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Turning the Bible Into Behavior

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Can We Please Ignore Our Racist Past?

I didn’t think I was being controversial. I wasn’t trying to be inflammatory. But this past week I saw a video that gave the statistics of the top 10 lynching states over a span of 8 decades. I shared the video on my Facebook page and added the message:

2,751 confirmed lynchings over 8 decades in ONLY 10 states. There’s NO WAY the Civil Rights Movement can undo all of the damage to race-relations. We have a lot of work to do…

Here’s the video…

While everyone who saw it agreed that the content was horrific, a couple people chastised me for sharing it, saying that I was stoking the fires of hate and that I should allow people to forget and move on. One said:

Absolutely disgusting….and tell me what purpose you serve in playing a video like this? Show me in the Bible what you are teaching? Sometimes I wonder what it is that you are trying to do with your posts…inspire people to be led to God or be inspired to be led by hate…

And another:

[D]welling on it is like not forgiving. How long can we live the sins of some one else’s father. I grew up in Atlanta, in the 70’s. I remember the bitterness. It was still there. Did it help, in moving forward with change, to bring up things, like lynchings? No. It just stirs up strife. The Bible talks about moving forward. Let’s follow what it says, instead of beating ourselves up in the 21st century, for things that happened over a hundred years ago.

I was astounded that people I know to be Christians would rather ignore the past than to deal with it. It’s not even as though this issue was long since over. This was still happening 49 years ago. It’s NOT ancient history. In Matthew 18, Jesus’s own model for resolving conflict when someone sins against you is to deal with it – not to simply bury it or sweep it under the rug. How do you plan to help reconcile people if you never address wrongs that were done?

“My husband had an affair on me!”

“Yes, but that was last week. Don’t dwell on it. Move on.”

ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS!

Remember when Jonah was on his way to rebuke Nineveh and God said, “You know what, that’s in the past. Let’s just let it go and move on. It doesn’t do any good to dwell on old things.”

Yeah, neither do I.

The Bible is literally FILLED with examples of God calling out unrighteous behavior that needs to be changed. Racism is STILL a prevalent problem in our nation, and these sins of the past that some seem to want to forget only ended 49 years ago. People are still alive that witnessed and participated in such behavior. It is ABSOLUTELY okay with God to tell people that this is not righteous behavior/thinking and needs to be fought.

ostrichI care about reconciling people and that doesn’t happen unless we address the wrongs from the past. You can’t bury your head in the sand and move forward in ignorant bliss.

We need to move away from hate, but we need to acknowledge history and the wrongs we have done so we can move forward.

Shining light into darkness makes it harder for people to hide in the dark.


What do you think? Have you heard people advocating for a “forgive and forget” attitude when it comes to America’s racist past? How does this make you feel?

8 Things Every Wife Needs to Do

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I believe the Bible calls us to live in mutually submissive and mutually controlling relationships. I am not my own, but I belong to my wife. She belongs to me. I need to submit to my wife’s needs, wants, and desires. She needs to submit to mine. I believe the God calls us to this kind of mutuality.

My wife and I teach a 9 week marriage-enrichment class at our church. In our marriage class we split the men and women into gender breakout groups to discuss questions and issues. Yesterday I shared about asking the women to identify 8 things their husbands do that they greatly appreciate. We also asked the men to identify 8 things their wives do that they greatly appreciate.

**Keep in mind that this is simply a list of things that the men in our class appreciated about their spouses. This is not a “MUST-DO if you want to be a Godly wife” kind of article! Please pack away your guns and your feminism and enjoy what these men appreciate about their spouses.

1. She is organized – Not all men are a mess. Some guys are fastidious. But others of us rely on the organization of our spouses to keep us from being a heaping mess. Wives, if your husband is the kind of guy who needs you to be organized don’t fight it. Embrace it. And know that we really do appreciate the fact that one of us has it together. Men, don’t use this as an excuse to be a slob. She’s not your momma, she’s your wife.

