When Is Confrontation Grace

Last Sunday’s sermon was originally misnamed “Marriage: Confronting, Forgiving, Forbearing.” In the end, I struck the word confronting—not because it shouldn’t happen, but because I had no time. So this is what I would have said if I there had been time. This will anticipate what is coming, Lord willing, this Sunday (2-25-07).

Focusing on forgiving and forbearing might give the impression that none of our sinful traits or annoying idiosyncrasies ever changes. So all we can do is forgive and forbear. What I plan to show from the Bible this coming weekend is that God gives grace not only to forgive and to forbear, but also to change so that less forgiving and forbearing are needed. That too is a gift of grace. Grace is not just power to return good for evil, but also power to do less evil. Even power to be less bothersome.

But I have approached this in a very intentionally roundabout way. The emphasis on forgiveness and forbearance has come first, because I believe it is the essential rock-solid foundation on which the call for change can be heard with hope and security rather than fear and a sense of being threatened. Only when a wife or husband feels that the other is totally committed to them—even if he or she doesn’t change—can the call for change feel like grace rather than an ultimatum.

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John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.