Was Jesus’ Punishment Enough?
When my marriage looked like a sinking ship, I heard a speaker explaining how the Gospel can (should) factor into relationships.
He said something like
“If God has forgiven you your sins – totally undeserved – then shouldn’t you forgive your spouse for his transgressions?”
Oh man, I thought, my forgiveness is definitely undeserved.
“How do you view the sins/behavior of your husband or wife? Are you keeping track, even of the one’s you said you forgave?”
Then he said the most powerful thing I could have heard at that moment. It changed everything:
“Jesus died for the sins of your husband. He was punished for those sins. Was that not enough for you? Or do you think you need to punish him even more?”
With silence, or purposefully avoiding eye contact.
Or with harsh words, or unnecessary attitude.
Withholding sex, ignoring requests, or talking publicly about their mistakes.
The ways we punish our spouses are tailor made for each unique relationship, aren’t they? I’m not talking about a healthy argument or a misunderstanding. I’m talking about when we literally punish our spouse for what is (or isn’t) going on between us.
The Gospel for me – and for you – is that Christ was crucified for our sins. He took my place in every way – from baptism all the way through death and then resurrection.
His death was especially bitter and harsh. Beaten and whipped publicly, he then carried the cross on his bloody back to the place it would stand for his execution. Spit on, tortured, nailed to a cross, suffocated, and then a spear was thrust into his side.
He was punished for my sins.
He suffered for the world.
My husband has been forgiven by his Savior. He has confessed. He repents and fails to live perfectly. And repents again.
Just like me.
God is not keeping track of his sins.
But I am.
I’m not suggesting we ignore any problems or issues that arise in a relationship. I’m not suggesting apologies and repentance are unnecesary. Addressing our conflicts, confessing our mistakes, and attempting to make a shift in behavior are vital actions for all couples.
I’m talking about long term change for the better.
I’m talking about forgiveness.
I’m talking about learning to live with one another after things have been said and deep cuts have been made.
And it hurts.
The Gospel is the only way we find motivation to love when it feels impossible.
And it can apply to all of our relationships.
Less condemnation, more mercy.
Less controlling, more gentle.
Less anger, more patience.
Less judgment, more grace.
The Gospel changes us. It can change our relationships too.
Marriages and parenting. Neighbors and strangers. Enemies and old friends. Co-workers and Facebook friends. People you see at church, and even your boss.
The Gospel should dictate how we relate to other people.
As leaders or servants, ambitious or free-spirited… we can let Gospel-love and mercy be the guiding principle when we interact with anyone and everyone.
Because we have been loved. Christ has been punished for us. And we are now free to live and love in the grace of God.