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I was 18, a new bride, full of myself, idealistic, and trying my best to be the perfect “Susie Homemaker.”
One morning, shortly after returning from our honeymoon, we had a doozy of an argument, the subject of which has long since been forgotten. Whatever it was, I felt I was right, he was wrong. The argument dragged on until in utter frustration, I blurted out, “I’m going to call my mother, and I’m going to tell her I want to go back home!”
Truth be told, I had no intention whatsoever of doing that. All I wanted was to get his attention, for him to see it my way and apologize. I wanted to win this one.
With Greg calmly looking on (this annoyed me even more), I picked up the phone and pretended to dial the number.
“Hello, Mommy,” I said to no one, “I want to come home.”
I went on pretending that she was answering me. But then…the phone started that loud rapid tone it makes when it’s been left off the hook. It was obvious what I was up to. Greg smiled, got up, and walked out of the room. I looked pretty ridiculous, but I still went on pouting the rest of the day.
Most of us can relate to how Ruth Graham felt shortly after she married Billy. They had had a little spat and as he was driving off, she tearfully prayed, “O God, if you forgive me for marrying him, I’ll never do it again!”
I can laugh at myself as I look back now, but at the time I was really upset. Today I can say without hesitation that I am happily married. But every relationship will have its arguments. There’s no such thing as a marriage made in heaven, but there is such a thing as a happy marriage that works…and at times, work will be the optimum word.
The apostle Peter deals with life so realistically in his first epistle (4:7–11). He assumes that various problems occur in every human relationship; that is inevitable. It’s that way in every family, in every marriage. Even the first-century church had its share of divisions and arguments.
So when such things happen in our marriages, how are we supposed to go forward? Of course, we can’t simply sweep things under the rug and ignore bad behavior. Wrongs will need to be confessed and apologized for in order for relationships to be restored. But here is the main point that Peter wants us to remember: “Love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) He assumes, realistically, that sin and offenses will be committed. That’s a fact. Period. But we must be prepared to forgive offenses and “cover them over with love.”
There is no way to undo what has been said or done, just as there is no way back to the innocence of Eden. Too often, we coddle ourselves and cherish the wounds and scars, mulling over each miserable detail, nitpicking each word, glance, and tone of voice.
There is only one way forward: through the cross, to forgiveness and forbearance. Let’s love each other with love that is muscular and strong; the kind of love that can “cover a multitude of sins.”
C.S. Lewis once said, “This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life—to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law…the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son. How can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night ‘Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.”
Remember, the only way forward sometimes is through the cross.