Instead of a clear call to repentance when unrepentant sin creates serious marriage problems, often--let us be honest here--what happens is that a pattern of escalation emerges where each person is trying to hurt the other... with ever less subtle means. Thus, sin is added to sin in a vicious death-spiral.
We all sin, and sometimes we sin repeatedly and seriously and need help. The question is: what will we do if we have fallen into a pattern of sin? The sin might be over-eating / drinking / spending / bearing, or deception, or selfishness, or slander, or the "cold shoulder", or the betrayal of adultery (physical or mental), or any sin that we have begun to fondle and cannot--or will not--let go of. These things, if not repented of, will most certainly wreck a marriage.
Shall we prayerfully and lovingly address the problem if our spouse is caught up in such, or shall we pull out the heavy artillery and get revenge, or "teach them a lesson", or in some other way destroy our own household? Or, based on the "wisdom" of pop-christian teaching, perhaps we could coat things over with a few personality improvements? Do we really think that these sin escalations and/or silly distractions are going to work in the long run?
If your marriage is suffering from "friendly fire", be encouraged to turn from this course and to allow Jesus to heal and restore you and yours by the peace and power of the Holy Spirit.
It seems scandalous to say so nowadays, but Christ really is sufficient.
2 Cor 5:14-20 (Phi) The very spring of our actions is the love of Christ. We look at it like this: if one died for all men, then, in a sense, they all died, and his purpose in dying for them is that their lives should no longer be lived for themselves but for him who died and was raised to life for them. This means that our knowledge of men can no longer be based on their outward lives (indeed, even though we knew Christ as a man we do not know him like that any longer). For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether--the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new. All this is God's doing, for he has reconciled us to himself through Christ; and he has made us agents of the reconciliation. God was in Christ personally reconciling the world to himself--not counting their sins against them--and has commissioned us with the message of reconciliation. We are now Christ's ambassadors, as though God were appealing direct to you through us. For Christ's sake we beg you, "Make your peace with God."Jesus is our only hope. He alone can heal us and set us "free indeed" from the sins of the past and give us new, resurrection life. It starts with confession of sin and repentance, and continues through to forgiveness, restoration, peace, joy and praise. This is the way of the Lord. Let us dare to abandon the "way of all flesh" and the puffery of the age, and get back to the way of Jesus Christ.
Mat 19:4-6 (NIV) "Haven't you read," he [Jesus] replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female', and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."This command of Jesus, "let man not separate" includes you. Have you the right to try to undo, by separation, what "God has joined together", even if it is your marriage? Think about it. Why did God put you together? Was it to help each other repent from sin more quickly, or lob emotional grenades at each other in an increasingly ugly conflict?
The point here is that if you are in a "conventional war" of escalation of sin with your spouse, do not go nuclear by bringing out the "D" word, which is to embrace even worse sin--even if only a private mental sin. Instead, consider repentance. Consider forgiveness. Consider Christ and His way. Let Him lead you into the way of salvation. Let us repent and look to Messiah and His strength and initiative to set us right, and not to ourselves or to our navels--as popular marriage counseling technique would encourage--or worse still to escalate the hostilities to an even more acrimonious level.
The cycle must be broken. Jesus has shown the way.
If you are reading this harboring an idea of revenge against your spouse, be aware that you are not alone in these sorts of temptations. It is natural for the carnal man to want to lash-back when hurt. But if you do, you can be sure that it will only get worse. For if we live "naturally", then we will die, and this includes the death of our marriage. But if we live supernaturally, then we will live. Such supernatural life is available from God Himself through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ.
Somebody has to stop sinning, and somebody has to forgive. Perhaps this is both of you. And if you are like most people, perhaps repentance and forgiveness will be a lifestyle rather than a one-time situation. But we must get to what works, and the sooner the better.
Acts 3:19 (NAS) "Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord."
The next posting will be on the sanctifying fire of a Godly marriage.
Marriage Counseling Index