Forgiven but Unforgiving: How to Model Peace in Marriage

mountains.png

Matthew 18:23-35 (ESV)

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.[a] 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.[b] 25 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. 26 So the servant[c] fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,[d] and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 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. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,[e] until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”


 

In marriage, I can so easily feel and act like the parable of the forgiven but unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. As we remember the parable and reflect on this servant’s actions, we recall; his master has forgiven him much, but he goes out, has little mercy, and gives no forgiveness to another (namely, in my case, how I often act to my husband) who has a far lesser debt to pay. While our marriage, by God’s grace, has far-and-few-in-between times of conflict, I found it especially enlightening and to be a wise moment of correction from God to my forgiven but unforgiving self to happen to be in a conflict with my husband yesterday; as I was ironically peering and studying over this book, The Peace Maker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict. Wow, Lord. May I also add in that it was my husband’s first Father’s day. Lord, please help me.

 

As I sat and pondered on what was going on between my husband and I, I was in the unknown of thinking: “What went wrong today? What did I do or say? What did I not do nor say? What should I have done or said?” So, I looked to the principles I have been learning from Ken Sande, the four G’s of peacemaking.[1] These are: 1) Glorify God 2) Get the log out of your own eye 3) Gently restore 4) Go and be reconciled. After I prayed to the Lord for guidance in how to practically walk out these steps, I sat at the edge of our bed and gently asked my husband if he would please talk about what was wrong and what went wrong. What had I done or said to make him upset? Was it… xyz? Which, it became apparent was too surface level of an inquiry. Mind you, this “gentle” step came after the myriad of prodding questions that I had tried to employ before I had prayed and before I had consulted Sande’s book. One of these unloving, unhelpful, and accusing questions was, “What is your deal today?” Lord, forgive me. Steve (my husband), please forgive me, too! Anyways, when I offered better questions that could glorify God and allow time for opening up, my husband unloaded what was wrong.

 

We were both very adeptly speaking the language of the accuser.
 

While the details of our minor conflict and day of sifting through a tangible tension between us are unnecessary, it is worth mentioning that our minor conflict certainly had some deep wounds and deep issues, or debts, that are prayerfully needing to be Biblically resolved and worked through. Things like: How can we be better parents to our son and focus more attuned attention on him? How do we say “no” to some things that we enjoy doing, but that aren’t feasible nor beneficial in this busy time? What do we even begin to say “no” to? How do we cultivate greater intimacy in our lives together and how do we better listen and share one another’s passions so that it does not seem like we are both pursuing our separate desires? In other words, we began to have a conflict on things that are important in our lives as a husband, wife, father, and mother. However, this originally came out in the conflict in statements like: We have nothing in common. We just switch our son back and forth between each other. You don’t care about my passions. And so on and so forth. We both were very adeptly speaking the language of the accuser. And not the language of our Father, nor the unspoken body language of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control of the Spirit.[2] Sande reflects on the nature and works of the enemy, or accuser, in regards to peacemaking,

Since peace and unity are essential to an effective Christian witness, you can be sure that there is someone who will do all he can to promote conflict and division among believers. Satan, whose name means “adversary,” likes nothing better than to see us at odds with one another. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8b).[3]

 

IMG_1572.JPG

In God’s wisdom, I was able to go and prayerfully reflect on what deep heart issues were actually going on between our marriage, and what the conflict really was about. Moreover, God graciously showed and convicted me that these were issues that need to be resolved by His strength, and some sin issues that were creeping between us. In this, I was able to glorify God and glorify all that He was working out for our good. I was also able to fully see what the log was that was in my own eye, and how to humbly remove it. After some time, I went back up to our room and tenderly restored my husband’s fears and questions that surfaced during this conflict. I attempted to explain why I often do not seem to care about his passions, and how God has been showing me the idols that were in our respective lives. Throughout this conversation, I recalled what Sande said, “God provides this  strength to all Christians through the Holy Spirit, who plays an essential role in peacemaking.[4]” And, with a tender note left on the counter from my husband this morning, reconciliation took place and will continue to form. God has allowed me to open my eyes and think about how He lavishes His goodness on my marriage, even amidst conflict.[5]

 

Throughout this, albeit small and short conflict, God has unearthed the qualities that I have as a wife that do not align with His Word, nor with maintaining nor fostering peace. I have a real hard time of not allowing a root of bitterness to spring up between my husband and I. Whereas I regularly model overlooking small offenses and giving grace because of being aware of how much grace I, myself, have been given by the Lord; when it comes to our marriage, even the slightest deviations from my husband’s normal Christ-like character and attitude unnerve me. I almost expect him to be perfect and unwavering at all times; an expectation I know no one can live up to, and one that I only place on my husband (which, I suppose is both a compliment to him and a supreme disservice). The point of overlooking small offenses is recommended in many scripture passages.[6] Sande exclaims, “When we overlook the wrong of others, we are imitating God’s extraordinary forgiveness toward us.[7]

 

IMG_1660.JPG

Friends, I recommend that book. I further implore you to dive deep into the Bible and to model what Jesus has done and has commanded us to do in the way of navigating through conflicts. Moreover, I am thanking God that, although repentance and reconciliation are not easy matters, they are oh so sweet.

In His Unaltered Grace,

Rachel


Lastly, here's a practical takeaway: 

The Four G’s of Peacemaking

By: Ken Sande

Glorify God: How can I please and honor God in this situation?

Get the log out of your own eye: How can I show Jesus’ work in me by taking responsibility for my contribution to this conflict?

Gently Restore: How can I lovingly serve others by helping them take responsibility for their contribution to this conflict?

Go and be reconciled: How can I demonstrate the forgiveness of God and encourage a reasonable solution to this conflict?

 


 

[1] Ken Sande, The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, third ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 38.

[2] Galatians 5:22-23, ESV.

[3] Sandy, 50.

[4] Ibid., 39.

[5] Ibid., 84.

[6] Ibid., 82. Ken Sandy highlighted these Scripture passages in relation to overlooking minor offenses: Proverbs 19:11, 12:16, 15:18, 20:3, 17:14, 26:17, 10:12, 17:9, 1 Peter 4:8, Ephesians 4:2, 4:32, and Colossians 3:13.

[7] Ibid., 82.