Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Forgiving an Abuser

Last time we compared Peter’s denial of Jesus with Judas’ betrayal. Notice the difference in the words denial and betrayal. Peter’s was a spare of the moment weakness ignited from fear of death. Judas’ was the result of a long standing plot to betray Jesus (Mathew 26:14-16).

There are men and women who have betrayed their spouse’s trust by having an affair, beating their mates and/or their children, or sexually abusing their children. If the individual repents, what does forgiveness look like in each case? Does forgiveness always mean you are fully reconciled to the violator? Jesus reconciled Peter to himself but not Judas. Is there a legitimate connection between these men and these biblical examples?

If a person who has cheated on his or her spouse shows signs of true repentance by changing their ways, (Mathew 3:7-8) the victim has the choice to welcome the individual back into their bosom or to separate (Mathew 5:32; 1 Corinthians 7:15-16, 27-28). If the spouse has betrayed the marriage more than once, it is likely the repentance is suspect.

Even with true repentance, God at times requires us to suffer consequences directly related to our sin (2 Samuel 12:1-12). When we are lax in requiring fruit for repentance we are paving the way for further betrayal.