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What to do About Repeated Sin in a Family Member?

Posted by Matt Postiff September 7, 2017 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Sanctification  Family 

Today's question: why does my Christian spouse keep doing the same sins even after repenting of them? He continues to become angry, or avoid speaking with me, or make fun of me, or be mean to me, or use bad language, or not notice when I need help, or nag at me, or ...

Here are some thoughts for you. First, you need to correct a latent assumption in the question, namely the assumption that a spouse can be perfected in a certain area and not sin again in that way. That is an assumption that is not warranted by Scripture. Certainly your Christian spouse should be improving in those areas where he or she is weak. But if your assumption were correct, and your spouse repented of sin #1, and then sin #2, soon he or she would be just about perfected. Your dear spouse is still a sinner, and will always be a sinner until he or she dies.

Second, make sure that you are not being hyper-sensitive. Maybe you are incorrect in your analysis that your spouse is sinning against you. Maybe you have a feeling that he is mean, or she ignores you, or he is always angry, when in fact those things are not the case. Try to look at the situation from a couple of other perspectives to see if you may be over-reacting. Perhaps what you are after your spouse about is not a sin or even a big deal, but just a shortcoming that is part of this sin-cursed world.

Third, realize that your spouse's struggle against sin is just as real as your own struggle against sin. He or she will continue to struggle with some sins just like you do. We believe Romans 7 is a reflection of the apostle Paul's own struggle with sin as a believer in Christ. He knew the right thing to do, but didn't do it right all the time. He had a battle against his own flesh (not to mention the world and the devil). What believer is there who has not engaged the battle with sin? There is no such thing as a Christian believer who is not engaged in that battle! If your spouse is beset with some sin, you have to be patient with him or her, just like God is patient with you. You must forgive 70 times 7, just like God does for you. You must love your spouse, even if he or she does sometimes act like your enemy (you love your enemies too, don't you?)

Fourth, as much as you can, try not to make situations where your spouse can more easily fall into sin. For example, don't press an issue (or even bring it up) when your spouse is hungry or tired. If your nagging makes him angry, and then you get upset by his anger, how about trying to slow down the nagging? If your perfectionist tendencies or preaching frustrate her, how about cutting back on the perfect expectations or the sermonic material? If poking a little fun or bringing up past mistakes upsets your spouse, how about zipping your lip about those things? It is not your God-given job to test your spouse beyond what he or she is able, in order to see how they fare in your testing of their sanctification! Your behavior can help your spouse be more sanctified or increase his or her struggle in sanctification.

Fifth, don't just focus on the negative! Exercise Christian love toward your spouse by highlighting the positive things in your spouse. Encouragement, support, positive feedback, appreciation, thankfulness, etc. are all demonstrations of love that will help your spouse and will set a positive tone in the home. This positive tone is self-reinforcing and will spiral up into a better atmosphere in the home. Focusing on the negative is also self-reinforcing and will spiral down into a worse atmosphere in the home, causing more problems.

Putting these five points into practice is what love looks like in a home where two or more sinners reside. May God bless your marriage in these things!

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