Dr. Gary Chapman says that every marriage will face failures, and unless we learn to move past our failures with genuine forgiveness and reconciliation, our marriages will never be everything God intends them to be.
Dr. Gary Chapman says that every marriage will face failures, and unless we learn to move past our failures with genuine forgiveness and reconciliation, our marriages will never be everything God intends them to be.
Bob: There is, maybe, nothing more Christ-like that you can do than to forgive a person who has offended you. Here is Dr. Gary Chapman.
Gary: We are to forgive each other in the same way that God forgives us: “How do we get forgiveness? How do we get acceptance with God?” God forgives the people who are willing to acknowledge that they are wrong, and reach out, and accept His forgiveness; and because Christ paid our penalty, God can forgive us and still be a just God because He paid our penalty. But He doesn’t forgive everybody. He forgives those who confess their sins.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, March 7th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. If we are in Christ, we have been forgiven much. So, shouldn’t we be quick to forgive others? We’ll hear from Dr. Gary Chapman today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. You know, right after you and I were with Dr. Gary Chapman on the Love Like You Mean It®marriage cruise, back a couple of weeks ago—
Dennis: Let’s mention that we were at the Love Like You Mean It cruise with our wives.
Bob: Oh, that’s true. It was you, me, Mary Ann, Barbara—Gary, his wife, Carolyn.
Dennis: And about 2,000 other—
Bob: Some of our—
Dennis: —husbands and wives.
Bob: We had a great time on the cruise. We got done—and you and I went to Hershey, Pennsylvania—spent the weekend with listeners up in Hershey who came to the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway.
Dennis: Almost 2,000 folks up there.
Bob: And one of the things that I said to the crowd up there really keyed off something we’re going to hear Dr. Gary Chapman say on today’s program; and that is, “If you don’t deal with issues—if you just—
let them stay put in your marriage, they don’t just sit there.”
Dennis: No, they don’t.
Bob: They grow bigger, and deeper, and uglier.
Dennis: And the author of Hebrews says in Chapter 12, verse 15—he says, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble.”
You know, Bob, all of life is giving us issues, where we have a choice, in terms of how we deal with them. We can—either forgive and keep moving—or we can cultivate the roots of failing to forgive. It, ultimately, will spring up into a root of bitterness, which is dangerous because I don’t want to grow old and become a bitter, gripey, grouchy, negative, old person.
Bob: I don’t know if the folks who were joining us on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise knew that we were going to get into this kind of stuff with them on the cruise; but—
Dennis: —we did.
Bob: We don’t back off from talking about what makes for a strong, healthy marriage relationship. I mean—here you’ve got a thousand couples with you onboard for a week. We might as well get to the important stuff; don’t you think?
Dennis: I think so. Dr. Gary Chapman spent the better part of an hour talking about forgiveness and dealing with issues in your marriage relationship. As we talked about earlier—how we deal with issues in our marriage and forgive one another is one of the hallmarks of a Christian marriage.
Bob: Let me just mention—if folks are interested in joining with us, next year, on the cruise—again, Valentine’s week—this time, February 9th through the 13th. We’re about halfway sold-out already.
Dennis: In fact, I had a guy come up and tell me that on Sunday before the cruise, his wife surprised him and said, “We’re going to the Caribbean,”—
Bob: He didn’t know until that day?!
Dennis: —not know until the day they left.
And I think she had the bags packed. She had the sitter lined up, and he was whisked off his feet by his bride—taken to get onboard a ship—the Love Like You Mean It cruise with 2,000 other folks, Bob. He had the biggest grin on his face. He was going, “Now, that’s a Valentine’s I’ll not ever forget!”
Bob: That’s right. Well, as I said, we’re about half sold-out for next year. We’ve got some special pricing in place, now through March 14th. So, if you’d like to join us next year, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click on the link for the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, and find out more about our plans for next year.
Dennis: And, maybe, we ought to run a little contest, Bob—have a contest—see who does the best job of surprising his or her spouse, without getting lynched by their spouse. [Laughter] Sometimes—and I’ve done this with Barbara—sometimes, a surprise can result in some—
Bob: Can bite you. Come back—it’s like that root. [Laughter] It grows bigger and uglier; doesn’t it?
Dennis: Yes. Let’s rethink the contest here [Laughter]—might get some couples in trouble.
Bob: In case you do get in trouble, here is some counsel from Dr. Gary Chapman as he talks about how you can seek and grant forgiveness in a marriage relationship.
Gary: We cannot have long-term, healthy marriages if we don’t deal effectively with their failures. Now, dealing with our failures involves two things—it involves apologizing, and it involves forgiveness—because apology, alone—I don’t care what language you use—apology, alone, will not restore a relationship. There has to be forgiveness on the part of the person who was offended—learning to forgive.
