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Who Pays for Your Spouse’s Sin? Your Spouse or Christ?

Who Pays for Your Spouse’s Sin - Your Spouse or Christ

Christians understand the point of the Gospel: Christ paid for our sins. The profundity of the Gospel is encapsulated in those five words. When Adam chose to walk away from God in the garden by believing a lie, God instituted a plan to redeem Adam and his fallen race.

In order to do that there had to be a payment for sin. Sin could not go unpunished. Even the world understands this. When there was a horrible slaughter in Arizona where six people were mercilessly murdered, President Obama made an impassioned speech about how those murders would not go unpunished.

And he is right. What kind of world would it be if there were no justice? As you know, the justice in our world is inconsistent at best. Thankfully, the hope for the Christian is not in the justice of this world. We serve a God who is the Judge and He demands justice for sin. Imagine a God who did not demand justice.

Here Come the Judged

God’s justice is only the beginning of the good news for us. Yes, sin demands a punishment and every sin will be punished. However, in the infinite wisdom of the Father, He decided to make a way for you and me (assuming you are a Christian) to not be punished for our sin.

God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son and whoever believes in the Son will not receive the punishment for sin that he/she justly deserves (John 3:16). However, for one who does not accept the Gospel, he/she will be punished for his/her sin (John 3:36). All sin will be punished. Either Jesus Christ will be punished for you or you will be punished eternally for your sin. It’s your choice.

Who Pays for Your Spouse’s Sin?

Let’s suppose my wife Lucia sins and I get angry with her as a response to her sin. In such a case, which sadly is how it goes in our home from time to time, I would be punishing her for her sin. I would be acting as “God” by demanding justice, while completely missing the Gospel.

Christ bore the Father’s wrath, died, and rose from the grave in order to accomplish salvation for anyone who authentically believes this story. Thankfully, Lucia was regenerated by the grace of God many years ago. Her sin, past, present, and future has been paid for because of the Gospel.

When I respond in anger to her sin, I am making her do what Christ would never do. I am punishing her.

Sacrifice or Punishment?

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:25-26, ESV).

Christ did not make me pay for my sin. He sacrificed for my sin by giving His life for me. If I truly understand the Gospel in the moment of my wife’s sin, my response would be a Gospel-motivated sacrifice rather than self-centered punishment.

Therefore, rather than choosing anger (punishment) as a response to her sin, I must choose an attitude of forgiveness (sacrifice) when she sins against me. Too often I choose anger and when I do, it distorts our relationship. Rather than serving my wife, by helping her get to Christ where she can be forgiven, I convolute the situation by sinning in response to her sin.

I become the judge and, thus, feel justified to make her pay for her sin. This is an emasculation of the Gospel. It mocks Christ’s death. I am saying in essence, “I don’t care that You died for her sin. She has sinned against me and I am going to circumvent what You did on the cross by making her pay right now. Sin demands a punishment and I feel it would be better if she received my punishment rather than allowing her to experience the cleansing power of the Gospel. Yes, You were bruised for her iniquities, but right now I feel the need to bruise her for her iniquities.”

However, when I am practically applying the Gospel in the moment of her sin, I am living out Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 5:25-26. Our relationship is not distorted by my sin, while my wife is being sanctified, cleansed, and washed by God’s Word. Rather than me forcing sanctification through fear and intimidation, she experiences the freedom, favor, and power of the Cross in her life where true cleansing happens.

My goal is for my wife to walk in holiness. However, when I punish her rather than forgiving her for her sin, I am making it harder for her to accomplish the very thing that I desire the most for her.

Do You Punish Your Spouse?

It’s time to put your Christianity to the test: When your spouse sins against you, do you punish or sacrifice? Let’s suppose you have discovered your husband’s porn addiction. Is the Gospel real in that moment? What governs your heart when he sins: a desire to punish him or a desire to help him get to Christ where he can be forgiven and changed.

When your spouse disappoints you for the umpteenth time, what is the ruling motive of your heart? Can you rest in God the Judge, or are you compelled to be your spouse’s judge?

