Wives: Submission with Strength and Peace

One of the most hotly-debated issues in our culture is the role of a woman in marriage. There are basically two camps that people fall into in our country: egalitarian and complimentarian. Egalitarians essentially believe that women and men are equal in every way and should equally share in the responsibilities and leadership within marriage. Complimentarians recognize basic strengths and weaknesses within the genders and think that both men and women have unique roles within marriage.

The goal of this post is not to add to the arguments that are already out there. Instead, I will start with the assumption that complimentarianism is the correct view. This means that, although equal, this article will assume an essential difference in the roles of men and women.

Last week, we saw that a man’s role is proactive leadership, through sacrifice, with understanding. This kind of leadership functions through sacrifice, not authoritarianism. A good man will not demand to be followed, but rather will sacrifice his preferences, free time, energy, emotions, and anything else for his wife’s good.

A wife’s role in this is to willingly follow her husband’s leadership. Submission is an attitude that is inclined toward following her husband with love and meekness.

Because of the misconceptions on every side about a woman’s role in marriage, I want to spend a significant amount of time showing what Submission is NOT.

  1. Submission is not unique to the position of wife. The two primary passages in the Bible that explain a woman’s role in marriage are 1 Peter 3:1-6 and Ephesians 5:22-24. Both of the passages immediately follow general calls for all Christians to submit. Ephesians 5:21 says that we are all to submit to one another as if someone else is more important than us. 1 Peter 2:13-17 describes how we should submit to our government and 1 Peter 2:18-25 describes how bond-servants should submit to their masters (present day: employees submitting to their bosses). In other words, true Christianity includes a lot of submission to authority, because we see all authority as God-given. A wife’s submission to her husband is a subset of a general attitude of submission that all Christians should have.
  2. Submission is not a call for every woman to submit to every man. 1 Peter 3:1 makes it very clear that wives are not called to submit to every man, but rather to “your own” husband. Kathy Keller, in The Meaning of Marriage, commented on this, “We are all familiar with watching stunts or action sequences on television or in movies that come with the ‘Do not try this at home’ disclaimer attached. Gender roles are the exact opposite.” This specific kind of submission is contained within the marriage relationship.
  3. Submission does not mean agreeing with everything your husband says. In 1 Peter 3:1, we see a wife who is strong and smart enough to think for herself; she has chosen to trust Christ as her Savior even though her husband has not. This shows us that there are times when it is appropriate for a wife to disagree agreeably with her husband.
  4. Submission does not mean leaving your brain or your will at the wedding altar. Again, 1 Peter 3:1 shows us that the wife has thoughtfully chosen to follow Jesus, even though her husband has not. My wife is smarter than I am. She scored much higher on the ACTs, was a 4.0 student (until she met me and I distracted her from homework ;)), and has an amazing amount of common sense. If our marriage is going to truly flourish, we need her brain to be engaged.
  5. Submission does not mean avoiding every effort to change a husband. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” If the wife is a friend to her husband, then she must be able to ‘wound’ her husband like a gentle surgeon would push a needle and thread through a patient’s skin to stitch up a wound. In fact, the subheading for 1 Peter 3:1-6 could be “how to change your husband into a Christian.” This is not done through compromise, manipulation, coldness, arguments, or demands. This is done through respect, pure conduct, and gentleness. As a man, I will testify that it melts my guy’s heart when my wife is gentle and respectful with my failures.
  6. Submission does not mean putting the will of the husband before the will of Christ. In this passage, the wife is submitted first to Christ, and second to her husband because of Christ. This means that if her husband demands that she deny her faith, then she is loyal to Christ as she respectfully and gently tells her husband that she cannot.
  7. Submission does not mean that a wife is to act out of fear. 1 Peter 3:6 yteaches that submission that is demanded is not submission, but subjugation. The submission of the wife in this passage is willing and without fear. John Piper says, “The Christian woman is a free woman. When she submits to her husband—whether he is a believer or unbeliever—she does it in freedom, not out of fear.”

Submission Is

I think that submission must include three things: 1) strength, 2) peace, and 3) willing deference to authority.

