Hi, this is Pastor Ken thanks for joining me once again for the Monday Marriage Message where we search God’s instructions to discover how to experience a highly successful marriage. This is the sixth edition in our series 7 Biblical Principles of a Highly Successful Marriage.

Since beginning this series I have shared with you 5 of 7 biblical principles that govern highly successful marriages. I have been careful not to call this series “THE” 7 Biblical Principles for a Highly Successful Marriage because though I have chosen to highlight these 7 they are not by any accounting the only biblical principles governing marriage. God’s word contains many, many more that will have an even greater positive impact on your marriage if you will choose to search them out and employ them. Thus far in this series we have considered; Compatibility, Recognizing that your marriage is more about your relationship with God than it is about your relationship with your spouse, Holiness, Selfless Service and Faithfulness. Each of these principles are indeed crucial to a marriage that strives to fulfill its God-given purpose of reflecting Him. However, there are still two more Biblical principles that I wish to uncover from God’s word before I conclude this series.

In this episode we will take a close look at what God’s word says about Forgiveness as the 6th Biblical Principle of a Highly Successful Marriage. Forgiveness is an interesting and complex subject. All of us come to understand very quickly in marriage that forgiveness is going to be necessary if the marriage is going to experience any meaningful longevity. 1 Corinthians 13:5 describes the kind of love marriage must be predicated upon to be highly successful as one that keeps no record of wrongdoing. Does wrongdoing take place in marriage…you bet! Often, before the first day of marriage has concluded, the new bride and groom have managed to offend one another, but those wrongs are quickly overlooked in light of their newly established oneness. Unless the same offences repeatedly occur, they will likely not be recorded on a tally-sheet. Why? According to 1 Corinthians 13 Godly love doesn’t have a score card. Consequently, it doesn’t take the newly-weds long at all to come to realize that forgiveness in their new marriage is going to become an important, daily, necessity.

If our marriages must reflect God if they are going to meet their intended purpose…and they must, then our forgiveness for one another must be the same kind God uses when He forgives us. If we are going to forgive as God does…we must have an understanding of what forgiveness means to Him. Any other form of forgiveness that we attempt to invent, will be incorrectly applied and will not have the effect God intends us to experience. God’s brand of forgiveness offers freedom, freedom to move forward unencumbered. In Isaiah 43:25 God says this; “I, I am the One who erases all your sins, for my sake; I will not remember your sins”.

So what are the components of genuine forgiveness that are critical to highly successful marriages? The first important understanding comes from the verse I mentioned just a moment ago from the book of Isaiah. There God mentions a few things about His forgiveness that are noteworthy. First He says that He erases our sins. This is in line with 1 Corinthians 13:5. There we read that love (and according to 1 John, God is love) keeps no record of wrongdoing. God says that He erases the record of our wrongdoing toward Him. He does not say that the wrong never happened, nor does He say our sin against Him wasn’t hurtful…just that He won’t keep considering it when He is interacting with us. The second remarkable thing this simple verse illustrates for us is that forgiveness essentially frees the forgiver as much or more than it does the forgiven. There God says that He erases our sins for His own sake. He forgives us to free Himself of the negative feelings that our sin would otherwise cause Him to experience when interacting with us. He forgives us to free Himself to love us in spite of our sin against Him. As a result, He said, “I will not remember your sins”. When you look at the original Hebrew text the intimation is that of a Judge who chooses to interact with a convict, but who refuses to look at their rap-sheet while doing so. The rap-sheet is real. Both participants are fully aware of its existence, But God says that in His forgiveness of us He refuses to open our file.

When we forgive our spouse we have to learn to do as God does. Get rid of the record of wrongdoing. This doesn’t mean we have to make-believe the wrong didn’t happen. We don’t have to pretend it didn’t cause us pain or have a negative impact on the relationship. It does mean however that we can’t continue to compile a list of reasons our spouse is not worthy of our love and acceptance…or else, we will become unable to continue to love and accept them. Just like God does, for our own sake, so that we can be free, we must choose to quit looking at our spouse’s rap-sheet when we are interacting with them. We must choose to not consider their sins against us if we want to be free. Remember…forgiveness frees the forgiver as much or even more than it does the forgiven. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we forget what happened…it means we choose to not stare at the offence while interacting with our offender.

Our human condition often makes offering to another the same kind of forgiveness God offers us a very difficult thing to do. We may even think it impossible at times. We know from Jesus own words to His disciples that it is necessary that we learn to do so, but sometimes we just can’t see how God’s brand of forgiveness is something we as mere human beings can ever accomplish. Some hurts after all are just too big. God may be able to erase all of our sins, but we aren’t God. Is it really fair for Him to require genuine forgiveness from us?