When you sin…again…are you tempted to punish yourself through a stringent moralism, or do you appropriate the releasing forgiveness that is found in Christ’s work on the cross?

If our Gospel means anything, then it must be real in the moment of our sin, whether it is yours or mine. Otherwise, there is no redemptive purpose in His sacrifice.

Join the Conversation

Who pays for your spouse’s sin—you or Christ?

This entry was posted in Anger, Conflict, Forgiveness, Love, Men/Husbands, People in Need of Care, Women/Wives and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Brian W

    I found agreement in all but one idea that came up a few times in the post. The idea that anger in and of itself was somehow sinful. This is an idea that has permeated the thinking of our culture and even the church.

    As far as I can tell anger is an emotion that in normal, and stoically trying to ignore it only makes it worse. It’s not difficult to find examples of anger that is not sinful in the Bible, so I won’t list them.

    Here is a sentence that is confusing, I think: “When I respond in anger to her sin, I am making her do what Christ would never do. I am punishing her.”
    Anger alone is not “punishing”.For instance, if my wife’s actions endangered our children would anger be an appropriate reaction? What if she drove the kids in the car while she was drunk? Would I be angry? You bet! Would I be sinful or attempting to make her pay simply because I was angry? Certainly not. Of course there ways in which I can become guilty of sin in my anger, but I do not think that I need to totally “stuff” my anger in order to remain free from sin. Yes, I agree, we should not try to extract payment for sin from our spouses, but it is possible to be (as PDT would say) “good and angry”.

    • Jami

      I understand and agree with your point Brian; however I think the point he was trying to make is when he responds in sinful anger, not righteous anger.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks Jami, I didn’t miss his point. I simply thought that it would further perpetuate the misuse of the word anger and confuse some. 

        My point is that we have become so afraid of anger’s misuse that we have forbid it all together. When we don’t allow for proper anger, we create an unhealthy situation.In short, the article failed to distinguish between the proper, normal emotion of anger, from the sinful expression of it.

        • Anonymous

          Hey Brian, thanks for reading and thanks for carefully reading my article. I really appreciate that. I also appreciate your desire for precision. 

          That is always refreshing to me. So thank you.

          The challenge here is that the medium is a weblog, not a journal article, ebook, or book. With that in mind, as a blogger, I do not have the liberty–at least I don’t take that kind of liberty–to discuss all of the contours of anger, one of which you have brought up, which I appreciate.

          (BTW – part of the reason I don’t take the liberty is that I blog Monday-Friday, each article about 2000 words. Quite frankly I don’t have the time to write more.)

          You will be glad to know that this particular article has been read thousands of times in other places and I have received a ton of feedback, none of which that missed my point. 

          I’m not saying that people did not miss my point, but I did want to encourage you.

          I would love to read an article from you discussing your point. I think it is needed, as you have suggested.

          Anger is a big issue and I have not exhausted the topic.

          Please feel free to write and if you do, please send me your thoughts. I’d love to read them.

          Thanks again for writing and caring enough about God and the community of faith to share your point. – rick

        • Kim

          The thing is, that the only “proper” anger is righteous anger (example: Jesus in the temple)…and we rarely have that against another person. Mostly our anger is prideful, fleshly and self centered. So if your spouse starts selling overpriced sacrifices in the temple….;-)

          But, to get angry at our spouse for something they did or did not do…NOT righteous at all. Nothing but flesh and pride. Just sayin…

          • Anonymous

            Kim, thanks for the reply. I would agree that proper anger is righteous anger, but righteous isn’t limited to religious practice. Simply put, the word righteousness has something to do with being “right”, good, or perfect.

            Righteous anger arises in us when we experience the things that aren’t: right, good or perfect. Because of sin the entire creation is not what it should be, so there is a lot to be angry about.