  1. Strength – Submission is not the absence of strength, but rather it is strength under control. A wife is not weak or stupid, but she controls her strength and willingly puts it under her husbands leadership.
  2. Peace – If a heart is restless, it is difficult for it to be submissive. A restless heart tends to want to fix things, take control, and change circumstances. Internal peace and acceptance of one’s circumstances  are necessary for submission.
  3. Willing deference to authority – Submission cannot be coerced, forced, or demanded. Pure submission comes a from a willing heart that defers to someone else’s authority.

Ideas for Wives from a Husband

  • What are some areas of your marriage that lack submission? Ask your husband for forgiveness in these areas.
  • Identify at least one area in which your husband is leading well. Thank him and compliment him for his leadership in that one area.
  • Do you want to be included on decision-making processes, but worry that you might come across as disrespectful? Try this: 1) get a baby-sitter, 2) make his favorite meal or take him to his favorite restaurant, 3) take his hand, look him in the eyes, and say, “I really appreciate your leadership in this area. I want you to know that I love you and respect everything you are. Would it be ok if we talked through this issue sometime together? In the end, I will always follow you if I can, but it would mean a lot to me if we could have a conversation about it first” 4) schedule a time for him (preferably not right then) where you can talk through the situation together
  • Affirm his leadership in front of others, especially in front of your kids and your family (his in-laws).

How the Gospel Cultivates an Attitude of Submission

The Bible was never meant to be a rule book. It does teach husbands that we need to proactively lead through sacrifice with understanding. It also teaches women to willingly submit their strength in peace under their husbands leadership. But the Bible’s primary purpose is not a list of dos and don’ts.

That doesn’t mean that the Bible doesn’t show us where we are failing; it simply means that pointing out our failures and telling us to try harder is not the Bible’s primary focus.

Husbands are too controlling or passive. Wives are too controlling or passive. Both tend toward selfishness, pride, and bickering when we don’t get our way. Our lives are filled with sin; this is especially true in the pressure cooker of marriage. We cannot deny our failures, but God’s Word doesn’t leave us in our failures.

Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

If peace, strength, and willingness to defer to authority are necessary for submission, then we can find those resources in the gospel. God’s Word teaches us that we have sinned and broken God’s laws many times; this sin creates hostility between us and God. This hostility creates tension in our hearts and tension in our relationships, but more importantly, it requires God’s just punishment.

God’s Word tells us that, through Christ, we can have grace and forgiveness. We cannot earn this through good living, but instead, God justifies those who put their faith in Christ. By declaring us righteous, we are restored to peace with God and given hope that one day, all things will be made right.

Because we have a deep peace with God, even difficult times (suffering in verse 3) cannot cause unrest in our souls. Instead of becoming restless under imperfect leadership, we can enjoy peace with God through Christ-peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Through the gospel, we are given a boundless reserve of peace in all of our struggles.

By trusting God’s goodness and resting in his peace through difficult circumstances, we develop the muscles of endurance, which produces strength of character. This strength of character endures gently and peacefully through all circumstances, including imperfect leadership. That kind of character does not hope in perfect circumstances, children, a care-free life, a knight in shining armor, a growing 401k, or a successful career in order to find joy; strength of character founded on peace with God produces a steadfast hope that God will one day make all things right through Jesus Christ.

The good news of the gospel is that we are forgiven for our failures and empowered through God’s love to do better tomorrow.

Credit to John Piper’s sermon The Beautiful Faith of Fearless Submission for many of the ideas and structure for this post.

Husbands: Proactive Leadership, Through Sacrifice, With Understanding

As I posted yesterday, the good male leadership not only benefits our American culture, but it also helps people to understand what God’s perfect love is like. Because of all the misconceptions about male leadership, I thought we should know what a husband is NOT.

