Do You Make Your Spouse Pay For Their Sin?

Do You Make Your Spouse Pay For Their Sin

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When your spouse sins, who pays for it? Do you make her pay for what she did wrong or do you take her to Jesus and show her how His death is enough punishment to remove her transgressions?

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Christians understand the point of the gospel: Christ paid for my sins. The profundity of the gospel encapsulated in five monosyllabic words. Amazing! This simple way of explaining things is how we teach our children. I hold up my right hand so they can see each finger. Starting at one end, I show them the gospel in five words. Five fingers: five powerful words. It’s the gospel: Christ paid for my sins.

God regenerated me in 1984, and I must confess that I’m still exploring the mysteries of His gospel. The riches of His grace that He lavishes on me each day are profound (Ephesians 1:7-10).

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

What Paul explains in Ephesians is the Father’s plan to redeem broken people for Himself. The implication is clear: only Jesus can remove our sins from us. No other punishment will satisfy what the law demands.

When Adam chose to walk away from God in the garden by believing a lie (Genesis 3:6), God instituted a plan to redeem Adam and his fallen race (Genesis 3:15). Adam could not save himself. If God did not intervene, then Adam and the rest of the human race would spend a Christ-less eternity in hell.

No sin can go unpunished. Even the pagan world understands the cause and effect of sins and the need for justice. Though they get it wrong much of the time, they intuitively know the need to punish sin.

You may remember the horrible slaughter on January 08, 2011, in Arizona, when a gunman mercilessly murdered six people. Among those shot, though not killed, was Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford.

It was reported to be an assassination attempt on her life. It was senseless, sad, and sobering. President Obama made an appropriate and impassioned speech where he talked about how those murders would not go unpunished. He was right.

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Here Comes the Judge

What kind of world would it be if there were no justice? It would be chaos. The justice in our world is inconsistent at best, but it is better than total unleashed chaos. The world without punishment is not where you want to live.

Justice is always a servant to the one who interprets the offense, which is why justice in our world will never be right. Sinful people are not qualified to bring honest, honorable, and perfect justice to transgressors.

The Christian does not hope for perfect justice in our world. We are biblicists, which makes us realists. We know the culture won’t get it right all the time. The Lord is the only one who can weigh offenses and mete out the right kind of justice. In His infinite wisdom, He decided to make a path for us to escape the punishment sin demands. You see this in the gospel.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17).

Paul talked another way about the freedom God offers in 1 Corinthians 1:8 when he told the Corinthians about a future day when all guilt would be gone. Think about it: Christ paid for your sins, which will make you guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(The Lord Jesus) will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

You can and should enjoy daily cleansing from your sin, but there is something about eternal freedom from sin that is more profound. Are you living in the current freedom that Christ provides while resting in the future hope of guiltlessness?

Do You Punish or Restore?

How are you exporting the guiltlessness of the gospel to your friends? For example, do you lead your wife to the “payment maker” after she sins against you? What about you, wife? Do you make your husband pay for his sins or do you help him get to the restoring Jesus?

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:25).

How many times have you inserted yourself as the judge and jury in your relationship struggles? How often have you been tempted to “forget God,” choosing to take care of things because of your anger?

What about this?

Let’s suppose Lucia sins, and I become angry at her for what she did. Sinful anger is my initial response to her sin. My evil action makes me the judge and jury, not the good samaritan who should be restoring her to Jesus (Galatians 6:1-2).

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

My vindictive desire for justice would circumvent what she needs. There is a restorative gospel that can transform a sinful life into a redemptive one. My job is not to get in the way of what God can do with a transgressing person.

Piling my sin on top of her actions complicates what she did while making sure our marriage never pulls out of its dysfunction. The humble husband appropriates the grace of God to his life in such a way that he can help his wife change.

Christ bore the Father’s wrath on the cross. Then He died. Three days later, He came out of the grave. He defeated death, sin, and the devil to accomplish salvation for anyone who authentically believes. You could say it this way: the Judge judged Himself on the cross to keep the guilty from being judged.

