All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).
Most Christians understand the point of the gospel, which is “Christ paid for my sins.” The profundity of this fantastic news is encapsulated in five monosyllabic words. Amazing! This simple way of explaining the gospel is how we taught our children when they were younger. I would hold up my right hand so they could see each finger. Starting at one end, I illustrated the gospel. Five fingers. Five powerful words: “Christ paid for my sins.”
When Adam chose to walk away from God by believing a lie (Genesis 3:6), God instituted a plan to redeem him and his fallen race (Genesis 3:15). Adam could not save himself, and if God did not intervene, he and his friends would spend a Christless eternity in hell. Why? Because no sin can go unpunished. Even nonbelievers understand the “cause and effect” of wrongdoing and the need for justice. Humanity intuitively knows the need to punish evil. Mercifully, there is an answer to what’s wrong with us.
Believers should praise God for the everlasting freedom that comes from Christ’s forever payment that He made from the cross. But there is something equally profound to our eternal hope. Are you living in the current freedom that Christ provides you, as you are resting in the future hope of guiltlessness (1 Corinthians 1:8)? What about this: how are you exporting the guiltlessness that the gospel offers to your spouse? Do you lead your spouse to the “payment maker” after they sin? Do you help your spouse get to the “restorative Jesus?”
If you are a believer, Christ does not make you pay for your sin. You are guilt-free and punishment-free. Jesus sacrificed Himself for your sin by giving His life for you. Even with your current foul-ups, He keeps on restoring you (Galatians 6:1-2). If you practically understand this fundamental gospel truth at the moment of your spouse’s sin, your immediate reaction should be a gospel-motivated sacrifice rather than a self-focused punishment. Rather than choosing sinful anger as a self-justifying response to your spouse’s wrongdoing, you have the power resident in you to adopt an attitude of forgiveness—an echo of the sacrifice of Christ. Jumping to sinful anger will distort and strain your relationship with God and your spouse.
If you want to help your spouse walk in holiness, you must think, speak, and act like Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1). To help your spouse be like Christ, you will have to set aside what you want. But if you choose to punish your spouse because of his or her sin, do not expect to have a one-flesh union that glorifies God or benefits either one of you. Each time you punish your spouse, you make it harder to accomplish the thing you desire the most for each other, which is Christlikeness.
To discern your practical understanding of the gospel, think about how you react to your spouse when he or she disappoints you. If your reactions are not Christlike, you’re mocking the redemptive purpose of His sacrifice.
Find a committed, mature Christian and share this devotional with them. Tell them how the Spirit of God illuminated your thinking, specifically by how you treat your spouse’s sin. Both of you pray together, asking the Father to help you help your spouse.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).