Marriage begins with the hope of living happily ever after. However, the reality is, like life in general, it gets messy. The husband-wife relationship gets tangled up with work responsibilities, children, church, and many other activities. This unanticipated and unwanted strain steals our joy and creates tension.
God lays out a higher standard for marriage. 2 Corinthians 5:9 says to make it our goal to please Him in everything. This includes our daily lives as individuals and our relationships.
Sin creates a barrier between God and us, but since God desires relationship with us, He is the initiator of reconciliation. Reconciliation means to effect a change, to bring two parties back into one relationship. God sent Jesus to remove the sin barrier by His death on the cross (see 2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Our relationship is restored with God.
One of the unique aspects of a God-centered marriage is the act of reconciliation. As Christians we are to love one another, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to love our enemies. It is natural to apply these commands to people outside our families. However, these commands are also to be applied within the marriage relationship.
How is this lived out?
My spouse is my nearest neighbor, so I must love him. But sometimes my spouse frustrates me and is my enemy. I am still commanded to love him at those times as well. This is when we are called to reconciliation, a crucial part of the journey to ‘Happily Ever After.’
One aspect of forgiveness is the refusal to pick up my right to retaliate. This choice changes our relationship for the better. It models the selfless love of putting my spouse first. It also displays sacrifice, the laying aside of my agenda on behalf of my spouse. This moves us toward a marriage that pleases God.
Put aside pride and forgive.
It is hard to extend forgiveness when marriage is messy. But to have a God-centered marriage, we must put aside our pride and choose to forgive. As a Christ-follower, you reflect Christ to your spouse. It is inconsistent to say that Christ can reconcile you to God but that His forgiveness cannot reconcile you to each other. That is a denial of the power of forgiveness, the heart of reconciliation.
The power of reconciliation changes a marriage.
Forgiveness can be extended for a small irritant, like forgetting to take the trash out. Isn’t the relationship more important than the trash? Forgiveness has also reconciled couples after the serious breech of an affair or pornography. It’s not overlooking the problem, but choosing to love the person in spite of the offense. Where would we be without the forgiveness of Christ? His love carries us when ours runs out. “We know and rely on the love God has for us.” 1 John 4:16. God is pleased when the decision to forgive is implemented and reconciliation occurs.
Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage, says “The key question is this: will we approach marriage from a God-centered view or a man-centered view. In a man-centered view, we maintain our marriage as long as our earthly comforts and desires are met. In a God-centered view, we preserve our marriage because it brings glory to God and brings a sinful world to a reconciling Creator.” (p.32)
Every marriage is a work in progress. What steps do you need to take to have a marriage that pleases God?