A HUSBAND IS NOT A(N) 

  • Parent: In this relationship, the man functions like a parent that must be obeyed and depended on for everything.
  • Child: The man acts like a child who must obey his wife. He is helpless without her.
  • King: “I’m the king of this castle.” This husband expects the world to revolve around him and serve him.
  • Napoleon: A Napoleon controls everything in his wife’s life. Sometimes, this control is dictated by some form of inferiority complex.
  • Abuser: An abuser controls through beatings, verbal lashings, or sexual abuse. All of the errors on this list are bad, but this one is especially heinous and harmful. If anyone is abusing someone or being abused by someone, contact us for help.
  • Employer/Boss: With this kind of man, everything is earned. He gives love if someone earns it. He gives gifts if someone works for it. This is not love, but work.
  • Roommate: As long as neither spouse gets in the way of the other’s life, goals, or aspirations, they will continue to live together.
  • Homer: “Anything you want to say before football season starts?” This husband is lazy, disinterested, and uninvolved. Through his stubborn laziness, he has broken his wife’s spirit and her hope that he will ever get better.

Generally speaking, being a good husband can be summed up by this phrase: PROACTIVE LEADERSHIP, THROUGH SACRIFICE, WITH UNDERSTANDING. 

PROACTIVE LEADERSHIP, through sacrifice, with understanding.

Ephesians 5:25-27, 29 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. … For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,

In this passage, we are told to love our wives “as” Christ loved the church. Christ’s love was proactive. He did not wait for “the church” to ask for his help. He did not pursue his own interests until he was badgered into helping her. Instead, he took the responsibility to save his church and proactively pursued her good.

We need to take proactive responsibility for our wives physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

  • Physically: Chauvinism is not dead. One of the most basic instincts of men is to protect his wife and family from harm. This is a good instinct. Taking responsibility for her physically may involve protection, but it also may involve making sure she gets enough sleep and giving her some time to rest physically.
  • Emotionally: We are there for her emotionally, understanding and affirming her—after time, this will also develop an ability to understand her emotions. We should not be cold or distant, but seek to enter into her life and walk beside her like a true friend.
  • Intellectually: We challenge her intellectually, or rather, she challenges us intellectually. In one sense, we need to work together make wise decisions, which will involve stretching conversations. These discussion serve as the philosophical bedrock on which our relationships are built, which means we must proactively take responsibility to engage important topics with one another. (This is always true, but this is especially true for stay-at-home-moms. These mothers have made the decision to stay at home, not because they cannot work, but because they choose not to. This often means they have not been intellectually engaged by anything more than the alphabet and counting for awhile. Engage your wife in intellectual discussions in which she is interested.)
  • Spiritually: Spiritually, we cannot make her love God more, but we can set the example of love for God, tell her how we are growing, and develop spiritual companionship and accountability with her.

Proactive leadership, THROUGH SACRIFICE, with understanding.

If we stopped after the first point, it would seem like men have the right to use and abuse their leadership to get what they want. But, Leadership is not the right to control or to abuse or to neglect. Leadership is service and sacrifice. 

This is the beauty of the way God set up relationships to work. Entire systems of checks and balances are in place to make sure that no one gains too much control or is able to manipulate to get what they want.

In the end, the way that we should proactively lead involves sacrifice. The road of proactive leadership always involves forgoing our interests. If we decide to walk on this path of leadership, we must let go of our interests and pursuing some else’s good. This is exactly what Christ did for us. He let go of the comforts of heaven in order to become a man. He ignored his interests to the point of death. He let go of comforts, rights, and pleasures in order to sacrifice for us. When Paul tells us to lead as Christ did, he means that our path of leadership involves sacrifice. Love is sacrificial concern and action for someone else’s best. 

I firmly believe there is something in everyone, and especially men, that draws them to be this kind of hero. Every great story involves a great hero who is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to save someone. This basic theme plays on our heart strings and calls us to be something more.

But we don’t need a hero who will sacrifice his life to save the world; we need a hero who will sacrifice his free time to save his wife from being burnt out. We don’t need a hero who will take the place of the heroine on the railroad tracks, we need a hero who will take the place of the heroine on the midnight shift with a crying baby. We don’t need a hero who will take charge in a bunker with the enemy closing in; we need a hero who will take charge in his home and when temptations to selfishness and apathy surround him.

