In an ideal world, Christians would only marry Christians; couples would remain faithful to one another for an entire lifetime; and divorce would be out of the question. However, since we don't live in the Garden of Eden, we are incapable of always meeting God's standard. Bad grace treats the biblical mandates for marriage more as suggestions, rather than commands. Good grace recognizes that while every violation of our Father's commands is forgivable, those violations result in negative consequences we must deal with (Deuteronomy 11:26-28).
Nowhere is the link between our obedience and God’s blessing (and the corollary, our disobedience and God’s curse) felt more acutely than in the marriage relationship. “Bad gracers” promote several lies regarding the formation, fidelity, and finality of marriage that are responsible for the distance, dissatisfaction, and divorce that plague so many marriages today.
Lie 1: Grace means I can marry whomever I want.
Westerners pride themselves on individualism that encourages us to make our own choices in life, including the choice of whom to marry. But could that freedom be more of a curse than a blessing? If our choice of a mate is based on our mutual physical and emotional attraction to one another, what happens when that attraction diminishes due to the passing of time?
I think it would be helpful to remember that we are not free to marry whomever we choose. Our heavenly Father has narrowed the field of available mates by insisting on two guidelines we must follow if we want to experience His blessings in our marriage.
- Good grace recognizes that marriage must be with a member of the opposite sex. (Matthew 19:4-5)
Until recently such a natural boundary would not have needed to be mentioned. But God’s original design for marriage involved two people coming together who complemented rather than duplicated, one another (Matthew 19:4-5).
Originally, God promised to provide Adam with a helper who was “suitable for Him” (Genesis 2:18). The Hebrew word translated “suitable” means “opposite.” God designed marriage to be the union of two individuals who are diverse in their emotional, as well as their sexual make-up.
- Good grace recognizes that our mate must be a believer (Deuteronomy 7:3-4; 2 Corinthians 6:14).
The primary reason God gives for not marrying an unbeliever is the spiritual devastation such an unequal union produces in the life of the believer. While in some rare cases the believing mate may positively influence the unbelieving spouse, the reverse effect is far more common: the unbeliever hinders the believer's relationship with God.
Lie 2: Grace means I can cheat without consequences.
Bad grace, when applied to sexual immorality, will always downplay the effects of sin. "Bad gracers" give the impression, whether intentional or not, that when God forgives a Christian of adultery, He is somehow obligated to rebuild fractured marriages, heal sexually transmitted diseases, and restore severely damaged reputations. When that doesn't happen, people become disillusioned with their faith and wonder, "What use is God’s grace if I still must suffer the consequences of my actions?"
By contrast, good grace…
- Good grace conditions God’s forgiveness upon our repentance (Psalm 51:17).
Good grace never shies away from affirming God's willingness and ability to forgive any sin including adultery. However, good grace also recognizes a simple, but often overlooked truth: God's forgiveness is only available to those who ask for it. And those who ask for it must do so with a repentant heart. The essence of the word repentance is a turning away from sin. Without that kind of heart-felt contrition, there can be no forgiveness.
- Good grace emphasizes the consequences of disobedience (Proverbs 6:32-33).
While bad grace minimizes the consequences of sin, good grace underscores them…just as the Bible does. King Solomon was one of the by-products of David’s adulterous relationship with Bathsheba after their first child died. Solomon witnessed first-hand the lingering effects of immoral relationship in his father's life (Proverbs 6:32-33).
Although in God's eyes, David's sin was "blotted out" (Psalm 51:1), others in David's life had better memories than God! David's disgrace followed him all the rest of the days of his life. As King Solomon said, “ The way of the transgressor is hard.”
- Good grace affirms the benefits of forgiveness (Psalm 103:12-14).
Even the relatively short-term discomfort we experience for our disobedience is in itself evidence God's love. The pain of a fractured marriage that may take years to heal, the loss of a job, and the humiliation among friends and family members all have a way of reminding us of the seriousness of sin and can serve as deterrents to future disobedience (Psalm 119:67).
Bad grace infers that we can violate our marriage vows without lasting consequences. Good grace recognizes that although all sins are forgivable, the effects of adultery continue long after God has pronounced us forgiven.