all shapes and sizes. In our day-to-day lives, people will do or say things that offend us. Living in a broken world means we’re going to bump up against other broken people who do broken things. When it’s a person we don’t know well and the offense is small, we make judgments about who they are and those judgments impact future interactions with them. Think about a co-worker who seemingly dismissed your ideas at a staff meeting, or a neighbor who negatively commented on your lawn. We keep them locked in a box of who they were the moment they offended us, refusing to allow them to redefine who they are. Forgiving these offenses are challenging because the other person often doesn’t even understand they offended you, so they rarely make any effort to restore the relationship.
When it’s our spouse, and the hurt is deep, it can be devastating and destructive. Because the relationship is close, the hurt is wrapped in betrayal and trust is destroyed. They know us well, so we assume the attack was intentional and direct. We throw our spouses into a box as well, refusing to open it even if they have apologized to us. Forgiving our spouses when they have hurt us deeply is one of the most difficult things to do in our walk with Christ. How do we forgive offenses that cut us deep to our heart and soul?
We forgive because we are forgiven and we have been saved from the punishment for our sins. But our saving faith is not merely believing that we are forgiven, it’s more than that. It looks at our own sin through God’s eyes, sees how horrible it is, then looks to the holiness of our Lord and understands how unspeakably glorious His forgiveness truly is. We are not simply off the hook with the cross, our saving faith means we savor the truth that a forgiving God is the most precious reality in all of the universe.
It is from that understanding that we can forgive others. When we can see our sin the way He sees it, and know that He has freed us from all payment, then looking at the offenses of others becomes minuscule in comparison. The problem is that pride so often gets in the way of us being able to recognize this truth. We look at others and think their sin is worse, their wrong is worse than anything we would ever do, and we assume they will never change, but that is just not true. That pride is sin, we need to humble ourselves and allow God to reveal our sin to us. The reality is that no one in my life can come close to the way I have offended my King, and He still loves me beyond measure. My love for my spouse should look the same.
The Bible calls us to forgive. An unforgiving heart leads to bitterness, and a bitter heart cannot love as God loves. We remove those roots of bitterness when we open the box and forgive our spouses, allowing them to redefine who they are over and over again.
Press on ~ you are loved 💗