Preaching on forgiveness creates memorable sermons. Living out forgiveness creates heart-changing character development.
Sometimes in scripture I love to see how the Holy Spirit has arranged the Word. In Matthew 18 Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” And Jesus answered, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. He then went on to share the parable of the servant who owed a huge debt to the king. When he couldn’t pay it, the king decided to sell him and his family to clear the debt. The servant begged the king to forgive him and the king did. He released him from all responsibility for the debt.
Then that same servant went out and demanded payment from someone who owed him money. When the man couldn’t pay, the wicked servant had him thrown into jail until the debt was paid. When the king heard of this, he was angry with the servant and turned him over to the torturers until he could pay his debt.
We all know the point of this story, God has forgiveness us everything and cleansed us with the blood of Jesus. Who are we then to hold the sin of another against that person? The point that really struck me, though, was that the next chapter, Matthew 19, begins with the Pharisees asking Jesus a question, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” You think maybe there was a reason the Holy Spirit put that question right after a discussion on forgiving 70 X 7?
Marriage consistently affords us the opportunity to forgive. God designed marriage as a covenant relationship until death. That type of relationship is intended to afford covenant covering and safety so that we can grow together as one, honoring each other and forgiving each other when we fall short. Even the best of marriages is filled with both large and small moments of forgiveness potential. Forgiving and growing together go hand in hand.
The devil hates the unity that God gives us because he knows the power that God designed for the covenant of marriage. Our enemy realizes that couples who know who they are in Christ and who are united as one are unstoppable. So his one plan for marriage is to divide and conquer.
You have experienced his attack. His has brought division into your marriage. His plan is to have one spouse so wound the other that forgiveness seems impossible. If one spouse already has been convinced that healing is impossible, all the enemy can hope for is to convince the other spouse of the same thing. Unfortunately the Church supports this plan many times.
The three major A’s – adultery, abuse, and abandonment – are often accepted as reasons for divorce. All of these situations carry with them many consequences that I am not belittling, but I firmly believe that Jesus died to overcome them all. I also believe that the foundation to healing is forgiveness. If you try to build a house without a strong foundation, it will not stand.
I remember once at a meeting a woman came up for prayer afterward. She said she had been standing for 13 years. I asked her what had happened and she said, “Oh, that jerk never changed. I just gave up.” She left pretty upset with me after I told her that she had probably wasted a lot of time. If her heart was still that angry and cold toward her husband, she never understood true forgiveness. There is no place for judgment in our hearts when we are standing.
I don’t know what you have suffered. There are as many stories as there are marriages. I can only guess at the pain you have experienced. But really, it doesn’t matter if I can understand it or not. What matters is Jesus knows and He is the only one who can bring you healing. He knows betrayal in the name of love.
The night He was taken in the Garden, He was betrayed with a kiss. Judas made a public show of affection that was really betrayal of intimacy and was intended to destroy relationship. At a time when Jesus was crying out to the Father for strength, the enemy came in through one He loved. Yet, even knowing that Judas was going to betray Him, just hours earlier Jesus had honored him and blessed him as they ate together.
If you have received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, He lives in you and that same love is within you today. Draw on it in this hour. Our own hearts can justify a lot of things when we have been hurt. Only Jesus can bring His perspective and soften our hearts with His love. Talk to Him now, not with a laundry list of what has happened. He already knows it all. Just get close to Him and let Him love you. Let Him melt your heart with His compassion and tenderness. Forget what you should or shouldn’t do or not do right now. Just receive that wonderful, life-changing love! Love, Marilyn
“Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little” Luke 7:47
“Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” Luke 23:34