…nouthetic, Christian care after an affair.

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You Want Me to FORGIVE?



I was listening to a podcast from two of my favorite people: Lisa and Stu Gray from STUpendous Marriage, and the top of their podcast this week was “How Can I Forgive My Spouse?”    Honestly I thought that was a great question!  Exactly how IS someone supposed to forgive their spouse when their spouse is the one they trusted the MOST, and trust was betrayed?  Even when the Disloyal Spouse is repentant and ends their affair and wants to reconcile…HOW do you forgive?

Stu and Lisa have some great thoughts such as “Forgiveness takes time” and “We have to forgive them every day”…I’ll let you listen to their podcast to hear their thoughts.  But I thought it might be useful and helpful to look at some Bible verses about forgiving others and comment directly on verses.

Matthew 5:23-24 NIV
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Comment: The main thing to learn from this verse is that these are words from Jesus, who is telling us what is important to God–he’s indicating what is a priority.  Although God is indeed pleased by offerings at the altar, note that Jesus tells us that offerings are nice, but RECONCILING with a brother (or sister) is priority over giving gifts.  Who is a closer brother or sister than your spouse?  If your spouse has something against you, it says to leave the offering and go be reconciled first.  And notice this too–Jesus says that the one who did something against the brother is to be the one initiating the reconciling and putting action into it.  Don’t just say “Oh sorry” and carry on as the same person…leave the altar!  Travel to where they are! Make the effort! Ask for forgiveness!  Work it out!  Do what you have to do in order to make it right with them … and THEN go back and give the gift to God.


Matthew 6:14-15 NIV
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins

Comment:  A lot of people take this verse out of context, but if you look at the entire chapter, Jesus is teaching his disciples to not be hypocrites and to not practice their righteousness out in public.  In his day (and now-a-days too) a lot of the “religious leaders” would act all pious and holy in front of the people, but in real life they wanted the best seats, wanted their name on the plaques, and wanted people to see them praying…but in their hearts they were selfish, spiteful, jealousy, adulterous and AWFUL!  So Jesus’ theme is “don’t be a hypocrite” and this verse is RIGHT AFTER the Lord’s Prayer.  So here, Jesus is essentially saying “Man, how can you expect God to forgive for your sins, when you aren’t a forgiving person yourself?”


Matthew 18:35
This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

Comment:  Right before this verse is the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.  Do you know the story?  There was this servant and he owed his master $10,000.00 so the master says “Okay sell this servant and his wife and kids, and we’ll settle the debt” and the servant begs and pleads not to have his family torn apart and says “If you give me a year I’ll pay you back, I promise!” The master has compassion, cancels the whole debt, and lets him go.  Now some other servant owed this guy $10, so the servant says “Pay up or else!” and the other servant says “Please I can’t pay right now but if you give me a year I’ll pay you back, I promise” and the unforgiving servant said “TOUGH you owe it!” and threw the guy in prison.  Now the other servants were mad at the unforgiving one and told the master, who called him in front of him and said, “YOU WICKED MAN!  I cancelled your huge debt and showed you mercy–shouldn’t you have done the same thing to your fellow-servant?” Then the master sent him to prison to be tortured until he could pay his debt.

What can we learn from this?  Oh it’s easy.  We owe an ENORMOUS debt to the Lord for forgiving us our sins.  Shouldn’t we also show mercy to our fellow-servants?


Luke 17:3-4
So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.

Comment:  Okay I love this one.  First, notice that it doesn’t say that if someone sins against us we are supposed to be milquetoast and just accept their sinning.  WE ARE SUPPOSED TO REBUKE THEM!  That’s not vengeance, but rather calling sin by its name, and letting them experience the natural consequences of choosing to sin!  Don’t cover it up.  Don’t pretend “it’s okay.”  Don’t agree with it and let it keep happening!  And then you notice it says “IF THEY REPENT.”  We aren’t told to forgive someone who isn’t really sorry and hasn’t really changed; this verse is specifically addressing someone who is actually remorseful and repents = 180 degree change.   So they step in it…and repent.  They try to be different and still do it wrong…and repent.  They try again and sin against you again…and repent.   They are not being their old, sinful self but they are trying but head off in a wrong direction…and repent.  They make a mistake…and repent.  See what I mean?  Note that it says we MUST forgive them.  It’s a command.


Romans 12:20
On the contrary:  If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.

Comment: This verse doesn’t specifically have the word “forgive” or “forgiveness” in it, but I added it because here Paul is talking about how to treat an “enemy.”  This is how a Christian is supposed to act toward someone who is openly hostile and at enmity in every way–in other words, definitely not a fellow brother or sister in Christ!  If someone who is 100% opposed to me is hungry, I am supposed to feed them. If someone who hates me and would like to see me dead is thirsty, I’m supposed to give him something to drink. Matthew 5:38 -48 tells us even more about how to treat an enemy. So if that’s how we are to treat someone who is our ENEMY…  how much more loving and kind should we be to someone who is our brother, our sister, or co-heir in Christ?


