“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22
We can take great comfort in knowing that Jesus is working while we are waiting, and even in anguish. We can best practice forgiveness to our spouse by realizing how much we have been forgiven. We can then be imitators of that forgiveness when we feel wronged willfully or unknowingly that cause us setbacks or harm.
How and why? The magnitude of forgiveness from our Lord for what we have done can never measure up to anything others could do to us. When we put forgiveness into practice, we will be free from the bondage of bitterness and pain that imprisons us, disconnecting us from life and its wonders, which God has provided for us.
I was watching one of those reality shows recently where a bunch of young people were put into a nice beach house to live and work together. The show is about the drama and strife each one causes the other, and how they “do not” work it out. After all, if they were a big happy family, it would not make good TV, so I am told by a friend in that business. One young woman, in her early twenties, kept making the statement, “I refuse to forgive anyone for anything.” So, in the episode I watched, the attention was centered on how she was alienating everyone in the house. The result was that she ended up alone, hated by the others. She would make a big deal if someone took her cookie, or gave her an objectionable look. She was a very sad and pathetic person, whose self-imposed code of conduct, created out of pride, made it impossible for her to make friends or cooperate with anyone in her life. She could not see that she was the problem; she refused to take any responsibility. In her interviews, she blamed everyone else for her problems. The sad fact is that this is typical behavior amongst many marriages today, even Christians in the church!
As human beings, we are prone to make mistakes, either intentionally or unintentionally. We all have hurt people, and we have all been hurt; we are all in the same boat. So, when we refuse to forgive one another, especially our spouse and loved ones, it is like escaping the disaster of the sinking of the Titanic in a lifeboat, only to poke holes in the very lifeboat that saved us. Our escape from the sinking ship is our redemption, which we did not deserve. Since everyone else in the lifeboat needs the cross too, why try to sink one another? All you will accomplish is to sink yourself and your marriage.
Out of mistakes we make, or our spouse may cause us, comes our pain, hurt, and resentment. This resentment escalates into animosity, then cause fighting and augmentations and then builds into bitterness, until it destroys your relationship and causes a divorce.
This young woman is like many in marriage, she refused to forgive, and built an impenetrable wall that caused bitterness and isolation as she wallowed in her troubles, blaming everyone else for them. She would not allow forgiveness to break down the wall, allowing for the building of life and relationships.
Forgiveness is the only human force that can stop the disintegration of relationship breakdowns.
This is why it is so essential. This is why our Lord calls us to forgive. If you have been hurt, or you have hurt-and we all have-open your eyes and realize that it is the call of the Christian to dispel these conflicts. Without forgiveness, our growth and maturity with Christ, and our harmony and being “at home” at home, cannot be built.
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” Romans 12:16
- BE Kind.There is nothing as nice as a cheerful word of greeting!
- SMILE Often. It takes seventy-two muscles to frown, only fourteen to smile.
- NAME Use. The sweetest music to anyone’s ear is the sound of one’s own name! So, be thoughtful with how you call your spouse.
- BE Helpful. Share the load, do not rely just on your spouse to do it all, help out more than you are helped!
- BE Cordial. Speak and act as if everything you do were a genuine pleasure! If it is right and good, it really should be.
- BE Interested. Empathy means involvement! Ask, how your day is and then listen with interest.
- BE Generous with praiseand cautious with criticism! Do not nag, do not prey upon your loved ones.
- BE Considerate with feelings. Feel your spouse’s plight. It will be appreciated.
- BE Thoughtful of their opinions. There are three sides to a controversy, yours,’ your spouse and the truth! Do not assume, listen and be open to the real truth.
- GIVE Service. What counts most in life is who we are in Christ and then what we do for others! So, be there for one another.
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:43-45
Because financial issues can be so destructive in relationships, you need to know how to make sure both of you know what money is and how money works. How do we do this? Know that money is a tool, not the focus. It is important to have a good, biblical concept of how to deal with budgeting and debt. Know what comes in, know what goes out, and make sure the ‘in’ is more than the ‘out’. Communicate without judgments and strings or pride to one another.