2. Takes good care of the kids – I hate to play into gender stereotypes…but here I go. Obviously it’s not true for all couples, but in my marriage (and for other couples I know) the wife is a better nurturer and caretaker than the husband. For example, let’s talk about puke. When my kids are feeling crummy and start to vomit my wife will be in the thick of it (pun definitely intended). I’ve seen her throw out her hand to catch barf before it can hit other stuff. o_O That is SO not me. Men appreciate the kind of care our wives provide for the kids.

3. Takes care of me when I’m sick – Similar to above, we appreciate it when our wives care for us in our sickness. Honestly, when I’m sick I’m a bigger baby than my kids are. The whole world shuts down when I get the flu. And there she is, bringing me toast, hot tea, medicine, whatever I need.

4. Puts me and the kids first – I’m sure there are plenty of women who are total jerks, but I daily see wives and moms put their families first. It’s an incredible trait that more of us should have. We appreciate it.

5. Gives me space and freedom with my friends – Some of the men in our group felt the need to spend “time with the guys” and appreciated it when their spouses gave them space to do that.

6. Cooks good meals – I’m reminded of the Carl’s Jr./Hardees commercial:



7. Thinks of others before herself
– This is nearly identical to number 4, but someone wanted to reiterate it 😉

8. She’s a great cleaner – Last but not least, one of our guys wanted to share how much he appreciated his wife cleaning the house. While this is an admirable trait, this is not excuse for us to be slobs, men!

Well, there you have it. It’s what our class came up with. You want a healthy and happy marriage? Put in the work to make it that way.

How about you? What else would you add to this list?

If you be so inclined, give me a follow:

Christian Dirty Words

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Oh, sure – every knows dirty words. Words that we all know but make people REALLY uncomfortable when you start using them. Comedian Tim Hawkins even has a bit making fun of the 101 most common “Christian swear words”

But one of the dirtiest Christian words you’ll ever hear is…wait for it…

Evangelism.

Yup. A dirty word. Maybe the worst. It’s so bad because it makes Christians and non-Christians squirm. That’s a powerful word that can do that!

~ It makes Christians squirm because the word is always used in conjunction with someone telling us that we’re going to have to talk about our beliefs with someone else. Dang. Don’t get me wrong – we KNOW that it’s not a bad thing. Really, we do. But not all of us are hard-wired to be the up-front, let me tell you what I think kind of person.

And yet, to some degree, that is something we are all called to be part of in some way. It’s a crucial component to making disciples. One of the last things Jesus said was that his disciples were to go out and create more disciples (replication), teaching people to observe everything he commanded. So there’s that. The Apostle Paul goes on to state:

How can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? (Romans 10:14-15a)

No, the Bible makes it pretty clear that Christians are not supposed to be silent about our beliefs. Rather, we’re supposed to be actively engaging the world around us and helping to develop more disciples who follow Jesus. But again – it makes us squirm. We don’t want to have to talk about it. What if people think we’re…odd?

This is often the push-back Christians give when this dirty word comes up. What will people think? It shows the unfortunate trend that we care more about how the world perceives us than we care about carrying out what Jesus told us we’re supposed to be all about. Part of our problem is that we view evangelism as an unnatural event – like door-to-door sales. We freeze when we think about door knocking. But evangelism doesn’t have to be like that. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that evangelism normally SHOULDN’T be like that.

Evangelism SHOULD take place within the context of natural friendship and conversation. Nothing strange or unnatural about it. It’s about looking for windows of opportunity in everyday life into which you can direct spiritual conversation.

I was in seminary when I learned that evangelism was supposed to flow naturally from relationships rather than the door-to-door model. I was taking a class on evangelism and one of the assignments was to – GASP – go talk to people about Jesus. The introvert within me froze. I was discussing the class with my wife one night as we were on our way out to dinner for a Valentine’s Day date (this was before we had young kids and never went out again). She mentioned that anyone can do it if it’s a natural extension of conversation. I didn’t buy it.

As we were sitting at the front of the restaurant waiting to be given a table, a young couple came in and sat next to us. They were roughly our age and were our exact same racial profile (brown woman/white man). My wife immediately turned to them and struck up a conversation.