We need men who stop trying to vicariously live through video games and professionally athletes, and instead live their own lives, level up their sacrificial ability, and come through in clutch situations for their wives.

Proactive leadership, through sacrifice, WITH UNDERSTANDING.

1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

Colossians 3:19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.

How can we sacrifice if we do not know what our wife needs? How can we care for her physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually if we fall back on the tired cliché that “it’s impossible to understand women.”

Men and women are wired differently. Communication easily breaks down and misunderstandings are frequent. Both genders are responsible for this. Understanding our wives involves a lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of listening, a lot of questions, a lot of sacrifice, and a lot of openness.

Think about it like an adventure. Like all good love stories, in order to love our wives, we will need grit, determination, intellectual prowess, and sword-fighting ability—actually, one of those is not necessary. We are men. We are not boys. We do not quit easily. We fight to understand our wives, their needs, and their preferences.

LET’S GET PRACTICAL

  • A good leader knows the thoughts and desires of the ones he leads. Especially in big decisions, we need ask questions and understand our wives Ask questions like, “What do you want to happen? How do you see this ideally playing out? What is your preference? What do you think should happen?”
  • We need to choose one thing a day that sacrifices for our wives. We can do the dishes, babysit the kids so she can shop, give her a shoulder massage, or simply turn off the TV and pay full attention while she is talking. After a few weeks, we can try to do two things a day that sacrifices for her. As we continue this, a pattern of sacrificial love for her forms. That pattern becomes a habit. That habit becomes an attitude. That attitude becomes a character quality. That character quality makes a good husband.
  • Experiencing Christ’s love for us each day is the best way to cultivate a loving, sacrificial attitude. We need to rest in his love and forgiveness until we are transformed into more loving, patient, forgiving, and gentle men.

The Need for Male Leadership in the Home

What are the male figures like on our favorite TV shows?

What about on movies?

Why does it seem like men are almost always portrayed as distant and passive or as fumbling idiots?

I think it is because the writers know what will connect with the audience–an aloof, selfish, disinterested, male character will connect with the viewers.

STATISTICS REGARDING THE IMPORTANCE OF MALE LEADERSHIP

This ongoing trend is called “The Decline of Fatherhood and the Male Identity Crisis” by to Psychology Today. In their study, the lack of male leadership in the home is partially responsible for many of the problems in our society.

  • “Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy, and criminality, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics.
    • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census;
    • 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes according to a study by the Center for Disease Control;
    • Daughters of single mothers are 53% more likely to marry as teenagers, 111% more likely to have children as teenagers, 164% more likely to have a premarital birth and 92% more likely to dissolve their own marriages.
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes according to the National Principals Association Report on the State of  High Schools;
  • Children from low-income, two-parent families outperform students from high-income, single-parent homes. Almost twice as many high achievers come from two-parent homes as one-parent homes according to a study by the Charles F. Kettering Foundation.
  • In a longitudinal study of 1,197 fourth-grade students, researchers observed “greater levels of aggression in boys from mother-only households than from boys in mother-father households,” according to a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology”

THE GOSPEL AND MANHOOD

Not just the fabric of society hangs on this, but the ability to understand God’s love can either be helped or hurt by a male role model. 

Ephesians 5:25b-27, 29 “… Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. … For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,”

The gospel story from Ephesians 5 tells us that Christ came to this earth and gave himself—not just his stuff—for us. He sacrificed everything to be punished for our sins. This great act of initiative, sacrifice, and love cleanses us from our sins and brings us close to himself.

The hope of the gospel is that, although we have been scarred, wrinkled, beaten, and spotted by sin, Jesus Christ can cleanse us and make brilliant and majestic. No matter what we have done, through Christ’s sacrifice, we can know that we are accepted and loved by God. He cherishes us as something unique and precious to him.

It is no mistake that people who have been burned by a man—through abuse, through unfaithfulness, through aloofness—struggle to understand these points of the gospel.

“You mean, God is interested in me?”

“You mean he is faithful in his love?”

“You mean he loves me for my good, not to use me?”