If your treasure is on earth, your heart will undergo many disappointments, and the storms of life will overwhelm you and hurt your family. All of the things in life in which you find your primary joy are suddenly gone!
Can you go through all of your possessions and tell which ones will rot and will not apply to your Christian growth? How can that list, motivate you to seek what is in Matthew 6:33? Then what will you have, do and feel (Matthew 6:33; 7:24-27; Luke 12:33-34; Hebrews 10:32-39; 1 Timothy 6:17-19)?
When our focus is on possessions, they become our idols, and we worship them. Our identity, and personification of who we are, becomes branded by what we have, and not who we are in Christ (1 John 5:21).
Let’s look at another key word, Fear the LORD means to trust, serve, and worship Him. Money and things can easily become the priorities in our lives! The choice becomes whether we will worship the One True God, or be idolaters, following after false gods. Know that our real and true treasures are imperishable! Make a list of them, and put them in a place that you can see daily to encourage yourself. Keep in mind that true treasures are not material in nature, so look to relationships and character (Proverbs 1:7; 3:5; Matthew 6:33; 1 Timothy 6:9-19; 1 Peter 1:3-5).
You must be able to ask questions, listen, and be vulnerable to reflect, challenge, and address each other’s views and ideas on budgeting. Do not focus on faults, rather on areas that need growth. Take it slow and develop your budget first. If you do not do this, then you will be among the countless relationships in our culture filled with miscommunication, hurt, and misery!
- Money is not for power and control, it is a tool for effectual living and our Lord’s service! How can you make this your mindset? How will it improve your family?
Make your budget, but first pray, and pray more and treat each other with respect, dignity, listen and take breaks, perhaps have fun doing it!
Remember, our real and true treasures are imperishable!
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5
A married couple is on the same team; you are not each other’s enemy! So, be willing to see your spouse as your teammate, and not your rival. In that way, you can avoid seeing the other as the problem, and focus on the issue and the solution!
What do you need to do to cement and practice this paramount point to build a healthy marriage, that the heart of any healthy relationship is love and respect?
Remember that the heart of any healthy relationship is love and respect! If you do not get this, you will not get marriage!
Your marriage is all about grace, that we receive that we must also distill and pass on. How will you do this?
Sometimes we force marriage to do something it was not designed to do, and we turn this most intimate and important relationship into a place of loneliness, worry, hurt and strife. We take what was to be good and turn it into a warzone void of the practice of love, mercy, and our growth in maturity, but rather hone our weapons of pride, arrogance, condescension, and contempt, or just withdraw, staying angry and bitter. We model these practices for our children and expect them to have better lives and marriages when all we’ve really taught them is how not to do it.
Unanchored stress and disappointments, along with a detachment from looking to God, will prevent us from seeing His signposts of precepts.
We cannot just expect God to get us through without any effort on our part. To grow, we have to struggle and work it out. It is the struggle that helps us; it is what builds us and forms us. Without it, there is no growth or real impacting faith, honest character, genuine patience, or maturity—and thus, unhealthy relationships.
Don’t play these games. Your marriage and relationships are too precious and valuable to destroy them with our whims or hurts. Yet, Christians can be some of the most critical and arrogant people on earth! As Christians, we need to be an example for Him wherever we are, set ourselves above pettiness, and let God remove our pride!
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“The real authenticity of our Lord, will enable us to build a real authenticity of love and respect, that will in turn build a “Wondrous Marriage!”
Most people assume that love is the most important thing in a marriage, or the most important reason to get married!
You will frequently hear people in TV, in the movies, out on the streets of life and even in the church saying, I do not need to work on love and relationships, it will just happen. And, if not, it was not meant to be, and I can get out of it if it does not work out.
How sad that philosophy is!
