“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:1-2
If you’ve ever been at a wedding ceremony that contained scripture, I bet it was 1 Corinthians 13 or Ephesians 5. In my experience working with couples, the ones that are thriving are applying what Paul is talking about in the sixth chapter of Galatians weekly. The truth of marriage is that, when two sinful people get married, the sin does not disappear. If anything, we grow in awareness of our sin as we hurt the person we care about the most.
Verse one begins by mentioning if someone is “caught in a sin.” Couples that thrive are not without sin; each of us is vulnerable. Problems happen in relationships when we begin to hide that sin from our spouse. Husbands and wives hide their sin to avoid conflict and save face. We shy away from difficult conversations and the threat of upsetting or hurting our spouse. Many of us are weighed down by sin’s two best friends, guilt and shame. It’s no surprise that as soon as Adam and Eve had sinned, they began to hide (Genesis 3).
When husbands and wives cannot be fully honest and vulnerable with one another about their shortcomings, habits, hurts, and (ultimately) sins, they sacrifice opportunities for connection and intimacy. Many husbands and wives struggle to open up about their weaknesses because of fear and insecurity. Many people find themselves wondering, “What if I’m so messed up that if I’m honest, he/she will leave me?” I’ve had the opportunity to see couples become closer than they thought possible on the other side of affairs, addiction, and lies. These weren’t couples devoid of sin; rather, they found a way to be honest about their sin with their spouse and began talking openly about their vulnerabilities.
This passage of scripture also speaks to the person on the other end of sin. Paul instructs that individual to “restore that person gently.” When your spouse can open up to you and hear you respond gently, with understanding and grace, a powerful experience of connection and attachment take place. Taking time to empathize instead of judge or criticize is one of the best gifts that you can give. Additionally, responding in grace is the greatest way to ensure your spouse trusts you to be open and vulnerable in the future.
Thriving marriages are those that understand the dance of being honest about sin and responding gently with grace. This pattern of interaction is so powerful and rooted in the gospel that Paul says carrying each other’s burdens in this way is to fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
Holding on to secrets in our relationships is usually an attempt to keep things happy and peaceful. The irony is, until you can be fully transparent in your relationship, you’ll never fully be happy or at peace. Sometimes making that change in your relationship can be difficult. If you need help getting started, working with a counselor at Covenant Counseling Center can help change the way you and your spouse communicate.
Eric Feltman, M.A.
Couples & Family Therapy
Covenant Counseling Center