Christians understand the point of the Gospel: Christ paid for our sins. The profundity of the Gospel capsulated in five words. When Adam chose to walk away from God in the garden by believing a lie, God instituted a plan to redeem Adam and his fallen race.
In order to do that there had to be a payment for sin. Sin could not go unpunished. Even the pagan world understands this. Last week there was a horrible slaughter in Arizona where six people were mercilessly murdered. President Obama made an impassioned speech and talked about how these murders would not go unpunished.
And he is right. What kind of world would it be if there were no justice? As you know, the justice in our world is inconsistent at best. Thankfully, the hope for the Christian is not in the justice of this world. We serve a God who is The Judge and He demands justice for sin. Imagine a God who did not demand justice.
God’s justice is only the beginning of the good news for us. Yes, sin demands a punishment and every sin will be punished. However, in the infinite wisdom of the Father, He decided to make a way for you and me (assuming you are a Christian) to not be punished for our sin.
Here comes the Judged
God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son and whoever believes in the Son will not receive the punishment for sin that he/she justly deserves. (John 3:16) However, for those who do not accept the Gospel, he/she will be punished for his/her sin. (John 3:36) All sin will be punished. Either Jesus Christ will be punished for you or you will be punished eternally for your sin. It’s your choice.
Who pays for your spouse’s sin?
Let’s suppose my wife, Lucia, sins and I get angry with her as a response to her sin. In such a case, which sadly is how it goes in our home from time to time, I would be punishing her for her sin. I would be acting as “God” by demanding justice, while completely missing the Gospel. Christ bore the Father’s wrath, died, and rose from the grave in order to accomplish salvation for anyone who authentically believes this story. Thankfully, Lucia was regenerated by the grace of God many years ago. Her sin, past, present, and future has been paid for because of the Gospel.
When I respond in anger to her sin, I am making her do what Christ would never do. I am punishing her.
Sacrifice or Punishment?
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 (ESV)
Christ did not make me pay for my sin. He sacrificed for my sin by giving His life for me. If I truly understand the Gospel in the moment of my wife’s sin, my response would be a Gospel-motivated sacrifice rather than self-centered punishment.
Therefore, rather than choosing anger (punishment) as a response to her sin, I must choose an attitude of forgiveness (sacrifice) when she sins against me. Too often I choose anger and when I do, it distorts our relationship. Rather than serving my wife, by helping her get to Christ where she can be forgiven, I convolute the situation by sinning in response to her sin.
I become the judge and, thus, feel justified to make her pay for her sin. This is an emasculation of the Gospel. It mocks Christ’s death. I am saying in essence,
I don’t care that You died for her sin. She has sinned against me and I am going to circumvent what You did on the cross by making her pay right now. Sin demands a punishment and I feel it would be better if she received my punishment rather than allowing her to experience the cleansing power of the Gospel. Yes, You were bruised for her iniquities, but right now I feel the need to bruise her for her iniquities. (Isaiah 53:6)
However, when I am practically applying the Gospel in the moment of her sin I am living out Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 5:25-26. Our relationship is not distorted by my sin, while my wife is being sanctified, cleansed, and washed by God’s Word. Rather than me forcing sanctification through fear and intimidation, she experiences the freedom, favor, and power of the Cross in her life where true cleansing happens.
My goal is for my wife to walk in holiness. However, when I punish her rather than forgiving her for her sin, I am making it harder for her to accomplish the very thing that I desire the most for her.
Do you punish your spouse?
It’s time to put your Christianity to the test: When your spouse sins against you, do you punish or sacrifice? Let’s suppose you have discovered your husband’s porn addiction. Is the Gospel real in that moment? What governs your heart when he sins: a desire to punish him or a desire to help him get to Christ where he can be forgiven and changed.
When 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 compelled to be your spouse’s judge?
When you sin…again…are you tempted to punish yourself through a stringent moralism, or do you appropriate the releasing forgiveness that is found in Christ’s work on the cross?
Dear Church, if our Gospel means anything, then it must be real in the moment of our sin, whether it is yours or mine. Otherwise, there is no redemptive purpose in His sacrifice.