1. Ask forgiveness. If there has been a recent conflict with your mate in which your attitudes, words, or actions were offensive, you need to begin the reconciliation process by first going to your spouse and confessing your faults in the matter, and then asking his or her forgiveness. Jesus taught that reconciling with others must take priority even over worshipping God. “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly” (Matt. 5:23-25).
Why is seeking forgiveness and reconciliation for past conflicts so important to obtaining a compromise over a present issue? It’s because you and your spouse must be willing to work together in finding a compromise and this is impossible when there are unresolved issues between you. When you sin against your mate, harmony is broken until you confess it. Asking forgiveness immediately removes the hardness in both hearts and provides an atmosphere for finding compromise. If you want to find agreement and compromise today, begin by making a humble confession, acknowledging your faults of the past. Unconfessed sin will not miraculously go away by itself; it must be admitted. Until this occurs it will always be an underlying issue that will profoundly hinder your relationship.
This truth is illustrated powerfully in the relationship between Joseph and his brothers. They sinned terribly against Joseph by selling him into slavery because they were jealous of his favored relationship with Jacob their father. Yet, God’s sovereign hand elevated Joseph from a slave to second in command over Egypt. Ultimately, God brought them all together again and Joseph forgave the evil done to him. Nowhere does it say that Joseph’s brothers asked his forgiveness. Years later, after Jacob died, his brothers, fearing that Joseph would now take revenge, finally sent a message, “I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they indeed did evil to you” (Gen. 50:17). We don’t know why it took them so long to ask Joseph’s forgiveness. But what is clear, is that the issue was obviously still bothering them and nagging at their conscience. Their fear was the evidence that failure to confess sin and ask forgiveness will leave the issue unresolved, a hindrance to real relationship.
Do you have any offenses that you have left unconfessed? If so, won’t you ask forgiveness today? This is undoubtedly a central reason for having little harmony in your marriage. Don’t allow pride and unwillingness to keep you estranged from your spouse for one more day. Don’t sugar-coat it with vague generalities of error. Acknowledge specifically what you have done wrong as sin before God and as offensive to your spouse. This will always be the first step in seeking agreement and the compromise you desire.
Now, go back to God in prayer and ask His forgiveness for whatever you have done in word or deed that was displeasing to Him. He is faithful and just to cleanse you from it all.
2. Choose to lovingly give. Choosing to lovingly give is also a key ingredient to finding compromise and the agreement you long for in your marriage. In fact, compromise cannot be found unless at least one partner is willing to take the first step and give in a sacrificial way. When individuals lovingly give they are making the concessions that are necessary for compromise to occur. Giving in this manner will always eliminate strife and restore harmony to the relationship.
Abraham and Lot illustrate this principle well. When strife occurred between these two family members over the issue of grazing land for their large herds, notice the choice Abraham made. He said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me…Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left” (Gen. 13:8,9). This is what compromise is all about. It is seeking a way to give in order to eliminate strife. Compromise may even entail giving your partner the opportunity to make the choice and being willing to abide by his or her decision. Love will always seek a way to give to others in this manner. “For God so loved…that He gave His only begotten Son,” in order that He might remove the strife and reconcile us to Himself” (John 3:16). Love always takes sacrificial action to reconcile conflict.
How about you? Are you willing to give in this manner to your spouse? Will you by love seek a plan to compromise with your mate to remove the point of strife between you? Take the biggest issue that is dividing you right now, and ask God to show you a creative way where you can give. This may entail restraining yourself from a particular action or taking one to demonstrate your love and desire to reconcile this issue. Don’t wait for your spouse to take the first step; you take it.
Read Pastor Steve Carr’s beginning to this series in Growing in Harmony With Your Spouse – Part I