“You mean he sacrifices for me?”

“You mean God is more than a sleeping angry powerful force that I don’t want to wake up?”

“You mean he is consistent with me?”

“You mean he loves me?”

Those without a male role model, or with a bad one, struggle to understand that God loves instead of uses, sacrifices instead of demanding service, and pursues our good instead of his hobbies.

On the other side, a loving, sacrificial male role model can profoundly impact a family. When my father was a teenager, my grandparents started to save up money to buy him a record player (for those born after 1985, it’s kinda’ like a big iPod). During a rebellious phase, my dad snuck into my grandparents’ bedroom and stole some of the money so he could buy drugs and alcohol for a party with friends. When my grandparents found out, they were heartbroken because my dad had abused their love for him. My dad still remembers how disappointed and sad my grandpa was when he found out.

The next day, my grandpa came home from work with a brand new record player under his arm. This sacrificial act of faithful love helped my dad to understand more about God’s faithful love for him. Within a few years, he asked God to forgive his sins and trusted in Christ as his Savior. Shortly after that, he decided to become a pastor and has now spent over 30 years sharing God’s love with others.

CONCLUSION

Our society desperately needs good male role models, and our families desperately need to understand God’s sacrificial love for them. Husbands play a vital role not only in America, but also in God’s plan to illustrate his love for mankind.

The story of God’s love is not just another way to show us (Husbands) how we don’t measure up; the gospel forgives us for our failures as husbands. It reminds us that, through faith in Christ, we are absolutely loved and accepted by God. We need to experience God’s precious love for ourselves every day and then share that proactive, sacrificial love with our families.

Handling Fights Part 3

In part one and part two, we identified the symptoms of our fights and diagnosed our primary illness as idolatry. Idolatry causes us to worship what is important to us, which affects the way we pray and the way we relate to one another when we don’t get what we want.

The treatment for idolatry is pure confession.

THE TREATMENT: PURE CONFESSION

James 4:6-10 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Our confessions are riddled with insincerity, presumption, and hypocrisy. James knew this, which is why he shows us in these short verses what pure confession looks like. Pure confession always includes genuine sorrow for sin, humility, repentance, and a restoration of the relationship.

  1. Genuine sorrow for sin – In this passage, James tells us that when we confess, we should not be laughing or joyful, but rather sorrowful for our sin and the pain that it caused. If a cheating spouse laughed as they apologized for their sin, there is no way they would be forgiven. If we approach God with a light-hearted, presumptuous, insincere attitude, why would we be forgiven?
  2. Humility – True confession always includes humility. In confession, we willingly expose ourselves and admit our failures to the person we wronged, relying only on their graciousness to forgive us.
  3. Repentance – Confession always includes a genuine desire to make things right. This includes cutting off opportunities to repeat the sin and restitution for the wrongs committed.
  4. Restoration of the relationship – God’s grace is not only available to free you from guilt. He wants you to come close to him in full assurance you are completely forgiven because of Christ.

In one sense, we could be compared to a queen who cheated on her husband-king. In ancient times, a king had the right to execute anyone–even the queen–for basically any reason. For a queen to be unfaithful to her husband would put her life at great risk. However, if she went before her king, bowed before him, confessed whole-heartedly, and ended the relationship with her former lover, the king might restore his queen to his right hand.

In the same way, God gives more grace, but he gives it to humble and broken confessors.

Fights are a Pain in the Hip

A few years ago, I started to struggle with a lot of pain in my knees. It got so bad that I could not stand up for a complete message. If I tried to stay on my feet too long, my hips and ankles would start to bother me also. There were times when I came home, laid on the floor with my legs in the air, and had Janae rotate my leg in order to alleviate some of the pressure.

After going to the doctor, I found out that I had small amounts of extra soft tissue in my knees that were causing chronic inflammation. This led to me compensating in the way I stood and walked, which caused irritation in my hips and ankles also. My entire lower body was thrown out of alignment because of the pain in my knees, which led to multiple other problems. I had surgery to remove the extra soft tissue from my knees and after the swelling went down, I really haven’t had any problems since.

