I was their last resort. Kurt and Mary (not their real names) called me in the middle of an argument.
"Dr. Anderson, you have to come and help us," Mary said angrily. After talking with her briefly, I was afraid if I didn't show up, their argument would result in domestic violence!
I'm making a house call police officers don't even like to make! I thought as I got into my car.
I played referee for a couple hours until they'd worn themselves out. This Christian couple had made enemies of each other. And forgiveness was the furthest thing from what they wanted to discuss.
"I've listened to your arguments and frustrations," I started. "Here's the overriding reality. Before God we're responsible for our own character and the needs of the other person. You two have been ripping each other's character while looking out for your own needs. You're struggling in your marriage because you're struggling in your spiritual life."
They were stunned. They hadn't connected their marital troubles with how they were doing in their individual relationships with God. But the Bible is clear: "If someone says, 'I love God,' but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don't love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen?" (1 John 4:20, NLT).
What makes a Christian marriage work is to forgive from our hearts, just as Jesus forgave us. He did so by taking our sins upon himself. For us, forgiving others means we're willing to live with the consequences of our spouse's sins.1