Many years ago, Lucia believed the gospel. The power of the gospel regenerated her (John 3:7; Romans 1:16). She received forgiveness for her sins. It was as though the Lord rounded up all her past and future sins and declared her not guilty.

When she sins, my primary objective is to help her allocate the redemptive power of the gospel to her sin. It is wrong for me to forget this gospel privilege by punishing her for something God has already punished through His Son. She does not need my punishment; she needs the Lord’s sanctifying grace.

When I respond in sinful anger to her sin, I am marginalizing what Christ did on the cross. Her actions become more about me and what I am not getting, rather than what she is missing and what she needs.

My anger at her reveals gospel amnesia. The Father has already punished her sin on the cross. It is redundant and evil for me to punish her too.

Do You Sacrifice or Punish?

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word (Ephesians 5:25-26).

Christ does not make you pay for your sin…if you are a Christian. He sacrificed Himself for your sin by giving His life for you. He died for you. He does not get angry at you; He seeks to restore you.

If you truly understand the gospel at the moment of your wife’s sin, your response should be a gospel-motivated sacrifice rather than a self-centered punishment.

Rather than choosing sinful anger (punishment) as a response to her sin, you must adopt an attitude of forgiveness (sacrifice). Jumping to sinful anger will distort and strain your relationship with God and with her.

Rather than serving your wife by helping her get to Christ’s forgiveness, your anger will convolute the situation. You are not her judge, though it may make you feel good at the moment to squeeze a payment from her. Emasculating the gospel is not the way of Christ. It mocks His sacrificial work on the cross. It sounds like this:

Dear Jesus,

I don’t care that You died for her sin. She sinned against me, and I am going to make her pay right now. It’s important to me. I’m hurt.

Sin demands a punishment, and she needs to experience my punishment, so she’ll know how much she hurt me. She can experience the cleansing power of the gospel later.

I know the Father bruised you for her iniquities, but right now I feel the need to punish her sins verbally (Isaiah 53:6).

The Punisher

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A Better Way

When you practically apply the gospel at the moment of her sin, you are living out Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 5:25-26. Rather than dismantling your marriage, you could enjoy the benefits of being sanctified, cleansed, and washed by God’s Word.

Rather than forcing sanctification through fear, intimidation, disappointment, manipulation, and punishment, she would experience the freedom, favor, and power of the cross. If you want her to change, you must do it the gospel way, not your own.

I’m sure you want a loving spouse. Yelling at her is not the way to that end. It may seem prudent at the moment, but it’ll prove to be detrimental to your marriage. Good marriages come by sacrifice. Christ sacrificed Himself rather than meting out punishment on you. He patiently loves you into submission:

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4).

Christ will get the work of His hands–(a church) in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27). He will get this because He sacrificed for it.

If your goal is for your wife to walk in holiness, then you have to think and act like Christ. If your goal is for her to be like Christ, then you will have to set aside what you want right now.

If you choose to punish your wife when she sins, do not expect to have a one-flesh union that glorifies God or benefits either one of you. Each time you punish her, you are making it harder to accomplish the very thing you desire the most for her: to be like Christ.

Call to Action

  1. How does the redemptive power of the gospel impact your relationships?
  2. When your spouse sins against you, do you punish or sacrifice?

I want you carefully read Galatians 6:1-2 and then think through the three examples so you can examine yourself regarding this question: Are you an active restorer or punisher of those who disappoint you?

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Example #1 – Let’s suppose you discovered your husband’s addiction. Is the gospel real in that moment? What governs your heart when he sins? Is it a desire to punish him or a desire to help him get to Christ, where he can be forgiven and changed?

Example #2 – Your spouse disappoints you for the umpteenth time. What is the ruling motive of your heart? Can you rest in God the Judge, or are you going to be your spouse’s judge?

Example #3 – When you sin again, are you tempted to punish yourself through stringent moralism–also called legalism? Or do you appropriate the forgiveness found in Christ’s work on the cross?

If our gospel means anything, then it must be real at the moment of sin, whether yours or mine. Otherwise, we are mocking the redemptive purpose of His sacrifice.

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