But we are called to forgive our brother and sister. Jesus tells us to do so. And he tells us to do so from our hearts.
In illustrating this point, Jesus gives us “The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant” in Matthew 18:21-35. Essentially, it is a story about how a servant owes a vast debt to his master but cannot pay. He begs for mercy, and his master forgives the debt. This servant then turns around to someone who owes him much less and does not show any mercy on that person as he begs for forgiveness of this debt. The master hears of this, and Jesus concludes the parable saying this about the original servant: “‘In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart’” (vv 34-35).
We need to forgive.
I believe the torture Jesus speaks about is the torture we experience by holding tightly to the wrong or debt owed to us and refusing to release it to God. The hurtful emotion of anger grows and turns us into bitter people. We need God’s grace to let it go to Him. We need to trust God that He sees all and is good and just.
Forgiving will take time when the wound is deep. And I believe we need God’s grace to forgive. Asking Him for this grace is a good place to start.
Here’s a prayer to help:
God, I am hurting and full of anger against ___ for ____. Your Word tells me that I must forgive him/her from my heart. Please give me the grace to let go of this wrong and give it to you. In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.
This is just a start. Perhaps, your start might just be asking for the grace to even think about forgiving. I think God will honor your desire to follow Him even in that small step.
A sticking place for me in this process was having forgiveness pushed before the lies were defeated in my heart. What I mean by that is I still struggled for a while about the lies my ex used to justify her adultery and abandonment. I think some of my strongest emotions came or come from the place where I feel pressured to agree I had this abuse coming to me (i.e. her adultery/abandonment/divorce was somehow justified.) The pressure could have been external or internal. But the internal was the hardest to defeat. The lies would roll around in my head as I tried to see if they held any validity. This was ultimately unfruitful and unproductive towards achieving a state of peace.
The only way to defeat this is with the truth.
No one causes another person to commit adultery. An adulterer/adulteress causes adultery by committing adultery, period. I say this a lot on this blog because I believe this lie has found its way deep, deep into our culture and even churches. The faithful spouse is not responsible for the sins of the adulterous spouse. Not even partially.
Scripture makes this principle very clear:
The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them. – Ezekiel 18:20, NIV
Their adultery is on them. It is the overflow of their own heart as Jesus clearly teaches (see my post here). It is not a symptom of a bad marriage. It is a symptom of a wicked heart–the adulterous spouse’s heart.
I hammer this point heavily on this blog as I see it as necessary to deal with the sin and find real release in forgiving the sin. If one takes partial blame for the adultery, then one runs the risk of getting stuck in an angry, bitter internal loop because you are believing a lie. And I suspect this lie will steal from your self-worth.
It is not unlike the situation where a sexually abused child might decide that they deserved the sexual abuse. This lie does not aid in healing nor does it move the child/grown child to a place of authentic forgiveness and freedom. The lie must be exposed first.
All of this reminds me of a scene from Good Will Hunting where Matt Damon’s character is confronted by the psychologist played by Robin Williams. It is a powerful scene with Williams chopping at the lie roots where Damon’s character blamed himself for the abuse he experienced as a child. [***WARNING–VULGAR LANGUAGE IN CLIP]
Until you know in your heart “It’s not your fault,” you will never be free. God wants you to be free, and He wants you to know how He sees what happened to you, the faithful spouse. So, I will keep on saying it on this blog:
It’s not your fault.
It’s not your fault.
It’s not your fault.