Now, what is forgiveness? What is forgiveness? There are three Hebrew words and four Greek words, in the Old and New Testaments, that are translated “forgive” or “forgiveness” in the English version. Two of the most prominent ideas are to pardon—
or to take away—to pardon the offense. That is—to show mercy rather than demanding justice—to pardon or to take away our sin—take away the barrier.
For example, Psalm 103, verse 12, God says, “As far as the east is from the west so far have I removed your transgressions from you.” You see, He has removed the barrier. He has taken away the barrier. Jeremiah 31, verse 34, God says, “I will forgive and never again remember your sins against you.” That’s pardon. That’s forgiveness. It’s removing the barrier—it’s lifting the penalty—it’s receiving them back into our relationship.
You see, it’s not in our nature to forgive. It’s in our nature to demand that they pay for what they did; but just as God forgives us, because He is a merciful God,—
we, as His children, choose to forgive each other because we also want to show mercy. We choose grace and mercy over justice.
Now, I want to say a few words about what forgiveness does not do because there is a lot of fuzzy thinking about forgiveness among many Christians. So, let me give you some things that forgiveness does not do. Number one, forgiveness does not destroy our memory. You’ve heard people say, “If you haven’t forgotten it, you haven’t forgiven it.” That’s not true.
Everything that has ever happened to us is recorded in the human brain. From time to time, what is recorded in the human brain comes back to the conscious mind. You don’t necessarily even ask for it. It is just—the memory jumps back in your mind.
So, forgiveness does not erase the memory. You will think about it again. It will come back to your mind, even after you’ve chosen to forgive.
Secondly, forgiveness does not remove all painful emotions. When the memory comes back, often, the emotion comes back. It might be hurt. It might be anger. It might be other emotions; but when the memory comes back of what they did, the emotion often comes back.
Now, what are you going to do with the memory and the emotions? I suggest you take them to God—and you say to God: “Lord, You know what I’m remembering today. You know the pain I’m feeling again; but I want to thank You that that’s forgiven. Now, help me do something good today.”
You don’t allow the memory and the emotion of the past to mess up today.
The third thing that forgiveness does not do—forgiveness does not remove all the consequences of sin. You know—in our day, in some circles—we’re basically taught that forgiveness takes care of everything. Sin is really not that bad because all you have to do is confess it, and God will forgive it, and everything is fine. Folks, that’s not true. Forgiveness does not remove all the consequences of wrong-doing.
Let’s say you get drunk. In the Bible, drunkenness is clearly a sin. The Bible says clearly, “Don’t get drunk.” So, let’s say you get drunk. You get in your car, and you’re driving down the road. You have an accident, and you mess up your car, and you break your leg. You can confess to God, right there in the wrecked car. God will forgive you there, before the ambulance gets to you;—
but your leg is still broken, and your car is still messed up. Forgiveness does not erase all the consequences of wrong.
Here’s a man, who leaves his wife—for whatever reason—goes off with another lady, marries her, moves to another town. Twenty years later, he becomes a Christian. Now, he’s thinking about his life; and he’s trying to follow God’s commands. So, he goes back to his wife and his three children, and confesses to them, and apologizes to them, and asks forgiveness for what he did to them 20 years ago. She may well forgive him, and his children can also forgive him; but it doesn’t bring back the 20 years those children lost with their father. Okay? So, forgiveness does not remove all the consequences of sin. Some of the consequences we have to live with for a lifetime.
Number four, forgiveness does not rebuild trust. Forgiveness does not rebuild trust.
The place I most often encounter this is when there has been an affair on the part of one person. They’ve been sexually-unfaithful to the spouse. Now, they’ve come back; and they’ve acknowledged what they’ve done is wrong. They’ve repented, and turned away from that relationship, and they’re coming back now, and trying to reengage in this marriage. Can there be forgiveness? Yes! Can there be healing? Yes! But forgiveness does not automatically rebuild trust.
Can’t tell you how many times the spouse who has been hurt says to me, “Dr. Chapman, I’m willing to forgive him; but I’m going to have to be honest with you, Dr. Chapman, I don’t trust him.” And I say, “Welcome to the human race.” You lose trust when the person is untrustworthy. You gain trust when the person is trustworthy.
So, I say to the person, who has been unfaithful to their spouse, and they sincerely want to reconcile with their spouse:
“You say to your spouse, at that juncture: ‘Honey, my cell phone is yours. Anytime you want to look at it, I’m happy for you to look at it. My iPad® is yours. My computer is yours. Anytime you want to look at it, I’m happy for you to do that. If I tell you that I’m going over to George’s house to help him work on his car, it’s fine with me for you to call over there and make sure I’m over there. I am through with deceit. My life is an open book.’ If you take that attitude, and you live that out—in a few months, your spouse will come to trust you again.” Yes, trust can be reborn; but it doesn’t happen simply because you forgive them.
