Often people who experience the sin of others react by sinning in response to what happened to them. Many of these “victims of sin” do not come back around and ask forgiveness for their sinful attitude toward the person who hurt them. But when they do, it’s a double confession.
You may want to read:
- What Is Righteous Anger?
- The Doctrine of Repentance
- Pre-forgiveness Is a Prerequisite Before You Can Forgive Someone
But Not Really
- Biff sinned against Mable.
- Mable was hurt.
- Biff asked Mable to forgive him.
- Mable forgave Biff.
- They experienced reconciliation.
Though Mable forgave Biff, she neglected to tell him that she was sinning against him because of what he did to her. She was hurt, but she also became sinfully angry at him. Though Mable understood that it is never right to sin in response to being sinned against, she did choose to sin against Biff after he sinned against her.
Mable tried to convince herself that it was righteous anger, but in her heart of hearts, she knew it was not. And she chose not to tell Biff about her sinful attitude against him. Reconciliation with each other did not happen.
Have you ever responded sinfully to someone who sinned against you? I have done this many times. Did you repent of your sin against the person who sinned against you? If you did, you completed what I call a double confession:
- The one who sinned against you confesses and repents of his sin.
- You confess and repent of your sin against that person.
Because we are fallen individuals, “double sinning” happens more often than you might think. A husband, for example, can be harsh or unkind toward his wife. His immaturity legitimately hurts his wife.
But rather than completely working through all the ramifications of his sin, she begins to harbor anger in her heart toward him. Let’s say he confesses his sin, but she never confesses her sinful attitude toward him. They cannot have authentic reconciliation between each other.
There is an “unresolved fracture” in their relationship that happened because she either dismissed, justified, rationalized, blamed, or ignored her sinful response to him.
Sin is sin regardless of how or why a person commits it, and there is only one right answer for any transgression: confess the sin, ask for forgiveness, reconcile the relationship, and begin the process of restoration.
A mature and humble wife will let her husband know how she has sinned against him and will seek his forgiveness. This kind of attitude and response removes all of the impediments from the relationship, and they have the possibility of enjoying the unencumbered fullness of what a “one flesh” union was meant to be.
But He Won’t
Many wives have shared with me how it’s easier for them to harbor their sin against their husbands because it is the path of least resistance. They have talked about how their husbands have been brutish and insensitive when they come to them in humble confession, and they don’t feel the liberty to discuss their sin against their husbands.
This problem is real, and their fear is legitimate. It may be right for them not to confess their sins to their husbands, especially if they are abusers. Abusive spouses will use anything they can to keep their victims under their thumbs. If this is your situation, what I’m saying here does not apply to you. Your “action plan” must be to find help through your church rather than continuing to subject yourself to an abuser.
But if a spouse wants to create a relational environment where their partner is free to walk out their repentance in response to sin, here are three things you should do. (Though I’m speaking to husbands here, everything said applies to either spouse.)
Create a Context of Grace – You can release your spouse from the fear of retaliation by establishing a context of grace where both partners are free to speak to each other.
You can do this by practicing being an encourager while inviting your spouse to bring corrective care into your life. After she brings her restorative care, you should encourage and express your gratitude to her for her soul care.
Your wife married you because she loves you. Treat her well. Be humble enough to let her help you with your deficiencies. She can be a helper if you let her. (Genesis 2:18) Be kind to her. If you are kind to her, when you ask her about her sinfulness toward you, she’ll know it’s okay to be transparent.
Carefully Draw Her Out After You Repent – Understand your wife. (1 Peter 3:7) It is not unusual for a person to sin in response to being sinned against by a spouse. Without judging or accusing your wife, draw her out after you ask for her forgiveness. It is highly possible she is sinfully struggling with what you did to her.
Love her enough to ask probing questions. Humbly draw her out regarding how she responded to your sin while remembering you have a log in your eye (Matthew 7:3-5). Carefully ask about a possible speck in her eye. The context of grace that you have created will free her to be honest and transparent with you.
Perhaps You May Overlook Her Sin Temporarily – Everyone does not repent at the same speed. Some individuals take longer to process and work through what happened to them. Just because you have repented, make sure you don’t expect them to be like you. They may need time to get to that place where they can reciprocate your humility by confessing their sin against you.
Caveat – But if only one spouse is doing all the confessing and forgiveness seeking in the relationship, you have a problem, and you may want to reach out to your church for help. A person who never confesses their sins or asks for forgiveness has a serious problem and needs help.
Call to Action
- When was the last time you confessed your sin to the person who sinned against you?
- Are you more prone to focus on what someone did you to you or what you have done to Christ?
- Mom, how often do you ask your children to forgive you for a particular sin that you sinned against them after you asked them to confess their sin to you?
Also published on Medium.