Seemingly, God believes it is. When Jesus taught His Disciples to pray, Matthew 6:9-15 says He told them this; So when you pray, you should pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven,
may your name always be kept holy.
10 May your kingdom come
and what you want be done,
    here on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us the food we need for each day.
12 Forgive us for our sins,
    just as we have forgiven those who sinned against us.
13 And do not cause us to be tempted,
but save us from the Evil One.’ The kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours forever. Amen.

Then Jesus made this statement;

14 Yes, if you forgive others for their sins, your Father in heaven will also forgive you for your sins. 15 But if you don’t forgive others, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins.

At first glance the Lord’s Prayer may seem to include one small blurb about forgiveness, but when we take into account the monumental footnote Jesus added after teaching His disciples how to pray, forgiveness begins to take center stage in the prayer. When we choose to forgive our spouse, God’s name is kept Holy. Our marriages reflect Him in the midst of forgiveness, perhaps more than at any other time. God is the ultimate forgiver; no one has ever has to pay as high a price to be able to offer it as He has. When we forgive our spouse their wrongs, we successfully reflect God and represent who and what He is. When we choose to forgive especially in our marriages, God’s will (that which He does) takes place on earth as it does in Heaven. When we choose to forgive another we open ourselves up to being able to experience the amazing forgiveness God offers us in the shed blood of His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus taught His disciples to pray that God would further empower them to resist the temptation from the evil one to fail to forgive. Satan understands that time plus un-forgiveness always equals bitterness. He also knows that there is no better tool at his disposal to kill, steal and destroy marriages than bitterness.

Remember, forgiveness doesn’t mean that we have to say that the wrong, wasn’t wrong. If it was wrong, it was wrong. Sin is sin. God’s word doesn’t teach us that forgiveness means sin is no longer wrong. God still says that sin is wrong. Remember what Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery? John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus’ words of conviction “Let the one among you who is without sin throw the first stone at her” drove away all of her accusers who wanted to put her to death. Jesus then looked at the woman and asked her “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you” She said no one, Lord. And Jesus said to Her, “Neither do I condemn you; [but] go and sin no more”. (John 8:7&10-11) Forgiveness doesn’t make a wrong, right, but nor does it coincide with condemnation.

Again this may seem unfair and impossible, but there is good news! You don’t have to do it. You might be thinking, “Wait a minute Pastor Ken, I thought you just said we have to learn to forgive if God is going to forgive us?” That is correct, but what I mean to say is that YOU don’t have to arrange your offender’s forgiveness…you only have to agree with God’s forgiveness for them. The requirement on you is to agree with God that He was right and just to offer your offender His forgiveness for the hurtful way they treated you. 1 John 1:9 says, If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Hurt people however, are often looking for justification to hold the person who hurt them accountable. In light if that, they might ask regarding that last scripture, “But what if the person who did me wrong has not confessed their sin to God or to me?” The Bible has an answer for that question as well. Romans 5:8 tells us; But God shows his great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners. God loves all of us…even those who hurt us…so much that even before a single confession of sin was made, He offered His Son’s life as recompense for our sin. That is why it is just for God to forgive all of us…Jesus already paid the price.

One of our biggest hang-ups when it comes to forgiveness, is this. We are afraid that if we forgive…we have to let our offender off the hook for what they have done to us. That’s not true at all. They are still firmly on the hook for their actions…we simply have to agree to hand the hook to God. We may be the victim of another person’s sin against us but to be a victor, we must realize we are not the judge, jury and executioner. Vengeance is mine says the Lord…and I will repay! (Hebrews 10:30) Forgiveness allows us the freedom to willingly hand the hook to God. He promises He will make it right. And He will make it right. He will either give the person who has wronged us a heart transplant, if they are willing for it, or eternal separation from Him if they refuse His love and forgiveness. Forgiveness on our part is the agreement to let Him work out all of those details. If we don’t have to hold the hook any longer, then we don’t have to hold onto the record of what went wrong either. As we hand those things off to God with whom they rightfully belong, our load is lightened and we become free to interact with our offender in a healthy way again.

Are there times when the damage is too great and trust simply cannot be restored? Are there some relationships that are so damaging that they should not be resumed? Of course, but those are in the minority, not the majority. They are the exception not the rule. Regardless, forgiveness is still a necessity for freedom, and a healthy mind and heart. Because of that, forgiveness is solidly on the list of Biblical principles for a highly successful marriage.

So now, reflecting God in your marriage by agreeing with Him that His forgiveness for your spouse was right and just…Go Be Awesome!