This illustrates our core problem well. Our idolatry is like the syndrome in my knees. When our relationship with God is not where it should be, we feel pain and longing. We were made to worship God by enjoying him forever, and when we don’t worship him like we should, we overcompensate to find joy and pleasure elsewhere. This overcompensation leads us to quarrels and fights with one another because we are not getting what we want. Our quarrels and fights with one another are like the pain in my ankles and hips. They are the direct result of our lack of joy in God and our desire to find joy in idols.

A good doctor would not focus his attention on my hips or my ankles, but on my knees. In the same way, our fights with one another are painful, but that pain is a parable of the separation from God that we face. If we confess our sins to God and he will forgive us.

We need to heal the core problem in our lives by reorienting our lives around God. Only then can the secondary issues of our fights and quarrels be completely resolved. .

Handling Fights Part 1

A few weeks ago, my wife and I had spent an entire day in a low-simmer fight.

It started when I got the perfect vision for a newly renovated patio. I wanted to use an extra pile of blocks we had to extend our patio out from our house. Because we were in a busy season, she did not want to add that to our “to-do” list. Even if she was interested in it, we had very different ideas about the size, location, style, quality, and layout about the patio.

I wish I could say that those kinds of fights are rare in our house. By God’s grace, they are more infrequent than they used to be, but every once in awhile my wife and I will regroup after a fight and ask questions like, “What happened? Why didn’t we let that go? Was that really worth it?”

This study is about the causes of fights, which should help us to avoid these potholes in our relationships.

THE SYMPTOMS: FIGHTS, QUARRELS, DESIRE, AND ANGER

James 4:1-2 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.

This is one of the most insightful ideas about humanity that I have learned. Every single human fight is caused by a desire that we do not have fulfilled. That desire does not have to be evil by itself, but when it becomes so important that we are willing to fight to get it, then it is wrong and sinful.

Anyone with children can easily see this point. Kids generally get a long until one child has a toy that the other child wants. Grown ups may not fight over dolls and army men, but we may fight over money, jobs, free time, vacations , house projects, sex, movie choices, etc. Although they are more abstract motivations, we most commonly fight when we do not feel like we are being loved and respected.

Did anyone else come to the middle of verse 2 and say, “Wow, that escalated quickly” (I’ll give you a moment to scroll back up).

Did someone say, “Murrrder?”

We have no records that actual murders were happening in these churches, but many ideas in James correlate to Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5-7 and 23: pride, hypocrisy, the love of money, pure religion, giving to the poor, honesty in oaths, enduring trials well, wisdom, and fights.

Matthew 5:21-22 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

In Jesus’ explanation of God’s law, he shows that it is not enough for us to follow the Ten Commandments in action only, but we also need to follow them in desire and thoughts. Through this passage, we see that although the outcome of anger may look different — whether murder or insults or bitterness — the essence of anger is always the same kind of sin.

In Jesus’ mind, fights are the same as murder because they have the same essential quality of anger, even if their outcome is different. James takes this idea and reminds us that our fights are not merely disagreements, petty squabbles, or personality differences, but they are also transgressions of God’s law.

In the low-simmer fight that I had with my wife over the patio, I preferred a particular layout and size for the patio, but my wife preferred a different layout. I immediately thought that she was selfish for her desires and began to question her motivations. I don’t think I ever completely lashed out at her, but in typical lawyer fashion, I tried to argue my way to my goal. In doing so, I insinuated that she was selfish and didn’t care about my desires. Although we apologized several times throughout the day, I was not sincere and still maintained a willingness to tear her down in order to build up my patio my way.

The primary symptoms listed in the first few verses are fights, quarrels, anger, bitterness, insults, and murder. In the next post, we will examine the secondary symptoms, which finally show us what the true problem is underlying these issues.

Cultivating a Loving Attitude

Girl-Imitating-Adult

 

It was less than a year before my daughter started gabbing while holding items up to her ear. It’s amazing how quickly kids start to imitate their parents. It’s also terrifying when you see them start to pick up your bad habits.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Everyone imitates those they admire. We are all like little kids stepping into our parents shoes, putting on our coats, and mimicking daddy’s goodbye rituals.