            Here are a few of things I’ve been angry about in the past week:

            The guy driving down the highway at 100 miles and hour, because he is endangering people’s lives. I was also angry when I read the news: sex trafficking, corrupt politicians, and drug dealers. Those things make most people angry. I’m even angry this morning. I’m angry at the terminal cancer that is eating away at my 52 year old cousin because I love her.

            Righteous anger can arise against sin and heresy but it can also arise against the consequences of sin, i.e. sickness, heartbreak, and death.

  • Deanna

    Jesus grew angry several times in scripture, so it would be inaccurate to say that an anger response to sin is wrong or must be corrected.  (Jesus overturning tables and cleaning out the temple.)  It is also inaccurate to say that forgiveness or an understanding of grace would permit someone to not be deeply hurt when they are wronged against.  The example listed of a wife discovering her husband’s pornography is great to analyze.  She would be devastated, crushed, grief-stricken, and angry.  That is the right and healthy response.  Punishing behaviors might be refusing to be intimate with him, calling him names, and so on.  

    • MK

      She will only be devastated, crushed, grief stricken and angry to the degree that she believed she was owed a husband who did not sin against her. I think it is a subtle form of entitlement mentality that has crept into the church. Those responses are understandable in a fallen world, but neither right nor healthy.

      In this and all situations where a spouse sins, the most offended party in the room is not the other spouse, but a holy God. Yet I rarely ever hear the offended spouse begging God to forgive their spiritually blind spouse in the midst of the sin. (Luke 23:34, but really the whole chapter is instructive as we see how Jesus responded to those who sinned against him in all sorts of ways.)

  • Deanna

    The gospel is not a license to sin, which also applies when our loved ones sin against us.  The article is a good focus for our attitude, but without boundaries and accountability, following this advice could put you in a place of being sinned against repeatedly and indefinitely.  Advice like this is how I was trapped in an abusive marriage for many years, and now have to live with the guilt of the devastation this brought upon myself and my children.  When you love someone, you tell them the truth, that is their sin is hurting you, and deeply.  If they love you, the truth will motivate them to change.  If they are not willing to change, that will damage and ultimately end the relationship.

    • Anonymous

      Deanna, I am sorry to hear your story and how things have turned out, or are currently turning out. I can’t begin to imagine the sadness and challenges that you experience on a daily basis.

      Even though, I hope and I’m sure you are finding God’s peace in the midst of what you are going through.

      As to your point, I think it is needful to clarify. It is never right or loving to allow sin in another person’s life when we have the ability and opportunity to speak into their sin.

      I have never made the point or given the advice to allow the sin of another to continue and fester in a relationship.

      As previously stated in another comment below, the article has only ONE point, not two, three or more. That point is that it is never right to sin in response to sin. That’s all I’m saying.

      It is easy to upload our experience into things we read and stray from the point. I do this too. It is even easier when our experience is difficult, challenging, and on-going as yours is.

      I do appreciate you sharing your experience. My prayer for you is that you continue to grow in your relationship with Christ and find complete and full rest in that relationship.

      With much respect to you. – rick

      • Anonymous

        Rick, with all due respect, I think that she is not straying from the point; she is making a very helpful comment. She is helping to refine the point you made.

        You directly stated, in several places, that simply to be angry with your spouse was wrong and sinful. A few folks see an error in that and want to clarify. That kind of clarification is helpful to us all. People who frequent here are involved in counseling others or in need of good counsel themselves (that covers everyone, I guess) so it’s important that we get our thinking correct on these issues. That’s why these types of forums can be a really good thing. Honest debate and critique of ideas is good medicine; although, it doesn’t always taste very good. :)

        Thanks again for posting you article. It’s a great reminder that we should treat our spouses with them same grace that we would like to receive. Although sometimes the most loving thing to do is to give a stern rebuke.


      • Deanna

        Thanks, Rick.  I think the article implies that it is never okay to be ANGRY in response to sin, because anger is defined as sin and as punishment.  The Word says to “be angry, but sin not” a definite distinction.  So, yes, it is never okay to seek revenge or punish someone who has sinned against us, but it is definitely okay to be angry, or cry, or any of those God-given emotions.  It is not too late to fine-tune the language of the article.  We’re just trying to be as accurate as possible, with regard to scripture.  I just stumbled across these articles a week or so again.  I’ve enjoyed reading through them.  Blessings!