Number five—forgiveness does not always result in reconciliation. Reconciliation means it brings things back into harmony, and that’s not always the case; for example, when there has been unfaithfulness. In the situation I just described to you—
when he’s 20 years married to another person—forgiveness is not going to mean reconciliation with his wife. It’s not necessarily going to mean reconciliation with his children.
Now, I want to ask this question, “What if the person does not speak your apology language?” They’re apologizing, but they are not speaking your language. They are not speaking it in a way that you think it should be spoken. By nature, you will question their sincerity. Every one of us will; but I want to encourage you, by faith, to choose to forgive them. Christians should always be open to forgive those who come apologizing in any way. We should be open to forgiveness.
But here’s the next question: “What if the person does not apologize? What if they don’t apologize to you at all?” Well, the Bible is very clear on what you do. It says, “Confront them.” Let me give you three or four steps—we lovingly confront them.
Luke, Chapter 17, verses 3 and 4: Jesus said very clearly, “If your brother sins against you, rebuke them.” The word means “to put a weight upon.” If you—it’s like putting a paper weight on a stack of papers. If you’ve ever been rebuked, that’s about the way it feels—they kind of lay it on you. I say lovingly confront because Galatians, Chapter 6, in
verse 1, says: “If you see a brother overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual restore him with a spirit of gentleness because you may be the one who sins the next time.”
So, you lovingly confront— but as you go to your spouse and say: “Honey, I understand that maybe I misread this—maybe I didn’t hear this correctly, maybe I’m misunderstanding what you did—but here is what I think you said / here is what I think you did. To be very honest with you, I’m hurt; and I’m angry. I want to get this thing straightened out. So, can you help me? Did I read you correctly? Did I hear you correctly?”
You go, individually, one time. If they don’t repent, it says [Matthew 18:16-17] you go back a second time. The third time, He says, “Tell somebody at the church and let them be a part of the process.” Then, after three times of confronting them, if they don’t repent, He said, “Treat them as a pagan.” How do you treat pagans? You pray for them. You love them. So, that’s the first step.
The second step is—if they don’t repent after we confront—we release the person to God. We release them to God. Second Timothy, Chapter 4, verses 14 and 15—Paul illustrates this in his own life—he said to Timothy, “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil. He sinned against me.” Now, listen, “The Lord will reward him according to his works.” Peter says of Jesus in 1 Peter,—
Chapter 2, in verse 23—he says, “When they reviled against Jesus, He did not revile in return; but He committed Himself to One who judges righteously.” He turned the whole thing over to His Father.
Number three—we pray for them, and we stand ready to forgive them. We should always be ready to forgive, and we should pray for the individual.
Then, number four—we return good for evil. We return good for evil. Romans,
Chapter 12, verse 19: “Do not take revenge. On the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In so doing, you heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Now, I meet people, who read that and say,
[Cantankerous voice] “That’s what I want to do—get those burning coals on their head.” [Laughter] And they fail to recognize that, in that day, they did not have matches. In that day, everybody had their little bed of coals in their own house. If your bed of coals died and went out, you had to go to a neighbor’s house. They gave you some coals, in a clay pot, that you put on your head and took back to your house. It was a good thing—not a bad thing. You see, the whole context is that: “If they are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.” You overcome—don’t be overcome by evil—but you overcome evil with good. As Christians, we reach out to the person with good.
I’ll never forget the wife who said to me—whose husband had been unfaithful to her / had moved out and was living with another woman. She said: “Dr. Chapman, I was reading the Bible one morning and I came to this passage in Romans 12. I just heard God say to me, so clearly, ‘You need to bake him his favorite pie and take it over there and give it to him.’”
She said, “I said, ‘God, if I baked his pie and went over there, I’d throw it in his face.’” She said, “I wrestled with that two or three days.” She said: “About the third day, I just couldn’t get away from it. So, I baked the pie. I went over to the apartment where he was living with the other woman, and I just knocked on the door.
“He came to the door, and he was standing behind the screen door. I said to him, ‘I was praying the other day, and I just felt impressed of God that I should bake you a pie and bring it to you. So, I brought it.’” He opened the door and said to her, “Well, that’s very kind of you.” He took the pie, walked back inside, and closed the door. She said: “Dr. Chapman—that was the first step in our two-year process of reconciliation. I hate to think what would have happened if I had not baked the pie.”