This truth is supercharged when it comes to our relationship with God. If we admire God and his love for us, then we will imitate it through the power he has given to us. This blog will walk us through 1) God’s great love for us, 2) recognizing and appreciating what God’s love does for us, 3) how this love practical changes our attitudes, 4) how this loving attitude acts, and 5) how we can maintain this loving attitude by remembering God’s great love for us.

GOD’S GREAT LOVE FOR US

Colossians 2:13-14   And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

We have trespassed God’s law in a thousand different ways, but God’s law is not just about action; it is about desire and thoughts too. If we think angry thoughts toward someone, it is the same as murder in God’s eyes (Matthew 5:21-22). If we think lustful thoughts toward someone, it is the same as adultery in God’s eyes (Matthew 5:27-28). If we covet and desire for things that are not ours, we commit idolatry (Colossians 3:5). If we lie to ourselves, we have broken God’s command not to lie (1 John 1:8).

God “will by no means acquit the guilty” (Nahum 1:3). God counts every single sin against us, and none can defend against his justice (Psalm 130:3). The wrath of God fully rests over our heads, and the only thing that keeps us from plunging into his eternal judgment is the fact that he continues to hold his hand up, saying, “Give them a little more time to repent” (Romans 2:4).

In Ancient cultures, when crucifixions were performed, an executioner would take the charges of the crucified person and nail them to the cross. Colossians 2:13 says that our record of debt was nailed to Jesus’ cross. This means that Jesus’ charges were not his own, but were ours. God fully poured out his punishment for our sins on Christ, and “by his stripes, we are healed” (Isaiah 53).

BE WHO YOU ARE — CHOSEN, HOLY, AND BELOVED

Through Jesus’ crucifixion, we are forgiven for our sins. But because Jesus Christ was God’s beloved Son, we also receive his position as a child of God. In other words, we are not only brought from hostility to a truce, but we are brought from hostility to love. God actually makes us his child–set apart for him and absolutely loved.

Colossians 3:12a Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved

Chosen: God specifically had us on his mind when he sent Jesus to this earth. Jesus Suffered and died as a sacrifice especially for our sins. In much the same way that we might choose our spouse, God chose us, pursued us, sacrificed for us, forgave us, loved us, and united together with us. We are special and unique to God, because we have been chosen by God.

Holy: To be engaged to another person is to set one’s self apart for them only. Christ died on the cross in order to “present us blameless and holy and above reproach before him” (Colossians 1:22). God has cancelled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. Through this legal working, we are set apart as holy to God.

Beloved: Being loved is one of the core needs of humanity. In Christ, God has loved us faithfully and passionately. His love can never change or fail. We are absolutely accepted and loved in Christ.

PRACTICAL OUTWORKING

Colossians 3:12-17 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Paul is saying, “Think about how much God has loved us! We must allow that love to take seed in our hearts until we become loving in our attitudes.”

Attitudes: Compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience are all attitudes, not actions. We do not say “do humility, do kindness, do compassion, do meekness, or do patience,” but instead we say, “be compassionate, be kind, be humble, be meek, and be patient.” These are attitudes to acquire. God wants us to see Christ’s compassion for us, Christ’s kindness to us, Christ’s humility in saving us, Christ’s meekness in sacrificing for us, and Christ’s patience and forgiveness until we become like him.

The imitation rule is supercharged when we admire Jesus Christ. When we have been profoundly impacted and changed by his great love for us, we begin naturally to imitate that same love, not from a heart of obligation or duty, but from a heart of love and purity.

Outward Actions: What do those attitudes look like?

  • “Bearing with one another” – It looks like someone who puts up with someone else’s faults/sins/idiosyncrasies, rather than harboring bitterness or anger against them.
  • “Forgiving one another” – It looks like someone who readily and freely forgives someone else instead of hold grudges or making the other person earn their forgiveness.
  • “Harmony” – It looks like loving, harmonious relationships

MAINTAINING THE ATTITUDE

How do we obtain and maintain an attitude of love toward others? Paul follows up his teaching and commands with a few ways that we can remember and enjoy Christ’s great love, which cultivates in us a heart of love for others.

