Does Grace and Forgiveness Erase Negative Consequences or Amends Making after Serious Sin?

Genuine repentance acknowledges that serious and repetitive sin does have negative consequences on relationships

When a wounded spouse eventually starts implementing boundaries and consequences she has often been accused of being unforgiving and lacking grace. But it is just as possible that boundaries and consequences are evidence of godly love.


Today’s question was written by a man who challenged my theology and I think it goes along with a lot of the wrong thinking out there on how a destructive marriage is healed or reconciled.

He told me I was stuck in Old Testament legalistic thinking. He said that if his wife practiced New Testament grace and forgiveness they would still be together. Instead they were separated.

I asked him several clarifying questions and it seems that after an abusive incident (not the first one) he expected that as a Christian, his wife would forgive him, offer him a clean slate, as sort of a do-over mentality where they would start fresh and not bring up what happened yesterday or the day before.

But rather than the clean slate he longed for, this time his wife told him she was separating from him. She told him that unless he got professional help and showed her over time that he could be safe and manage his negative emotions in a mature way, she would not be coming back. She could forgive him, but she could not live with him. He believed that her offer of forgiveness was insincere unless she was willing to fully reconcile.

Their church agreed that his behavior was sinful, but in the end sided more with his thinking than hers. He was welcomed back into fellowship with open arms because he said he was repentant. His wife was disciplined and shunned because she wouldn’t comply with their church’s counsel to move back home. After all, he said he was sorry and was willing to meet with the pastor for counseling. She was labeled hard-hearted and rebellious because she refused to subject herself to the possibility of further abuse.

It deeply concerns me how quickly in Christian circles the focus of the problem gets twisted. The victim is now labeled the unrepentant, hard-hearted one because she refused to quickly reconcile. The one who sinned against her is now seen as the victim of his hard-hearted, unforgiving spouse.

Therefore, it’s imperative that as Christian’s we wrestle with the question:

Do claims of repentance immediately cancel out any negative consequences a person repenting experiences for their own sinful choices?

Does grace and forgiveness mean that there is never any extended relational fallout or broken trust in one’s relationships?

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