“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
-Luke 7:47, NIV
The amount of gratitude ought to match the amount forgiven.
This is one lesson I take from Jesus’ teaching in this verse. And it is an important spiritual lesson to apply to situations involving infidelity among Christian spouses.
Metaphors and analogies are often helpful in grasping more abstract principles like the relationship between forgiveness and gratitude. Let me explain how this relationship and lesson via an analogy:
A cheater is like an arsonist.
But not just any arsonist.
This arsonist chose to burn down the one house in the whole world that happened to be your childhood home. As if that is not enough, he pissed on the ashes after the fact demonstrating his utter contempt for you. He may have even added even more insult to injury by telling you–while holding the lighter–that your childhood house wasn’t exactly burned down even with you staring at its very ashes in front of you.
Now, a forgiving former homeowner looks at that pile of ashes and all the arsonist did and tells him that he does not have to pay back the $500,000 value of the house that he just burned down. A wildly gracious former homeowner will go even further and tell the arsonist that she is willing to reinvest in rebuilding a new home with him even after all he did.
Any response other than utter gratitude from the arsonist for forgiving–i.e. letting go of one’s right to revenge–and offering to rebuild–i.e. restore the marriage–is indicative of an arsonist either minimizing his crime or denying responsibility for doing the dirty deed(s).
If a banker told you that you are off the hook for paying back a half million dollar mortgage, I bet you would be grateful. Very grateful.
If a banker told you that he was freely giving you another half a million dollars to build, I bet you would be blown away by his generosity. Simply stunned.
When faithful spouses forgive cheaters, they are forgiving more than a half million dollars. They are forgiving soul rape that includes all sorts of emotional and spiritual trauma. Plus, that is just talking about the adultery. It does not even include all the financial shadiness and assorted lying that usually comes with such treachery. My point is that it is a big debt a faithful spouse cancels when he/she forgive an adulterous partner. Huge.
When a faithful spouse offers to stay and restore the marriage, they are offering to put more into a new home than simply a half million dollars. They are saying that they are willing to reinvest greatly into someone who has already demonstrated contempt and a willful disregard for what is precious to them. Faithful spouses are handing over their “money”–trust, safety, well-being, etc–to the one who made a virtual bonfire of it. That’s ridiculously generous.
Do cheaters generally respond with gratitude when faithful spouses extend such forgiveness and unmerited favor offering to rebuild the marriage with them?
In a word: No.
Returning to the analogy:
Cheating arsonists tell the banker to shove their debt forgiveness. In their twisted heads, they view forgiveness as leverage and assume someone forgiving them will use it as such. Plus, they loath the thought of owing someone even simple gratitude for experiencing his/her generosity.
Some cheating arsonists might accept the debt forgiveness only to insist the debt never be mentioned again as if they had never incurred it to begin with. That is the extent of their gratitude. If the forgiven debt is mentioned again, they proverbially spit in the face of their benefactors calling them all sorts of names. They certainly do not thank them. And they certainly do not freely bring it up to praise the ones who have forgiven them so much.
When it comes to marriage restoration, cheaters often whine that the loan wasn’t for more than half a million dollars. In fact, they feel entitled to such a huge gift–making it anything but a gift–in their mind. In their twisted heads, cheating arsonists think the bank ought to run after them and convince them to take even more money–i.e. trust and other capital from the faithful spouse. In their sick minds, they do not need debt forgiveness but rather the one offering forgiveness needs theirs.
Ask anyone who has spent time listening to faithful spouses, and they can tell you these sort of responses from cheaters are common.
They love little because they are forgiven little.
And cheaters are forgiven little because they refuse to humbly receive forgiveness for their wrongdoing. In other words, cheaters are forgiven little not because faithful spouses are unwilling to forgive their huge debt; rather, they are forgiven little because such forgiveness is inaccessible to someone who rejects the gift or fails to understand humbly the depths of his/her need for it.
Why thank someone if you never really thought you needed–or could use–their gift?
If you want to know how sorry and repentant a cheater is, look no further than their level of demonstrated gratitude when offered forgiveness:
1. A flash of gratitude suggests a cheater who does not comprehend the depths of destruction his/her actions wrought on his/her victim–i.e. the faithful spouse (and family).
2. A lack of gratitude suggests a cheater does not even accept the need for forgiveness as if he/she refuses to accept the sin debt his/her actions incurred.
3. A effusive and consistent display of gratitude denotes a cheater who loves much because he/she realizes the faithful spouse has forgiven them much.