We can usually respond correctly in those circumstances, can’t we? It’s not rocket science, it’s it’s just human nature. You be good to me and I’ll be good to you.
What about when your husband or wife isn’t being good to you . . . isn’t doing what is right?
Much, much tougher.
And, if we’re honest, we often cut ourselves a little slack when this happens, listening to the voice that says, “I’m justified in responding the way I did because of what he/she did.”
“My Marriage is being damaged. How do you expect me to respond?”
It is justice, of a kind . . . but not the New Covenant, biblical kind. It may feel right in the moment, to our flesh. Sin always initially feels right to our flesh.
God doesn’t draw such distinctions and make provisional allowances for our sin based on the difficult time we are having with our spouse. Instead, He says, “Be holy as I am holy.”
All the time, Lord?
Even when that person I’m married to does things that make me really angry?
Even when I am passed over?
When I feel uncared for and unloved?
Our flesh could never respond with a resolute “yes” to these questions. There’s just too much at stake, humanly speaking, unless . . .
Unless you are walking in the Spirit, yielding your heart to God in that moment and you give a soft answer from a humble heart, receiving from The Vine (Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches) the very life-force sustaining power to respond in holiness.
But that was a moment, one circumstance. What about the long-term challenge? What follows from a prolonged loveless relationship?
A dry, lonely place.
Is God’s sustaining Spirit enough for your holiness there? We know the correct answer.
Even there, God wants your faithfulness.
And, it’s not just wives.
Many husbands write to me, telling of the empty, solitary life they lead with their sinful spouse. And, still, from them, too, God wants faithfulness.
He wants our faithfulness when being faithful comes at a serious cost to the flesh.
In the quietness of the lonely hour, God’s message is unchanged, “Be holy as I am holy.”
It’s easy to love someone who is returning love. This is the point Jesus was making in The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:46 – even “publicans” (the worst sort of person in 1st Century Jewish society) do that.
God’s call to true believers is not for faithfulness only when things are going well but in the hard times every couple eventually faces. The mettle of our faith is revealed – is proven out – in the crucible of difficult relationships.
Someone else’s sin (your spouse’s, for instance) does not prevent you from walking in holiness before God.
What Holiness In Marriage Doesn’t Mean
Being holy does not mean not becoming angry. The Word says, “Be angry but don’t sin.” Ephesians 4:26. Don’t strike out in bitter, harmful words or deeds (or vengeful thoughts) when angry.
Being holy does not mean looking the other way in the face of ongoing sin. If you have a spouse who is walking in sin, apply the steps outlined in Matthew 18. If he/she is walking in sexual sin, the Bible is not unclear about the rights of spouses. In Matthew 5, Jesus says, if a spouse has sex with someone with whom he isn’t married, divorce is permitted.
Being holy does not mean denying who you are and stuffing your feelings until you’re ready to explode. Involve others – godly, older mentors who can shine biblical light on the path before you. Don’t ‘go it’ alone.
Being holy does not mean continuing to live in physically abusive circumstances. Get out and away ASAP and reach out to godly brothers & sisters who will help protect and walk the path of healing with you.
But, being holy does mean not responding in sin when you are sinned against. And, you can do it because the Spirit of God indwells you, has empowered you, and because sin doesn’t have dominion over you. Galatians 5:16 says if you walk in the Spirit you won’t fulfill the desires of the flesh.
Romans 6 says, . . . Consider your selves dead to sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof. . . . . For sin shall not have dominion over you . . . Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness.
You are not a servant of sin. You are not under it’s dominion. You don’t have to do it’s bidding.
You are the servant of righteousness – even (especially) in life’s most challenging moments. God has given us the Spirit, the power, and the authority to say “no” to our impulse to respond in sin.
Will you embrace who you are in Christ and God’s call on your life to “Be holy as I am holy”— in this moment, during this day, in this pilgrimage He has not only called you to walk but is walking with you, right now?
Godliness, holiness, in the face of being wronged in marriage is not natural. It’s supernatural. It’s the work of the Spirit in your life and is a powerful testimony of God’s grace – a testimony others are observing and your spouse is experiencing. It’s the testimony God desires for your life.
Will you let Him do that work in you?
P.S. Nothing in this article or on this website should be understood to support abuse. This article is speaking of the normal experience couples have of offending and sinning against each other from time to time. If you are being abused, get away, get safe, and call the police.
P.S. If you could use a fresh perspective on loving your spouse, these books can have a major positive impact if wives and husbands not only read them but follow through with what they say. Check them out HERE
Matt is married to Lisa Jacobson; they are raising their eight children in the Pacific Northwest. Matthew is an author, speaker, blogger, and pastor of Tumalo Bible Fellowship. Matthew and Lisa are also the authors of the best-selling “his-and-her” marriage books, 100 Ways to Love Your Husband and 100 Ways to Love Your Wife.