"I would put my track record of marriage counseling up against anyone else's," the Pastor boasted over lunch, "since there has never been a divorce in my congregation in the history of my ministry. And here I am a single man!"
"What is your secret?" I asked.
"It is perfectly simple, and is the only approach I know to take," he continued. "People come to me with 'He said' and 'She said' and "He did' and "She does' and so forth and so on. I listen for a while, and think to myself 'They both did many of these same things when they were madly in love with each other; so it must be something else.' Then I cut in and say, 'Look, I don't know about all of that, I am single after all. What I want to know is who is sinning?'"
"You really say that?"
"Yes, I do. Generally they look at me dumbfounded, and then I give them my counsel. 'One of you, or perhaps both of you, is sinning and will not repent, and that is why you are here in my office saying all these ugly things. I do not need to hear all of this, and can give you all you need in a few minutes and then we can get to the real problem. For if whoever is sinning will not repent, then your marriage is doomed. Most of these complaints you have told me about are mere symptoms and useless bickering, and I have no idea what to do about them anyway. So let us be clear about this, at least one of you is sinning and will not repent. Since it has gone this far then it is likely that both of you are sinning, as this is often done to get revenge--to hurt the other person in retaliation. So you both need to examine your hearts. If you don't deal with the sin, no counselor in the world can help you, and nothing else you might do to distract yourselves or shift blame will save your marriage. If you do repent, then you do not need me or anyone else to give you any other counsel than that which you have received.' Then I say, 'Now, if one of you is willing and brave enough to confess what is really going on here, then we can pray and repent right now. If not, then talk about this yourselves and confess your sins to one another and pray for each other and see what happens.'"
"And this works?"
"Hey, this clarity of focus on 'who is sinning?' has saved many very troubled marriages! I guess I am not sophisticated enough to dare try any other approach, and I treat every couple that comes to me the same way. For I believe that God made marriages inherently strong and self-correcting, and that the only thing that can really ruin one is unrepentant sin. Petty gripes and irritants being told to someone else in a so-called 'counseling' session show that we have missed the most obvious truth: that sin is the only thing in the world that can wreck a marriage."
To be sure, sin will not wreck a marriage... if so then every marriage would be wrecked. But repetitive, unrepentant sin will wreck a marriage if not dealt with, regardless if the couple stays together or breaks apart. In a serious marriage crisis, sin is the first place we should look if we are interested in really dealing with the problem.
Mat 18:15 (NIV) "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over."Rather than obey the Lord, more often we distract ourselves with symptoms and irritations and easily pinioned personality quirks in the other person, deceiving ourselves that these are the problem. But if sin remains in the dark, its effects will be fatally caustic to the relationship.
If you are reading this and your marriage is on-the-rocks, then examine your own heart. Are you sinning in some way that has caused the problem? If your conscience is clear before the Lord, then is your spouse sinning in some way that has caused the rift? If you think so, then go to them with loving clarity of purpose to "show the fault", and do not allow yourself to get embroiled in insignificant gripes or other distractive complaints.
For if sin continues, your marriage will be a disaster whether you get a divorce or not. For sin, left unchecked, wrecks relationships.
Mat 24:12 (KJV) "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold."The next posting is on the problem of escalation.
Marriage Counseling Index