"Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ." Eph 4:32Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor who was killed for opposing the Nazis, in his now classic work, The Cost of Discipleship, wrote, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance. Absolution without confession.” While Bonhoeffer wanted to forgive the Nazis, he was not capable of it by himself. The Nazis had to repent, to be kind, to be compassionate and forgiving, and until that happened neither Bonhoeffer not God could do anything for them.
The same is true of us and it is a difficult part of gospel living that we need to face and engage. While God's love is unconditional and total, we must turn towards God to receive it. If we keep walking away from God and never turn to meet God's gaze, we are lost. St. Paul knew this and was warning the Ephesians to offer and accept forgiveness only when there was real conversion involved.
Spouses who are regularly abused in a marriage, either physically, mentally, or emotionally must be strong enough to turn away from the abuse and the marriage until their partner seeks authentic forgiveness and gives evidence not only of a desire to change, but is willing to seek the help they need to act on what they know they must do. We should not be naive in this regard. St Paul is not a wimp. Neither should we be weak willed in this regard. Only when we are strong in facing our life as it is can authentic conversion occur.
Today, ask God for the grace of real discernment about your own sinful habits.
Have you ever admired someone who faced abuse and addressed it?