“NO!” I thought. “I know what you’re doing! You’re trying to show me this evangelism stuff first-hand.” She was, and she was a natural at it. I couldn’t let her show me up, so I decided to engage in the conversation as well. It turns out that natural conversation is a much better place to bring up spiritual issues than a “bashyouovertheheadwithmybeliefs” confrontation. We ended up making friends and a couple weeks later had the couple over to our place for games and dessert!

Evangelism doesn’t have to be a dirty word for Christians if we don’t let it be one. Stop thinking of it as confrontation and start thinking of it as natural sharing within the context of your already established contacts (co-workers, neighbors, friends, family, etc.).

~ Evangelism makes non-Christians squirm for a different reason. Those outside the church don’t want to hear about faith because they don’t want to feel judged. Many people in our world have a live-and-let-live attitude. You believe your thing and I’ll believe mine. Just don’t ask me to believe your thing. Talking to an evangelizing Christian makes non-Christians squirm because Christianity makes people choose: Your way or God’s Way.

This is what the world dislikes about Christianity – it is an exclusive faith. The Bible is clear that all roads DO NOT lead to heaven. The Apostle Peter once preached:

“There is salvation in no one else [than Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

You can’t be good enough and work your way to heaven. You can’t follow some other religious beliefs and still find the One True God. No – Christianity is exclusive. One Way – Jesus. This concept makes many modern non-Christians uncomfortable. Actually, it makes many Christians uncomfortable as well – we don’t want to “rock the boat” and make people feel bad. So we don’t say anything.

But we cannot afford to be quiet. The noted atheist magician Penn (from Penn & Teller) relates a story about being confronted by a Christian man who gave him a Bible and shared about Jesus. While the magician was not converted he did appreciate the fact that this Christian man kindly sought to have a conversation about Jesus. The atheists’ perspective: If you really believe that your way is the right way and that other ways are wrong why WOULDN’T you tell everyone?

That’s the question. What do you believe? Do you believe what the Bible says about the only way to the Father is through Jesus? Do you believe it when it says that salvation is a gift of God’s grace through our faith in Christ? If we do believe it then why aren’t we telling people?

We don’t have to tell people in an obnoxious way. Too many Christians forget tact and graciousness when talking about faith. Why can’t we be winsome while we talk about Jesus? Sure, some people will always be offended at the truth of the Gospel, but we can’t help that. But we can make sure that we are looking for every open window to talk about Jesus to a world that’s lost without Him.

How about you? Do you find it easy or difficult to converse with people about what you believe?

Related Posts:
~ The Effective Gospel is the Simple Gospel
~ Fallen From Grace
~ Sharing the Gospel
~ Do Your Friends REALLY Care?

Forbidden Love

Image courtesy of samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Love can be wonderful thing. Except when we love the wrong people ~ when we love forbidden people. Ooh, taboo love. Forbidden romance. It’s so exciting! Well, not always exciting. For the couple it can sometimes be downright dangerous.

Sometimes parents frown on their children becoming romantically involved with people from a lower social class. I want to tell you a story today of forbidden love, of two opposed families. It’s like the story of Romeo and Juliet…but from the Bible. What, you didn’t think Shakespeare made up that story by himself, did you? It’s a timeless tale. Boy meets girl. Boy falls for girl. Boy woos girl. Girl is swept off her feet. Girl’s family disapproves of boy. Girl’s family massacres boy’s family…. You know – the usual.

Of course, that’s the story that ever father of a girl likes to hear! Keep away from my daughter. When I first met my father-in-law he pulled me aside and told me, “I sleep with a knife above my head and a gun under the bed.”

The story is from the Old Testament. Dinah is the daughter of Jacob. Her mother is Leah. Leah wasn’t Jacob’s favorite wife, so Dinah probably wasn’t his favorite child. But she is part of Jacob’s household. Jacob’s household has been doing a lot of traveling lately. They’ve been in hiding from Esau because Jacob thought Esau was gonna kill him. But wouldn’t you know it, Jacob and Esau reconnect and there’s forgiveness and restoration. And now the family is ready to settle down in Canaan, the land of promise. After making camp Dinah decides to go out to visit with the women of the area. And then, as she’s walking along in the midst of the crowd, she’s seen by the prince. And the prince’s heart skips a beat. It like something right out of a musical.

