Forgiving My Ex



Yesterday’s passage (John 20:21-23) and post has led me to rethink the question of whether or not I have forgiven my ex-wife.

When I was going through my ecclesiastical trial to retain my minister’s license, this was one of the questions being asked of me. Namely, they asked me if I had forgiven my ex-wife. Given more time and thought, I might answer that question differently than I did on that day.

Yes, kinda?

I have certainly given her over to God’s judgment and have no interest in being her punisher anymore (see Romans 12:19). If that is what someone means by forgiving my ex-wife, I have forgiven her.

I am not angry or bitter towards her any more than I am bitter or angry towards a stranger with a reputation of being a moral reprobate. She is no longer my “problem,” even though I am aware that she did some really bad things.

No, kinda?

If forgiveness means that I believe she is no longer accountable for her sins against me, then I have not forgiven her. Now, I am more than willing to offer her forgiveness and clear those accounts, so to speak, upon demonstration of her humble repentance per Jesus’ instructions (see Luke 17:3). However, I do not foresee this happening. Our last interaction–via her lawyers–indicated to me that she is far from repentance.

A more godly approach to faithful spouses regarding forgiveness is to ask whether or not the cheater has repented first.

It ought not to shock a pastor or Christian counselor if forgiveness has not been granted if the cheating spouse or ex has not repented. That sort of withholding is good and godly (see Luke 17:3).

Instead, the focus ought to be on helping the faithful spouse through the grief–including the anger–to a place where he or she can let go of the impulse to punish the cheater entrusting the cheater to God (see Romans 12:19). I see that work as a matter more about processing the grief than offering forgiveness.

After all, forgiveness without repentance first is neither healthy or godly.

13 thoughts on “Forgiving My Ex”

  1. “After all, forgiveness without repentance first is neither healthy or godly.”

    Bravo! Applause! Standing Ovation! You Rock! Right On! You Go, DM!!
    Ditto that^^^^^^

    {{{{HUGS!}}} and ForgeOn!

  2. I too want to understand more what repentance looks like? My ex treated me terribly during his affair. After he divorced me and moved in with his affair partner he started to “be nice”. He treats me fairly in terms of paying for kids things and so on. He has told me he was sorry but it just didn’t seem sincere…it felt more like he did it to make himself feel better. He has never asked me for forgiveness. Is his nice/fair treatment of me now repentance?

    1. Dear Andrea,

      It did not seem sincere because it likely wasn’t sincere. I think you nailed it when you suggested he may have done it to make himself feel a bit better.

      Most any one can be ‘Nice’—–the person bagging your groceries, your wait person at lunch, the clerk at the thrift store… get the point. “Nice’ means little. And paying for the children’s things gets him points with ‘Twu Wuv Schoompie’ and keeps him out of jail.

      You ask what repentance looks like. I assume that you desire our Creator’s view on the subject. There are a multitude of verses that relate to what repentance looks like. Do some research.

      If the way our Heavenly Father views morals & repentance is of paramount importance to you, then the answer to just this one question may be all you need: He is still living with that (or any other) female without the benefit of Godly marriage? If he is, then there is your answer…….

      Stay strong, Andrea…..and ForgeOn!

      1. Thanks for your words of wisdom and encouragement! This has been a long journey and in some ways I wonder if it will ever really be over this dude if heaven.

      1. Don’t know why I didn’t see this earlier… Anyway, once he marries her then is it all okay because then they wouldn’t be just shacking up anymore?

  3. A few weeks ago my Pastor gave a sermon about forgiveness and he summarized that forgiveness is more about the offended than it is the offender. He continued by saying that in the long run if you don’t forgive someone it is going to hurt you more than it is them and that is why we need to forgive. The sermon was centered on Matthew 18:21-35, the parable of the Unmerciful Servant.

    My problem with this view though is the question of whether there is forgiveness absent repentance and does God require us to forgive those that he himself says he will not forgive. I cannot find examples where God says he will forgive someone even though they have not confessed and repented. It is quite the opposite and your example of Nineveh is a perfect illustration. If they had not repented they would have been destroyed just like Sodom and Gomorrah. It is not possible to forgive someone who has wronged you absent a confession and repentance because they have not done what is necessary to receive forgiveness. From God or from the offended. To me it’s pointless to teach about forgiveness, or better yet unloving, without making this distinction because the person who will ultimately be hurt is the offender. Yet the blame in many cases is shifted to the person who has been hurt because they struggle to forgive. When a person has not received what is necessary for them to forgive, they should not be condemned when they cannot.

    1. Hi Matt,

      One good thing that came out of my exes adultery is that God used it to help me understand His Word better. I also got Matt 18:21-35 thrown at me by my Christian marriage counselors. They tried to frame it as consequence for those who are unforgiving. While this is not entirely untrue, some key points were conveniently left out. I’d like to point out a few things I learned as I studied these verses more closely.

      1. The first servant was unwilling to forgive the second servant who was repentant. Repentance is the key here as always, and consistent with the rest of the Bible.
      2. Forgiveness can be revoked – the first servant had his forgiveness revoked and ended up suffering a sentence more serious than his previous sentence because he failed to extend the grace which he himself received. God considers this to be evil.
      3. The condition for forgiveness (repentance, Luke 17:3) is illustrated but not directly stated as in Luke 17:3. My marriage counselors completely missed this nugget in Matthew and also in other verses with regards to forgiveness. Where the Bible talks about forgiveness it doesn’t necessarily mention repentance but it is always implied. And since God’s word does not contradict itself, it’s safe to say we can understand it in an additive way.

      Also as a side note, the verses immediately following Luke 17:3 tells us not to expect praise for doing our duty.

      As for the potential condition of bitterness – nowhere in the Bible does it say that forgiveness is more for the forgiving than the forgiven. That is a worldly idea where the burden of responsibility is opposed to the Bible. Bitterness rather, is a condition that comes from unforgiveness towards those who are repentant. The responsibility of making amends is always with the offender, not the offended.

      Indeed a person who is hurting you and has not repented is still hurting you. It would not follow a Godly model to forgive that person because God Himself requires one to turn from sin before asking for forgiveness, never mind actually receiving it.

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