Friday, April 18, 2014

A good day to die

     Today is Good Friday.  As a child, I could never understand why it was given the name “Good Friday.”  Jesus died.  Killed by selfish, jealous, angry, wicked people.  That didn’t seem good to me.  And, if that’s where you let the story end, well, it isn’t very good.  The good news is that Easter Sunday is coming.  The tomb will be empty.  There will be new life.  2 Corinthians 5:14-15 says, “Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.  But before there can be new life, There has to be a death.  The old life has to go.  There has to be a Good Friday.

     Many marriages need a Good Friday.  Some old thoughts, words, actions, and attitudes need to be put to death if there is ever going to be new life.  Isolation needs to end.  Anger has to die.  Hurtful comments cannot be allowed to draw another breath.  Comparing your mate unfavorably to others has to be eliminated.  Passive aggressive manipulations must cease to exist.  Lack of responsibility and accountability has got to expire.  Unrealistic expectations (of your mate or of yourself) need to be dead and gone.  Unhealthy emotional attachments with someone other than your spouse must be killed.

     The things that have to die can originate from within the individual spouse, within the couple's relationship, or from outside the marriage.  But, regardless of where those things come from, they must be put to death.  It is only when a couple is willing to put to death the things that facilitate selfishness and destroy communication, that cause tension and foster blame, that a marriage can truly be resurrected into a new life.  A life centered on Christ.  A life that allows the marriage to become a place of blessing, encouragement, grace, and goodness.

     Today is Good Friday.  Figure out what you need to put to death so that your marriage can have an Easter Sunday of new life.

 Image credit: <a href=''>kzenon / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It leaves a mark

     For most people, the idea of physically abusing one’s spouse is completely and totally reprehensible.  Some people live with the belief that as long as you don’t physically touch someone, you aren’t being abusive to them.  But abuse goes much deeper than just physical attacks.  Any behavior that minimizes your mate’s worth as a human being or is intended to control or put him/her in a state of fear is abuse.
     It is my prayer that no Christian husband or wife desires to be intimidating or abusive to his or her mate.  But, in the heat of conflict a person can become so wrapped up in pride or emotions, or can default into an unhealthy pattern that he/she observed growing up, that before you know what’s happening—you are acting abusively.  When conflict occurs and emotions run high, if we’re not careful, a person can slip into abusive behaviors without even realizing it.  “I would never lay a hand on you!” a husband or wife may exclaim.  But not every blow leaves a visible mark.  Abuse happens physically, but it can also happen emotionally, intellectually, socially, and spiritually.  Consider the following:

  • Whether or not it leaves a red spot, a bruise, or any other mark, physically forcing your mate to do something against his/her will is abuse.
  • Threatening actions even if there is no physical contact (such as “posturing” with clenched fists, puffed out chest, or intentionally intimidating stances) is abuse.
  • Words that are meant to put your mate in a state of fear is abuse.
  • Attacking your mate’s character, negative comments about his/her physical appearance, and hateful, hurtful name calling is abuse.
  • Attempting to isolate your mate from family or friends as a means of controlling their behavior is abuse.
  • Telling your mate that he/she is stupid and/or making your mate feel intellectually worthless is abuse.
  • Putting your mate in fear of damnation because he/she doesn’t agree with you on a particular spiritual issue is abuse.

Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying.  Conflict is normal in a marriage relationship, and just because you argue with your spouse, that doesn’t mean you’re a serial abuser.  Certainly individual circumstances, motivation, and other factors are critical in determining if words and actions in a relationship are truly abusive or not.  But never forget, words and actions have power.  What you say and do, even in the heat of the moment, will have a lasting effect.  The single most important thing for us, even in the heat of conflict, is integrity and character!  Jesus did not redeem us to a new way of life so we can speak or act irrationally in anger and think that is acceptable behaviour.  A fight with our spouse is NEVER an excuse for unloving or abusive behavior.  If you are living in a state of fear due to your mate’s actions—never knowing if or when he/she will explode next—seek immediately professional and protective help.
     We are the image bearers of God; sons and daughters of the King.  And as such, it is your blessing and your obligation to protect your mate from abuse. Make sure first-and-foremost that the abuse isn’t coming from within the marriage.  Not every blow leaves a visible mark, but every blow leaves a mark nonetheless.

Friday, April 11, 2014

An Uncommon Marriage

     On the March 29, 2014 episode of Saturday Night Live, the guest host, Louis C. K., spent part of his monologue disparaging God.  Whether or not he was trying to raise valid discussions about how we view God (and I tend to think he was not), he used God as the punchline of a string of jokes.  For me personally, it was offensive because I believe that God is holy.  That means that God, and godly things, are not like everything else.  Ezekiel 22:26 says, “[The Lord’s] priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common.”  In Exodus 20:7, God says he will not hold someone guiltless who misuses his name.  Why?  Because holy things are meant to communicate something powerful about God to the world.
     Christian marriage is holy.  Whether or not it was said in your wedding vows, you were joined in holy matrimony.  God is (or at least should be) a present and active part of your relationship, so everything about marriage—love, forgiveness, selflessness, sex and intimacy, commitment, encouragement, laughter and joy—all of it is holy.  And we are the Lord’s priests (1 Peter 2:9), sharing his holiness through our marriages.
     But sometimes, as the Lord’s priests, we say and do things that profane marriage.  We take what is holy, and make it common.  When a husband continually refers to his wife as “the old ball and chain,” he is profaning marriage.  When a wife emasculates her husband in front of others, she is making a holy relationship common.  When a couple lets others—children, family, friends—become the central relationship rather than the marriage, they damage the holiness of their union.  When spouses stop praying together and being a blessing to each other, a holy relationship is diminished.  If we don’t see marriage as holy, then eventually a couple’s Christianity can just become “window dressing,” with no real distinction between them and any other couple.
     I know that there is always some kidding and teasing in marriage, and that’s okay.  There should be.  Who wants to live in a joyless relationship?  But we have to be careful not to cross the line.  What’s the line?  I don’t know.  It will be different for different people.  But ask yourself this; when people hear you talk about marriage, do your words make them want to seek a similar marriage, or run as far away from marriage as possible?  When you share stories, are others laughing at your marriage, or sharing in the joy of your marriage?
     I don’t want a common marriage.  I want a holy marriage.  Holy things are meant to communicate something powerful about God to the world.  What does your marriage say?

Image credit: <a href=''>tomwang / 123RF Stock Photo</a>