You see, returning good for evil is the most powerful thing you can do for your spouse. By nature, that’s the way we are—by nature, we return evil for evil: “You treat me badly; I treat you badly.” “You don’t speak my language; I won’t speak your language.” “God loved us,” the Bible says, “when we were dirty, rotten sinners.” And with His help, we can express love, in spite of the fact that the person has wronged us.
So, here are four application questions—making it personal: “Whom do I need to forgive? I haven’t let it go, but I need to let it go. Whom do I need to forgive?”
Second question: “Whom do I need to lovingly confront?”—and I want to take this beyond the marriage relationship because, if you have problems with family members that you have not been reconciled to, it will affect your marriage: “Whom do I need to lovingly confront?”
And the third question: “Whom do I need to release to God?”—that is: “I’ve been holding the anger and the hurt inside, and it’s destroying me. Whom do I need to release to God?” Turn them over to God—turn your anger over to God. Let God handle them.
And then, number four: “To whom do I need to apologize?”
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening, again, today to Dr. Gary Chapman—a message that he shared recently onboard the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, just a couple of weeks ago, as we were on our way out of the Port of Miami and spending a day at sea.
I think this was a good start to the cruise for folks to hear a message like this and say: “You know what? We’re going to be together the next couple of days. Let’s just make sure that we deal with our issues and keep short accounts.” I didn’t see too many people, walking on the deck, who looked like they weren’t having a good time.
Dennis: No, there was a lot of laughter—a lot of fun. And I think some healthy conversations. I was—
Barbara and I slipped back to the back of the boat, at one point. We noticed a couple, off to our left, who were there at a table. They were having an ice cream cone. You know, that’s the problem with these cruises, man.
Bob: I know.
Dennis: I’m telling you—they kill you.
Bob: The machine is open 24/7—
Dennis: It is. It is—
Bob: —for ice cream.
Dennis: —open all the time. In fact, I caught you; and you caught me because we were both there at the ice cream machine. [Laughter] Anyway, this couple—
Bob: It was 3:30 in the afternoon.
Dennis: Well, it was. It was! You know just needed a little sugar fix, at that point; you know?
Dennis: It was a full—
Bob: Mary Ann was napping, so—
Dennis: —full-day’s work.
Bob: —I had a chance to get away.
Dennis: Well, Barbara and I—anyway—we were back there in the back of the boat. This couple—they had their Bibles open, and they were talking.
Dennis: And you just thought: “You know what? There is no cell phone.”—
Dennis: — “There’s no internet,”—you can buy internet, but it’s so stinking
Dennis: —I didn’t buy any there, —
Bob: I didn’t either.
Dennis: “you just want to—you want to invest in the most important human relationship on this planet—your spouse.”
And there’s lots of uninterrupted time to chat and have conversations—good time to read. But I’ll tell you what—the boat is absolutely full of great speakers, great entertainers, comedians, musicians, couples who teach you how to dance. Some of you haven’t been dancing in a long time. Some of you just need to go dancing with your spouse and have a good conflict over dancing—because Barbara and I did.
Bob: Did you?
Dennis: We did! [Laughter] I mean, my frame—you know how men are supposed to hold the frame—
Bob: —kept drooping?
Dennis: —was a little droopy. I’m sorry—
Bob: That’s alright.
Dennis: —but I was trying to get my feet right; okay?
Bob: My frame’s been a bit droopy for a while. [Laughter]
Dennis: My frame kind of fell apart there. So, it was making it difficult for Barbara to follow. So, she was taking over. [Laughter]
Bob: Surprise; surprise!
Dennis: Yes. So, come on and join us next year. It’s half sold-out.
You’re going to have a blast. You’re going to have fun. You’re not going to regret—I don’t think I saw anyone who walked off that ship looking like they regretted that they came on the Love Like You Mean It cruise.
Bob: Well, and right now, we have some special pricing available for those who’d like to think about joining us. The special prices are good through next Friday, March the 14th. So, if you’d like to find out more about the cruise—consider joining us—go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link you see there for the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise.
Kirk and Chelsea Cameron are going to be with us. Voddie Baucham will be on the cruise next year. We’ll also have Andrew Peterson. Guy Penrod from the Gaither Vocal Band is going to be with us—Michael Junior—got a great lineup. We’re adding more folks to the lineup every day and pretty excited about some of the options that we can’t announce quite yet.
So, again, if you’d like to sign up now and save some money, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link for the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. Take advantage of the special offer that’s going on between now and March 14th.
And with that, we’ve got to wrap things up for today. Hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend.
And I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk to a couple of moms who are married to guys who don’t share their spiritual convictions—guys who don’t believe in God. We’re going to talk about how you raise your kids in that kind of an environment. I hope you can tune in.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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