2 Corinthians 2:5-8 NIV
If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.

Comment: One thing to learn from these verses is that it is possible to be “overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.”  Now suppose someone has caused you grief–I think breaking trust and betraying your spouse via adultery counts as “causing grief”–and thank God they see that what they did was wrong and repent = 180 degree change from the way they were acting.  Paul says here that if the person is not forgiven and comforted, there is a risk the person could be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.  I believe what Paul is referring to is the feeling a truly repentant Disloyal has of being worthless, unlovable, and lower than a worm under the mud of your shoe because of what they’ve done and all the damage they did.  Paul literally URGES us to reaffirm our love for the one who has caused us grief!  So it’s not a commandment per se, but Paul, via the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is telling us that reaffirming our love for the one who has caused us grief and repented is pleasing to God.


Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Comment: Man, do I really need to comment on this one?  Just because it’s your spouse and they caused you grief doesn’t mean you now have the right to rage at them and hold bitterness against them.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.  These verses are pretty self-evident, I’d say.


Colossians 3:13
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Comment: Again, pretty self-evident, I’d say.  When your spouse commits adultery, you DEFINITELY have a grievance against them.  But what does it say?


“What about a spouse that doesn’t repent or doesn’t ask for forgiveness?” 

Comment: Well we do know how God has told us to treat our enemies–those who are openly hostile and at enmity with us.  If your Disloyal Spouse had an affair and refused to end it and is divorcing you, I would say that qualifies as “openly hostile and at enmity with you”..wouldn’t you?  So we know that we are to LOVE our enemies.  We are to feed and clothe them.  We are to turn the other cheek.  If they force us to walk one mile, we walk two.  If they sue us for our shirt, we’re supposed to give them our pants and coat too!

I don’t see anywhere where God says “…if they are hostile to you, it’s okay to be hostile back” so for a Disloyal who doesn’t repent, I’d join with Paul and urge you to forgive them and treat them with godly love for two reasons: a) if you hold bitterness and rage in your heart, it will eat away at YOU …, and b) if you treat them in a way that is counter-intuitive to the wisdom of this world, your very actions may lead them back into reconciling their relationship with God.

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Clues that a Disloyal Spouse Has Really Changed



“Please don’t cut off all contact with me.  If you do there will be no chance of reconciling, and I want to change. I’m serious. What if I change and you’ve closed the door on our marriage?”

We’ve all heard these words like these from our Disloyal Spouse, or if we are the Disloyal Spouse, we’ve said something to this effect to our Loyal Spouse, and with those words the Loyal plunges into a sea of confusion and uncertainty. What if  their spouse DOES change? What if they HAVE ALREADY changed? What if they are in the process of changing? Should I forgive them? How can I tell if they mean it or if they are just saying it to get what they want?

The way to tell if a person has really changed or not is outlined for us in Ephesians 4, specifically starting with verses 22-24:

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” – Ephesians 4:22-24

In this chapter, Paul itemizes for us the four steps involved in TRUE change (transformation):

  1. Put off your former way of life–your old self –vs. 22.
  2. Be made new in your mind –vs. 23.
  3. Put on a new life that is like God–true righteousness and true holiness –vs. 24.
  4. You’ll a demonstration of the change in the way you live –25-32.

This is also true for the person who was formerly a cheater and has now had a true transformation in their attitude and life.  They will also go through all four of these steps and all four will be observable and obvious.

First, they will “put off their former way of life”, so if they were formerly a flirt or they watched porn or they met others through chat rooms, they will STOP THAT.  If your Disloyal is telling you that they’ve changed will still engaging in their affair or still going to the internet to chat for hours, then they have not really changed.  The very first step is to stop doing what they used to do.

But just stopping the activity is not enough.  Imagine a person who is an alcoholic.  If all they do is stop putting liquor to their lips and swallowing, they haven’t changed inside.  They haven’t changed their minds, their thoughts, their attitudes toward alcohol at all!  So the second step in authentic change is to actually change your MIND–renew it.  We have to change what we think (the words and when, etc.), and this will change our attitude, which is our “set way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior.”  When a Disloyal is sincere in their change, they will not only stop being unfaithful, but will also change the way they think about infidelity and they will change what infidelity means to them.  Whereas they used to see unfaithfulness as “fun” and “exciting” and “enjoyable” they will have renewed their minds and said “STOP” every time they thought of their Affair Partner and instead replaced it with the truth about the AP: they lack character and morals!  And whereas they used to think of their spouse as “a nag” and “a prude” and “controlling” they will have renewed their minds and said “STOP” every time they thought like that and replaced it with the truth about their spouse: they were deeply hurt and still had the courage and grace to hang in there!


Now right about here, a lot of Loyal Spouses are fooled, because often a Disloyal can convince their Loyal Spouse that they have stopped talking to or spending time with their AP, and they can even say the right words that seem to indicate their attitude toward adultery has changed.  But Loyal Spouses–word of warning!  Stopping the behavior and saying words that seem like the thinking has changed IS NOT ENOUGH to indicate true, repentant change.  The third step is a necessary condition.  Verse 24 tells us that true repentance (true change) requires that they also put on a new self.

