“So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift” Matthew 5:23-24 (NRSV).
This past weekend, I attended the wedding of two dear friends. The bride, music and ceremony were absolutely beautiful. I had a wonderful time because I was excited to witness the uniting of my two dear friends, and I was excited to reunite with so many of my college friends. Most of us haven’t seen each other in a long time because of jobs and babies.
Although the décor, lighting, music (performed by Nolan Williams, his choir and a string quartet) and food were exceptional, they weren’t what really stood out for me. What really set this wedding apart for me were the vows.
I’ve witnessed many weddings and even officiated a few, but I’ve never heard vows like the ones I heard during this wedding. The minister, who also happens to be the bride’s father, led the couple in asking each other for forgiveness before they joined together as husband and wife. They asked each other to forgive any and all offenses leading up to that day. As I reflected on their vows, I thought what better way to enter marriage than with forgiveness.
Anyone who is or has been married knows that marriage is filled with moments of forgiveness. Robert Quillen said, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” I believe starting their new life together by asking for forgiveness sets a wonderful tone for the marriage. Why? Because I believe asking for forgiveness puts you in the proper posture for marriage, which is humility. When you ask for forgiveness, you acknowledge that you don’t know everything and that you don’t always do everything right. When you ask for forgiveness, you set your pride aside and admit that there are some things you’ve done wrong. This posture of humility and forgiveness is so important in marriage because two people are embarking on a lifelong spiritual journey of learning how to become one. Learning how to become one isn’t intuitive, and it isn’t always easy. However, when you’re in the proper posture of humility and forgiveness, you’ve already won half the battle. Imagine how fruitful all of our relationships would be if we just humbled ourselves and asked for forgiveness.
A powerful moment when a mother asks her son for forgiveness
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” Matthew 6:14-15 (NRSV).
Forgiveness is a major part of a believer’s life. We are reconciled to God because He forgave us through Jesus’ atoning work on the cross (Romans 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:19). As a result of God’s graciousness, we are to forgive others because God’s forgiven us. If marriage is supposed to be a representation of Christ’s love for the church, I think beginning with forgiveness is an awesome start and sets a wonderful standard.