“Who is the biggest sinner in the room?” The question lingered in the air briefly before quiet “I am” rose from all around the room.
I sat confused; clearly, we had missed something.
As our small group leader continued, he gave a quick recap from the previous week’s lesson. We are all sinners and our sin alone was enough to put Jesus on the cross. Therefore, we deceive ourselves if we don’t believe we are the biggest sinner in the room.
My brain immediately took issue with this statement. “But I am not the biggest sinner! I don’t know about the rest of these people but my husband’s sins are way worse than mine!”
But as the conversation continued, I saw truth in the points being made. I acknowledged that believing my husband’s sins were worse than mine caused a barrier between us, and planted seeds of bitterness in my heart.
So even though I didn’t believe I was the “worse sinner,” I prayed a simple prayer: “God, give me compassion for my husband’s sin. Help me see him, as you see him.”
God honors prayers like this—prayers to become more like Him and love our spouse better. And overtime, He taught me how to have compassion for my husband’s sin.
How to Have Compassion for Your Spouse’s Sin
1. Recognize your own sin and the damage it causes.
Accepting the “worst sinner in the room” title went completely against my inner good girl. “I’ve never done anything ‘that bad’” she screamed in my head. And while I wasn’t naïve enough to think I didn’t sin, the good girl inside of me downplayed my sins.
So when I asked God to help me have compassion for my husband’s sin, He started bringing to light my own problem causing sins. It didn’t take long for me to understand my marriage problems were not all my husband’s fault; I played a role in them too.
Once we fully understand how broken and sinful we are, it is a lot harder to be condemning towards our sinful spouse.
2. Pray away your anger and frustration.
One reason my husband’s sin frustrates me is because I don’t understand why he struggles with certain things. Left unchecked, my brain processes his sin like this, “why does he keep doing that!? It is not that hard to just____.”
But the reality is, he probably thinks the same thing about my sin. We each have different struggles, unique to who we are.
So when I feel anger and frustration start bubbling up over my spouse’s sin I pray: “God, I truly don’t understand why my husband struggles with this thing, but I know the struggle is very real and very difficult for him. Please take away my anger and frustration and give me compassion instead.”
When you say this prayer, you are choosing to empathize with your spouse’s struggle even if you do not understand it.
3. Envision your husband is in a battle.
As I became more aware of my sin, I noticed just how often I fell into the same bad patterns without even thinking about it. I didn’t want to hold a grudge, but I refused to forgive. I didn’t want to be hurtful, but harsh words fell from my lips.
Paul’s words to the Romans ring true for me: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15 ESV)
The same is true of your spouse.
We are all in a battle: our sinful nature vs. our desire to be godly. (If your spouse is not a Christian then he may not desire godliness; but just because he doesn’t recognize the battle, doesn’t mean it isn’t taking place.)
Remembering the spiritual battle taking place shifts our perspective. It reminds us that our loved one is under attack from the enemy. What he needs most is our help, not our condemnation.
4. Show your husband grace and mercy.
To be honest, I’ve always struggled with showing grace and mercy; especially with repeat offenses (Shouldn’t he have learned his lesson the first time?). But Christian author and speaker Rick Thomas convicted me with this statement:
Rick’s statement revealed to me a deeper way I needed to be like Jesus. Jesus does not condemn our sins. As Paul says:
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1 (NKJV)
When my husband repents and asks for forgiveness, Jesus immediately covers him with his grace and mercy. Since we are sinners covered by the same grace, shouldn’t we do the same? After all, how can we make our spouse pay for a sin which Christ already paid for?
If you can wrap your mind around this profound truth, grace and mercy will flow more freely.
*Disclaimer: This section applies to a husband who has repented of his sin and is walking with God. If you are in an abusive relationship or your physical or mental well-being are endangered by your spouse, please get help and seek a safety. You can still be compassionate for your husband trapped in sin while keeping yourself safe.
5. Pray for your husband.
Prayer is one of the most compassionate things we can do for another because only God has the ability to change hearts and meet needs in a profound way.
When I am moved with compassion for my husband’s sin, I find myself in prayer, interceding on his behalf. These are not “God change him because I want him to change” prayers. No, I remind God that my husband is his child and He needs to send him help. I quote scripture about God saving and redeeming the lost, and ask Him to guide my husband’s steps back in line with the Spirit.
Having compassion for your spouse’s sin does not mean you ignore the sin. The Bible makes it clear we are to gently call out other believer’s sin.
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” Galatians 6:1 (ESV)
But we can be hard on the sin while still loving the sinner. (Need help with this? Check out [affiliate link] Boundaries in Marriage). We can be compassionate when our natural reaction is to condemn.