  • Richard

    All sin also has a natural consequence.  Of course the spouse will hold their other accountable.

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  • Prosopon

    I think the author overstates his case a bit. The husband’s anger against his wife’s real sin is not “punishment” but a legitimate response to an illegitimate act. Note the expressions of disapproval (tough the term ‘anger’ is not used specifically) in the letters to the churches (Rev 2-3): Christ has somewhat ‘against’ them (2:14, 20); He hates the doctrine some in the church have espoused (2:15); He threatens ‘great tribulation’ (to saints, not sinners – 2:22); will come upon His church as a thief (3:3). Certainly unrighteous anger is inappropriate. And a spouse ought always be ready to forgive (Eph 4:30-32). And her sins against me ought first to remind me of my sins against her. But it is positively wrong for me to be ambivalent against anyone’s sin – even my spouse’s. 

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  • Romelle

    I read this with the same thoughts that are mentioned in the comments below. What are you doing, in your anger, that you regard as a punishment? I have learned the importance of telling my husband that what he did made me feel angry. Right or wrong, I need to communicate my feelings to him. Beyond that, there is a process to go through to sort out whether or not he did something he should not have done or if I responded irrationally. Matthew 18 lays out this kind of confrontation so it is clearly not sin. I can calmly communicate my anger without sinning. It is rare but possible. If you or your spouse view your anger as punsihment, you are doing it wrong.

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  • Charles

    As several people noted, anger in itself is not a sin. It is an emotional response to a situation that the person perceives as wrong. The person may have a misperception of the situation, or there may be an actual wrong involved. Anger can be an appropriate emotional response and in itself it is neither wrong nor right.

    The real question is what one does with the feelings of anger. I read long ago (I think it was in a book called “Telling Yourself the Truth”) that there are three things we can do with our emotions: we can express them, repress them, or confess them. There is no problem with expressing many emotions – joy, sorrow, and so on. But it is in expressing anger that we are likely to sin,  through judging, insulting, yelling, hitting, and so on, for in doing so we are indeed seeking to punish the person for the perceived wrong.  We can also repress such negative emotions, refusing to express them – but then the emotion takes on a hidden life, and can erupt in a blaze over small things, or churn away and make the anger-repressed person ill or depressed.

    But when one chooses to confess an emotion, one is able to be both honest in bringing the emotion to the table for discussion and, one hopes, resolution, and also to avoid the dangers of repression.  If one says, “When you forgot to come home when you said, I got angry, because I value time with you,” then you can deal with the particular situation, allowing the other person to admit to their sin and to ask for forgiveness. Or you may learn that the other person was detained through no fault of their own, and so find that there is nothing to forgive.

    The main point of the article remains, we do not stand in God’s place, judging and punishing. We stand together as forgiven sinners – and as forgiving sinners, the only thing we can be if we understand the magnitude of God’s grace.

  • Jeffjway

    If the Husband is head over the Wife as Christ is Head over the Church, shouldn’t the Husband be paying for the sins of the Wife?
    And then the Husband surrenders all to Christ and the Family unit as a whole is forgiven?

    This way would be more in line with the Biblical idea and notion of Headship and leadership. As the lamb that takes on the sins of the community in Moses’ day, so did Christ for us. And as Husband, we are to be to our wives as Christ is for the Church, thus we bear the sins for the Family unit, which then is taken up by the Perfect Sacrifical Lamb- Jesus.

    So the answer to “Who pays for your spouse’s sin” should be: The Husband (both the Husband’s sin and the Wife’s sin) and Christ pays for the sins of the Church. It’s a hierarchical process, in my opinion.

