Moving Past Offenses in Marriage

Moving Past Offenses in Marriage
April 20, 2015 Matthew L. Jacobson


Sooner or later . . . okay, sooner . . . it’s going to happen. You’re with your husband/wife and someone (not you, right?) gives offense. A comment, a glance, an action . . . they come in all shapes and sizes but, regardless, no marriage gets a pass when it comes to offenses.

It’s what you do with those offenses that determines the nature of your marriage, going forward. 

They’re coming, for sure, so, what are you going to do with them? What are you doing with the offenses in your relationship?

There’s nothing easier to hang on to, is there?

Too often, we’re unwilling to offer our spouse the grace that God, through Jesus Christ, so freely offers us. Too often, spouses work hard to refresh their memories of past offenses when a bad memory is really what is needed – a bad memory like God exhibits, following our repentance: As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12 and in Hebrews 8:12, . . . their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more.

When it comes to offenses in marriage, a good memory is very bad and a bad memory is very good.

There’s nothing quite like regularly referencing the list of your spouse’s past offenses and failures to close a heart and prevent true intimacy and fellowship.

The refusal to let someone’s past failures remain in the past reveals a deep-seated unkindness. I don’t want to be an unkind spouse, do you? In 1st Corinthians 13, the Bible says, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”

So, we need to ask ourselves a question: How loving toward my husband/wife am I, really?

Families are often famous for their unkindness, referencing a member’s lesser moments at the most inopportune times, but when it comes to bringing up the failures of your spouse, it’s far worse – you’re going home to bed (more likely the couch!) with that person!

And then there’s the next day, and the day after that.

Bringing up past offenses has real staying power.

The sheer hypocrisy of not letting go of past offenses is another character flaw revealed by a bad “good” memory. When we won’t forgive and forget our spouse’s offenses (when they have been repented of, asked for forgiveness for, and we’ve said, “I forgive you”) what we’re really saying is, “My past offenses don’t count anymore, but yours still do.”

God wants us to embrace a different perspective.

In the Parable of The Unmerciful Servant, found in Matthew 18, Jesus reveals what every spouse who is tempted to cast up past offenses into the face of his/her spouse should never forget.

The story is about money or, rather, ‘talents’ and ‘denarii’. One denarii was a day’s wage, and it took 6,000 denarii to make one talent (about 16 years at an average day’s pay).

Jesus speaking:

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him 10,000 talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him 100 denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

It can be too easy to lightly pass over the vital truth contained in this story Jesus told.

He wants us to understand that God has forgiven every one of us so much more than we could ever repay.

For the truly repentant, He’s wiped the slate clean. The heart of the message here is, how dare we refuse to forgive others (our spouse, for instance) when we’ve been forgiven so very much.

God’s account of His gracious forgiveness of our sin is a grave warning to every spouse who refuses to let go of past offenses.

The offense against you may feel huge – is huge – in your life and experience but, if your spouse has repented and asked for forgiveness, that’s the end of it.

Furthermore, the Father desires that you and I reflect on the fact that the offenses committed against us are small compared with what we are guilty of before Him and the greatness of His total, complete forgiveness offered to us following repentance.

After we repent of our sins, God doesn’t then commit them to memory so they can be thrown in our faces the next time we need to repent.

The Bible says that God forgets our sins. When we repent and ask forgiveness of each other, they should never be referenced again. Remembering and repeating past wrongs will prevent the true fellowship that always follows true forgiveness. Colossians 3:13 ” . . . as Christ forgave you, so forgive others” (MLJ paraphrase). We are called to forgive as God has forgiven us.

Do you want intimate fellowship with your spouse? Then let a bad “good” memory go missing from your marriage. It’s the loving thing to do. Isn’t that how you want to be treated?

“He who covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.” Proverbs 17:9

God’s mercy and grace (followed by the forgetting of your offenses) has been freely extended to you. Will you obey the Scriptures and extend that same grace to your repentant spouse?

It’s a choice.

What choice will you make today?


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