But, when you carefully examine love from the Bible, you will find that it is a choice over and against any feeling or aspiration of what we may want it to be or mean (Colossians 3:12-17; 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10; 5:8-13).
Love is a choice that also happens in a seemingly magical and metaphysical way, as poets have tried to explain it throughout the millennias. But, is that it?
The Bible tells us that love is more than a feeling; it has segments and characters to it. Love is also a choice, a decision that must be perused and worked on. In our human mind, we may see it as magical, as if it “just happened,” but, without pursuing its true meaning and character, it will dispel and waste away. So, when we do receive that spark of love that we cannot explain, to keep that magic, that romance, that spark going requires us to do something about it.
If we do not work on it, the spark that was once there will vanish as quickly and as suddenly as it came. It will fade into the night, leaving us in the darkness of the maze of relationships, lost and confused. The way we keep that flame from blowing out is our understanding and modeling the character of love. So, as it becomes contagious and spreads, it flames and excites, burns and grows, so the winds of the ups and downs of a relationship will not blow it out!
God’s love must be our model for life. It must flow into us from Christ, and in return flow out from us to those around us. God’s love is the ultimate power for the Christian.
If you ask most couples who are thinking about marriage, or who are already engaged, why they are getting married, they usually will say: “Why, we’re in love.”
It has been through studying the Word, plus, over twenty-five years of pastoral counseling experience, that has prompted me to question the validity of this motive. Yes, love is essential and powerful!
However, if that is all you have, you will end up with nothing!
The number one mistake people make when they date is to look just for love. The number one mistake married couples make is thinking that their love is all they need. This puts their brains “on hold” from everything else. Yes, love is putting the precepts of 1 Corinthians 13 into action, but most people, including Christians, do not even know what real love is!
Choosing a life partner should never be based on love alone. A marriage cannot last on love alone. This may sound like crazy talk, but think it through. Have you ever seen a relationship work with just love? No, not for movie or TV stars who have everything going for them, not for the singers who sing about it, and not even for the Beatles! Because, they do not know what love is, nor do they really put it into practice.
We do not necessarily fall in love as the love songs and movies proclaim, because, you may well fall out of it, faster than you fell in it!
If you never choose to make it a commitment, with love, you will never have it, or, if you do, you will not keep it! Love is a verb; it requires action that is implied for being a verb, action to do something with it. What are you doing with it? Is it cherishing? Is it respectful? Or? Are the precepts of 1 Corinthians 13 being put into action with your friends, family, acquaintances, and your spouse?
If not, what is in the way of that verb action?
Most, if not all, people who get married do it for love, yet, according to most statistical evidence, fifty percent will divorce in less than five years. The Christian divorce rate is less, about 28%.
So, what happened to the love?
If love is all we need, should not it have worked? Why did it not work? Because, there never was ‘real’ love, they misunderstood what love is, or, they had nothing but love. Perhaps they let that spark of love flame out in neglect, so that there was a huge vacuum in their relationship!
Love should not be the horse in front of the cart. Love alone cannot influence a relationship. Love needs to be a result, not a cause, for getting married. Love is the result of a good marriage, not the fuel to make it. Love is an attitude that is followed by action; when this does not happen, love will sit and go nowhere.
God’s love must be our model for life. It must flow into us from Christ, and in return flow out from us to those around us.
God’s love is the ultimate power for the Christian. We are to be fueled and empowered by love in all situations. Christian love is the turning of our backs to self-concerns, and facing our neighbors. It is the surrender of our will to His. Because, if love does not take us beyond our self-interests, then what we have is lust, not love! As the passage of 1 Corinthians 13:3 would say, we become just a noise that has no reason or purpose.
Our model? Out of true love, God the Father gave us His Son, and the Son gave His life in replacement for ours. The Son sent the Spirit to save us, and we should be literally overwhelmed-consumed–with extreme joy and gratitude for what God has done for us.