  • Keri Seavey

    Anger, very often, serves me well.  What I mean by that statement is that it is often a path to my own heart idolatry.  If I am willing to pause and reflect on why I am angry, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, I often am confronted with what my heart most wants in the situation (comfort, self-glory, ease, etc).  My anger serves as a means to deal with my own heart first, which really “strains out” my sinful anger.  As I apply the forgiveness of the gospel to my sinful anger and recieve the grace of Christ, my own heart changes.  I am melted by mercy and more willing to look compassionately towards the one who has sinned against me.  Usually, what is left, is anger towards sin and its effects; not anger at the “offender.”  Then, I am in a better position to lovingly speak the truth in love in standing against sin, for the benefit and good of the other person.  So, anger really can be a means of growth and change in both the offender and the confronter. 

  • mmb

    Jesus paid for the sins of those that accept Chris.  Those that do not accept Christ pay for their own in the end of time b/c they did not accept Christ’s sacrifice.  There are consequences of sin that the sinner and those that are sinned against pay for to some degree.  My husbands sin of porn addiction and abusiveness has affected me greatly.  I did not pay for his sin in the context that I could satisfy the sin debt, but I do pay for the consequences of his sin.  Different sins carry differenct earthy consequences…no sin is worse than another, but some carry worse consequences here on earth.  We are called to forgive and not judge…yes!  Yet if there wasn’t damage to others from sin it would not be sin!  A husband is told in scripture to not be harsh with his wife.  Why?  Because there is an effect to a wife’s heart when a husband is harsh.  We are not to lie because it destroys trust, forgiven or not.   We were never told to not get angry….but not to sin in our anger.  Being angry when someone hurts us is not a sin….but sinning in return is.  We are not emotionless people.    Anger is NOT punishment, is what is done with the anger that can be punishment.  God got angry quite a bit in the OT….the difference is he is holy and is equally full of love and compassion in his anger and acts justly.   We do pay for the consequnces of our own sin to some degree in earthly form….and sometimes sadly we pay the consequences of others sins against us that we must overcome. 

  • Fernando

    Thanks Rick for the article. I understand the point of the it vividly because it happens in my own marriage. When my wife sins I tend choose the “silent treatment” flavor of anger (instead of the “yelling” or “insulting”, etc flavors). And that silent treatment is my way to punish her, I know that , she knows that . I could choose to overlook the offense or talk to her gently about the issue and forgive, but instead of sacrifice, punishment. 

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  • Sunny

    I seem to punish my husband. Many years ago he comvinced me to wait to start a famly. Now I struggle to conceive a child. Many days I forget what I really miss because of him but they are days I let me known following him has left childless. On top of all that he’s thief. He steals from his job etc. Money seems to his first love. I’m without sin but my sin is not planned and willful. Is it my duty to stay with my husband or leave to find a better life.

  • Sunny

    I am not without sin…..correct from previous post.

  • Chris

    I think it is important to note, that before the anger even sets in, there is the fact that the person was hurt as a result of the sin. Anger is the response to the hurt. If we do not acknowledge the pain that was caused by the spouses sin, we leave our self open to a much larger problem;bitterness and from there hatred. The bible says be angry, but do not sin. Anger in itself is not bad or wrong, it is the actions that follow it. When we are hurt by someone who has sinned against us it is important to back up from the situation to consult with God in prayer. Forgiveness is a vertical and horizontal process. The vertical is between you and God, where the horizontal is between you and the person. We are to forgive those who have sinned against us, this dealing with the vertical between ourselves and God. God allows us to heal from other peoples sins against us, we just have to be willing to tell him we forgive them and ask him to heal us from the pain. This he will do, this keeps our hearts from being hardened by the pain, fear, and separation associated with sin. I think the point that Rick was making was that we can not control what other people do, but how we react to them is the important thing.

  • struggling daughter

    My parents were recently brought before the church for church discipline. My Dad was a deacon, and he was definitely im the wrong. However, my mom had never been confronted and had no idea anyone was upset with her, but the church disciplined her as well for my dad’s actions. I understand God’s view on marriage, but I feel my mom was completely wronged since she had no idea. Any thoughts?

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