Love and forgiveness are hard to master. In the turmoil and strife that often accompany marriage it can be extremely difficult to know when to confront, forgive, or let love cover. Learning to let love cover will help bring peace and joy to your home. Here are three ways to let love rule in your marriage:

Love Covers | Small Offenses

Love is patient and kind… 1 Corinthians 13:4a

Forgiveness/repentance is only required for sin. Not for disappointment, irritation, preference, etc. It can be really hard to evaluate when something crosses into sin versus it just not being ideal. When your spouse forgets to put the cap back on the toothpaste, leaves the laundry out, forgets to do the dishes, or clogs the drain with their hair - let love cover it. These aren’t sins on their own and your love for Jesus and your spouse should be strong enough to not let it become a stumbling block for you.

When we get married we aren't signing a contract to have all our expectations and desires met by our spouse. We need to let those preferences go. Love is not self seeking, it does not look after itself, but after the affairs of others. Let your love shine, by not making a big deal of your preferences. Our preferences in marriage are not the goal, honoring God is.

Learn to die to your self-centeredness and glorify God by moving past petty and arbitrary preferences.

Love Covers | the Hurting

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 1 Thessalonians 5:14

Paul tells us to lovingly admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, and help the weak. When we consider this in the realm of our sinful spouses, we need to recognize that sometimes they are being idle in their walk with God and full of sin. The loving response to that is to call them out on it, praying that God would work in their heart to restore them to Himself.

When it comes to the fainthearted and the weak we are to encourage and help them. It may be that our spouse has sinned against us because they’re overcome by the things of this world and are unable to function rightly, and so we need to remind them of the promises of God in Scripture and uplift them, restoring their joy. So many of our sins in this life are reactionary to the struggles we face. For this reason, we need to treat the problem, not the symptom. Look for what is beneath the surface and help your spouse put off the concerns of this world and put on the godly ones. Help them think about why they are being lazy, rude, etc and deal with the heart of the matter.

When our faith is weak, the best help we’ll ever receive is a friend/spouse coming to meet us where we are and walk with us back to Jesus. Instead of receiving a confrontation, we receive grace and the strength of a co-heir to lean on.

The decision of when to let love cover sin and when to confront is a challenge. The same sin may one day need to be passed over in love, but the next confronted with loving concern. Both responses must be full of love.

Love Covers | Small Sins

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

Love covers a multitude of sins. The more self-centered we are the more sins affect us. Conversely, the more our identity in Christ grows deep, the more we’re able to extend the benefit of doubt and display a deepening, patient love toward our spouse by letting things go.

When examining any individual situation, consider these questions on how you should respond:

  • Who is being harmed by the sin and to what extent?
  • Whose fellowship is broken by the sin and to what extent (spouse, children, family, friends)?
  • Is the sin a pattern or an isolated event?
  • Has the sin been discussed previously, and if so, are they honoring any commitments made?

All sin harms someone else (not just the one committing it) and prevents fellowship by its very nature. Sins we think of as “harmless” are usually more deceptive in how they work. Porn, for example, is almost always done in private, so we’re tempted to think no one is hurt. However, porn hurts in many ways: it alters our attitude toward others, causes us to treat others differently, and our ability to satisfy our spouse is hampered by our selfishness. Every sin we do in private will hurt those around us, whether we recognize it or not.

The goal in asking these questions is to make us think about the severity of harm and broken fellowship. The damage done by the sin will effect everyone involved differently. Mature believers can put up with more in this area then younger believers and children. Is the damage so severe that something has to be done?

When the sin is actively harming or endangering someone (obvious examples: reckless gambling, pornography, anger, abuse, et cetera) then it must be confronted. Sin separates us from God and it is not loving to let our spouses distance themselves from God and their Christian family by engaging in sinful behavior (Proverbs 27:6). Patterns of sin and broken promises are also more serious sins and will need to be confronted. We are commanded to confront our fellow believer’s sins where we see them (Luke 17:3), and to make sure we don’t fall into the same sins as we do so (Galatians 6:1).

The modern church has inappropriately hammered down on gossiping, which has conditioned people, especially wives, to misunderstand the critical difference between gossip and seeking help (For more on this topic read: Is It Gossip?). If honoring God is the primary goal we should never fear speaking out about sin. It may strain the relationship for a time, but would hopefully result in a better one moving forward as sin is dealt with. And if it isn't, and the other person is bitter and resentful, we can lean into our security in Christ, knowing we were obedient to the best of our ability and He knows about the fallout.

If you have been prayerfully seeking God about your role (when love should and shouldn't cover) and communicating with the other person where you're at, and you still can't let something go, it's critical to seek counsel from a trusted, godly friend. That friend can help you discern if you are the one in sin, or help establish that your concerns are valid. That's a good thing, and a huge part of why God calls us to be in fellowship.

Let love cover their sin when their offense is small and they are broken or hurting. Pray for your spouse throughout the process so that you both will be empowered by the Holy Spirit throughout this difficult journey. For more on what to pray for your spouse check out: 5 Steps to Pray for your Spouse.