Finally, if Paul had left it at that, we might have been left to wonder what he meant or had to speculate about what “new self” he was asking us to model, but Paul didn’t do that.  He gave us four practical illustrations of what it means to truly put off, renew, and put on a new self:

  1. The lying person not only stops his/her lying, but s/he begins to speak the truth–vs. 25.
  2. The thief not only stops taking from people, but s/he does something useful with his/her hands and becomes a giver–vs. 28.
  3. The person who swore and tore down with his/her words stops their crudeness and begins to build others up with their tongue–vs. 29.
  4. The harsh, angry, malicious person puts his/her bitterness away, and starts spreading kindness wherever s/he goes–vs. 31.

We can see that the person is doing 180 degrees the opposite of what they used to be doing, and more importantly, the person has taken the time for their life to demonstrate, through their behavior and actions, that they are DIFFERENT!

So we have a guide for telling when a Disloyal Spouse has had a real change.  When you see all four steps, then you know that things are truly different and the repentance is honest.  If you see that they have stopped committing adultery; if they have renewed their mind and how they think about their spouse and marriage; if they have put on a new self and it is 180 degrees the opposite of what they were doing; and if they invest the time to demonstrate in their life the new way of behaving…then it is real.  If you don’t see all four steps, then it’s not real change.


When people say “God is my Husband” or “Jesus is Enough”

 Heart Puzzle

I was reading “Is Jesus Really Enough?” by Lilly Grace, and her blog really got me thinking.  In fact, it inspired me so much I wanted to write about it!  

My “blog sister” Lilly Grace is in a difficult marriage–her husband reminds me of Abigail’s first husband, Nabal.  He is not loving and gentle and kind toward her, but she doesn’t give up.  I would say I’m in a difficult marriage, but not because my husband is abusive or because our marriage is sexless!  Nope, my Dear Hubby who writes here often is a WONDERFUL man and a loving husband, but my Dear Hubby is very ill and so I do have many things I have to do “by myself” where others might have their spouse to support them.  And I’m sure that many of you here who read my blog can relate–if your spouse is committing adultery, whether it’s an emotional affair or a physical affair, your marriage is DIFFICULT.  It can feel very lonely.  You may not have your spouse there for you.  Your Disloyal Spouse is probably angry, abusive, deceptive, dishonest, and hurtful.  Chances are good that your sex life is suffering, and you miss the hugs and kisses and loving physical touches.  

But I still hate it when people say cliche kind of responses like these because they don’t really HELP. I don’t need some meaningless cliche–I need some understanding, sympathy or at least something that’s actually helpful! LOL I will say one thing about these sayings though: they aren’t utterly inaccurate.

To me, when I think of “God is my husband” what I truly, honestly think of in my head is that as a woman, I want a male person to treat me with love and kindness and gentleness, and God is not a male human in flesh and blood in front of me. But when I think about marriage, I think that it is an image of the way God wants to be with us…with ME. Marriage reflects the intimate knowledge of one male person to one female person–full, deep, true KNOWING and BEING KNOWN with covenant commitment to each other. This is what God wants: He wants me to fully, deeply, truly know Him and been known by Him.  He wants covenant commitment to each other. And in that sense, He is my Husband.  

Likewise, I think of “Jesus is enough” I think of Jesus, who is fully the Maker and Creator of the Universe, but who humbled Himself and took on flesh. He was fully GOD, but he experienced the hunger, tiredness, frustration, limitation and yes physical sexual hormones and everything that comes with a human body…and He voluntarily gave Himself to torture and death to atone for us! If He can endure that for us, then yes, I can endure what physical discomforts this short time here on earth  may give me, even if it’s being horny or without sex.  After all, the point of sex is not “to relieve my horny physical itch” but to physically share in the pleasure of my spouse and serve them!  My focus in sex is on intimacy and on my spouse.  

And the last thing I think of is actually adultery, and I think of that because so often we think of our little pain or our loneliness or our lack of sex and try to justify to ourselves “Well, God would want me to be happy” or some such nonsense.  But in real life, marriage is a mirror of our relationship to God (as the Bride of Christ)…and adultery is a mirror of our relationship to God before Christ!  He loved us, as a husband loves his bride, and we “cheated” on Him by loving other gods and chasing them rather than being faithful to Him.  We were rageful, hateful, deceptive, dishonest, and followed our lusts–and despite all that, God kept His covenant with us and sent Jesus to pay the price in our place.  

So at times, the frustration and loneliness and longing for just loving physical touch can feel overwhelming and be very hard to bear–but then I think of what marriage is, what a covenant commitment means, and how God loved me (His Bride) when I was committing adultery.  And with His help, I can endure this small trial here.  

  • How the Gospel Works in My Marriage
  • The Forgiving Husband
  • Can She Leave Him?
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