“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12). This “death” can be a spiritual, physical, or even a relational death. If we keep doing that, which kills any chance of us continuing on in relationship, that’s exactly what can happen —the marriage will eventually die. This is true in many things, especially in the ways we are responding to our spouse.
In this Marriage Message, we’re going to look at responding in the RIGHT way —God’s way. We are to do this even if your spouse approaches you in ways that you find offensive.
But before we go into this issue, we want to give a disclaimer. The advice given below is written by author Gary Thomas. It is very good advice. But if you are being physically and/or emotionally abused by your spouse, you need to use the extra wisdom God can give you in how you are responding. This is especially relevant so you can best protect yourself. Even if you are responding wisely, you may still encounter problems. But it’s important to know that all you can do is the best you can do as God leads.
We encourage you to glean through the topic, Abuse in Marriage on this web site. Please use whatever advice and resources you discern God would have you use.
No matter what, whether in abusive situations or not, we need to be responding to our spouse in the ways that God would have us. These are not necessarily the ways that come “natural” to us. Often, we see that “natural man” doesn’t always approach matters wisely. God can show you better.
With that said, the following comes from the book, Sacred Influence written by Gary Thomas. It’s actually written to women to help them to know “what a man needs from his wife to be the husband she wants.” However, this short excerpt applies to both husbands and wives. He writes:
Responding God’s Way to Your Spouse
My children must grow weary of hearing me say, “Your greatest temptation to sin is when someone first sins against you. But THEIR sin never justifies YOUR sin.”
This is as true for spouses as it is for siblings. Fighting your mate’s irresponsibility with irresponsibility of your own is like pouring gasoline on a fire. It just makes things that much more explosive, that much worse. The Bible recommends a more subversive approach. Let love conquer evil. And let responsibility shame irresponsibility.
It’s a spiritual fact that kindness kills wickedness far more effectively than nagging, complaining, or disrespect. Remember, God won us with grace when we were his rebellious enemies. He doesn’t ask anything of you that he hasn’t already done himself. And this same God says that we are responsible to love, even in the face of another’s irresponsibility.
Peter wrote, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing”(1 Peter 3:9). Did you catch that? We’re called to respond to evil with blessing. It’s not human nature to be sinned against and think, “How can I bless this person who just hurt me?” But such a spiritually powerful practice yields very effective results. Regardless of how anyone else acts, we’re still accountable before God for our response.
Responding with Blessing
Paul elaborates on this in his letter to the believers in Rome: “Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14). He then quotes from Proverbs: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:20). (See Proverbs 25:21-22.)
Jesus said essentially the same thing. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45).
The Bible is amazingly relevant and practical for married people! It’s not a “pie in the sky” kind of book that pretends no one will ever hurt us or sin against us. On the contrary, it promises us that we will be hurt and wronged. But then it gives very specific and practical advice to help us respond appropriately. We bless those who hurt us. We feed those who make themselves our enemies. And over time, such a practice usually succeeds far more in prompting redemptive change than does arguing, complaining, gossiping, or threatening divorce.
In the ugliness of trying situations, the beauty of responsibility shines brighter than ever.
Obeying in How You are Responding
Even if this approach proves ineffective, however, it’s what God calls us to as Christians, and that’s of paramount importance. How I love Linda Dillow’s take on this:
“I cannot promise you that if you respond with a blessing when you’re hurt or wounded, your husband [or wife] will change. I cannot promise you a life of happiness and personal fulfillment. But I can promise you that you are living according to your purpose and calling as a Christian. You are obeying the will of God and there is peace in obedience. The first reason you are to respond this way is not so that you can secure a hoped-for change in your mate, but because it is God’s desire that you make this kind of response.”
When I respond according to God’s plan, even if the person who sinned against me doesn’t change, I’ll change. It’s a victory either way. When I respond out of spite, repaying evil for evil, two things usually happen, both are negative. The situation gets worse; and I become more bitter, more resentful, and less like Christ.
The brilliance of Christianity is that God can grow you in an unhealthy marriage as well as in a healthy marriage. He can shape you in prosperity or need, in comfort or stress, in intimacy or loneliness. And intimacy with him is the most precious reward any of us can ever know or experience.
Just as we build our muscles little by little, lifting a bit more weight every other day, so the beauty of responsibility evolves gradually, built up by the tiny, seemingly insignificant decisions we make week by week.
Responding in Hurtful Ways
We hope Gary’s words created some “A-ha” moments for you. We ALL can relate to times when we’ve responded in hurtful and inappropriate ways during disagreements with our spouse. It’s the prayer of our hearts that God uses this message to inspire spouses to respond in ways that strengthens marriages and above all, honors God.
Please know that our prayers are with you as together we work to Reveal and Reflect the Heart of Christ within Marriage.
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ALSO —
The following are a few additional articles to help you deal with conflict responding respectfully and scripturally:
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Filed under: Marriage Messages