Imagine for a moment this conversation between a marriage counselor and a couple who are in need of help finding their way back to the love and respect they once shared with each other.
“So Mike, what do think the real problem is in your relationship and what has you so angry today?”
“Well doctor, I’m sick and tired of being disrespected by her, I know I’m unreasonable sometimes, but give me a break. There was a time when there was no way she would have been so defiant and talked to me they way she did and does all the time.”
“Doctor, that’s his side of the story…in fact, for the past few years I have been treated more like his maid or housekeeper; like my sole purpose in life, the whole purpose of our marriage, is to give him pleasure. To make matters worse, you should see and hear him when he has his obnoxious friends over to watch a ball-game, before the end of the game I’m completely humiliated! If I thought it was just the beer talking it wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s not and I’m not taking it anymore (she said sobbing).”
“Mike and Susan, we have spent many hours sorting things through and I have listened to both you. You see, the problem is an absence of mutual respect and the only way to resolve it is for you Susan, to listen to your husband and obey him no matter what he says or asks you to do. After all, Mike is the ruler of your household and unless you yield to his wishes, completely, there will be no end of the disrespect and discord between you. Believe me when I say, Susan, it’s better to suffer in silence and gain the respect of your husband than to end up with nothing and out on the street. Susan, it’s really for the best and you will come to realize it some day if you will just yield to Mike’s authority.”
See any parallels to the account found in Esther, chapter one, of King Xerxes and his queen, Vashti?
I don’t know about you, but the doctor’s advice in the narrative above, sounds like two pounds of baloney in a one pound sack. But what’s really tragic about this fictional exchange is that many couples find themselves in just such a predicament and the advice they get, is often just as inane. Sadly, there are even those who think this is what the bible teaches about love and respect in a marital relationship. Much to the contrary, the bible teaches that unconditional and selfless love, the love that Christ demonstrated on the cross, is the love we should imitate in our relationship. Scripture also teaches that submission is to be mutual and freely given by a husband to a wife, and she to him. That is how mutual respect is built and sustained. But what do you do if you just can’t seem to get off the blame train, that everyday seems to moving faster and faster, heading toward disaster?
The first thing that is required is really obvious, but not necessarily easy to do, that is to admit that you have a problem and that you may be at least partially to blame. If this sounds like confession, you’re right, but the confession I’m talking about here is not to your spouse, but to yourself. This should immediately ratchet down the volume and bitter words that are banging around in your head, just waiting to come out of your mouth. Second, tell yourself that there is no way you can do it on your own, you’ve tried it already and it didn’t work. Only a fool keeps banging their head against a wall, hoping that the next time it won’t hurt. Sure, it’s a good idea to talk to someone you both trust and respect for perspective, but if you are looking to end your strife and not your marriage, turn to the one who joined you together in the first place, Almighty God; more specifically, the Holy Spirit, who lives in you to be your counselor and guide (Matthew 16:7, 13). This was the promise our Lord Jesus made to his disciples before and after He went to the cross and it is the promise that He makes to us today…to you… to all who call him Lord.
Third, forgive them! “But she just won’t relent, we’ve been over it time after time…I’m just tired of the fighting, then silence and then fighting again.” The apostle Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me, up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21, 22).” How much more should a husband or wife be willing to forgive each other?
Read the narrative above again, but this time, substitute the words of the apostle Paul, found in Ephesians 5:15-22, in place of the prescription given by the doctor to this unfortunate couple. “Be very careful, then, how you live…not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Holy Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This is how to get off that speeding train, together.
Tool #347 What does Paul mean when he tells us to speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs? Speak to each other in love, with respect and praise for who they have become through Christ. Make it the music of your heart.