Let the peace of Christ rule your heart 

Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

As we rest in the truth that we are absolutely loved by God and make that our central identity, we have lasting peace. Because we know that we have peace–not war– with God through Christ, we also have peace within ourselves. Peace vertically brings peace inwardly.

Vertical and inward peace can be extended horizontally–to our relationships. A fighting, bitter, argumentative person is never at peace with God. The natural by-product of peace with God is peace with our relationships. Romans 12:18 reminds us that it “takes two to tange” and sometimes it is out of our hands, but we should do our best to live at peace with everyone.

Let the message of Christ dwell in you richly 

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

These words have clear implications about church involvement. As we meet together as a church, we sing with one another, teach one another, admonish one another, and thank God together. These things can and should happen outside of church ministries (ie more organically), but our church ministries must include these things.

Since we desperately need to remember our salvation in order to cultivate loving attitudes, our church ministries have the gospel as the focus in our songs, teachings, prayers, testimonies, encouragements, and serving opportunities. Church is a group of people who join together to love Jesus Christ and help one another love Jesus Christ. If we let the message of Christ dwell in us richly, then the soil of our hearts will be cultivated for loving fruit to grow.

Prioritizing Jesus in everything

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

This is just a catch-all for us. Through this command, he reminds us to make Jesus first place in everything (Colossians 1:15-20) and to set our minds on him (Colossians 3:1-4). This is a mental discipline that takes time to develop. The more we understand that, through Christ, we are chosen, holy, and loved, the more we will be loving in everything we do.

1 John 4:7-12 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

The Problems in Marriage

The problems in marriage are not due primarily to the differences in gender, because God intended the genders to fit perfectly with one another (Genesis 2:18-25). However, the differences in the genders can exacerbate sinful tendencies. Have you seen this story floating around the internet?

motorcycle1

Let me kill the humor by over-analyzing it. The truth is, a guy wouldn’t really care if another guy was distant, and a girl would probably be more in tune with another girl’s emotions.

However, the pastor/counselor in me not only sees the differences in gender in this story, but also the unloving tendencies on both sides that caused this to happen. A more considerate attitude or a few simple words from the guy about his motorcycle would have saved the girl hours of doubts, insecurities, and self-pity. A more loving attitude from the wife would not have assumed the worst about her husband, and she would not have brooded over the issue.

These are sinful tendencies. These sinful tendencies infect every relationship. We should not reduce them to amorality by claiming this is the result of the axiom that “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus.”

Let me contrast it this way:

Without sin: It does not matter if the girliest girl and the manliest man on earth get married; there would be no fights, no insecurity, and no problems. The relationship would be perfectly loving.

With sin: It does not matter if the man speaks “woman” and the woman speaks “man”, or if the man has read the complete guide to understanding women, or if the woman loves sports, pizza, and sex; there would still be fights, insecurity, and problems. The relationship would still be messed up.

The Biblical Answer

James 4:1-2a What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. 

If I picked up the newest book about marriage at the bookstore, I might mistakenly think that if I only understood my wife, then I could help our marital problems. But my theology informs me that the root of our fights is sin, not misunderstanding. Therefore, if I merely add knowledge about women to my marriage, I will tend to take that knowledge and use it to my advantage, manipulating to get my way.

The Gospel

The good news of the gospel tells us that, although we are terribly sinful to our spouses, our sins cause even more problems in our relationship with God. Our selfishness and pride in our marriages are only a few of the many sins that plague our lives (Romans 3:10). Each of these sins demand God’s justice and punishment (Romans 2:4-5).

The gospel tells us that God sent his Son to die to take our punishment for us, so that we could be forgiven and loved by God. Christ gives us new life and power to turn from our sins and love him. The gospel is intended to right our relationship with God. As we find peace with God and our lives are filled with his love, we are free to have peaceful and loving relationships with others also.