Prince Shechem sees Dinah and before you know it, they become intimate. Shechem has received a lot of bad press in the past. Many people have accused him of raping Dinah. In fact, many English Bibles title this chapter, THE RAPE OF DINAH. But the subheadings and titles are not part of the original Bible, there were added in hundreds of years later to assist us in reading. There is nothing inspired about the titles or subheadings.

This is how the story goes: Shechem saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and humiliated her. The taking does not mean by force. It is symbolic language, and it is the same expression used to describe taking a husband or taking a wife. It is the same expression used later on in this story when Shechem and his father are trying to convince the Israelites to be part of the community and take wives for themselves. There is nothing violent necessarily implied. Understanding Hebrew and ancient near eastern culture puts it in a different perspective.

Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman was not perceived in romantic or spiritual terms, but in terms of its keeping the family and bloodline alive. The idea of sex being dirty or casual is out of the question. The importance of the individual lies in the continuation of the group, which depends on proper sexual intercourse—that is, proper use of sexual power. That sexual power is used to prevent intrusions that pollute the family that represent loss of strength. Keep it in the family. Keep the tribe strong. If you step outside what is socially permitted then you bring shame, dishonor, and humiliation upon the whole group.

By romantically linking with an outsider, Dinah was diluting the family bloodline and opening them up to weakness. This is her shame, her humiliation. It’s a similar situation as that found in Deuteronomy 22:28-29, where a man finds and takes an unbonded or unattached young woman and lies with her. There is no cry for help from the woman and no violence on the part of the man. There is voluntary sexual intercourse between two unbonded people, but with no prospect of bonding and obligation. This, too, does not qualify as rape. In fact, the man has touched the heart of the woman, as Shechem does to Dinah.

But there is no request for future bonding, and therefore, he has humiliated her. To erase the shame and establish bonding, the man is obligated to give the father of the young woman fifty pieces of silver as a bride gift, to marry her and never divorce her. Despite the fact that there is no rape, the sexual intercourse between these two people is shameful and we see that same expression about humiliation as we see in Dinah’s story. She has not represented the family the right way. This story doesn’t talk about a rape – it talks about two people who fall in love, but the girl’s family sees the union as dishonorable. This is about honor, pride, and family shame.

The storyteller tells us more about the romance:

Shechem’s soul cleaved unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl, and spoke to the heart of the girl. And Shechem spoke unto his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this girl as my wife.”

All of the expressions in this verse are terms of affection. They are terms of courtship and marriage. Where else do we find that expression, “to cleave” in the Old Testament? Genesis 2:24 says, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and CLEAVE to his wife.” Cleave means to be bonded to. And the last expression— “to speak to the heart of” — indicates both Shechem’s action and Dinah’s positive response. This isn’t about the violence of rape. This is about forbidden love and family pride. And Shechem wants to follow through and do things honorably, so he and his father go to Jacob to negotiate the bride price, the dowry, for Dinah. This is actually keeping in line with the law later given in Deuteronomy.

And Shechem and his father ask for the hand of Dinah and, with the marriage, a unification of the two tribes. When kings or princes take wives, it can be for political alliance and economic cooperation as well as mutual attraction and love, so it is a public affair. Hamor, Shechem’s father, puts his emphasis on ‘uniting’, which is spoken of in terms of mutual marriages that will create a bonding between the two groups, to the advantage of both parties. It’s very much like the arranged marriages in the Middle Ages between England, France, Germany, and Spain. King such-and-such gives his daughter to the son of king such-and-such and there is an alliance and general friendliness between the people groups. Shechem wants Dinah; his father is trying to make it a win-win for everyone. “Come, let’s let our children marry! Then we will be united as allies, you can give us your women to marry, you can take ours to marry, trade will increase, and all will benefit.” As for the bride price, the dowry, Shechem is willing to pay dearly, for he loves Dinah with every fiber of his being.

But Dinah’s brothers won’t stand for it. In their eyes, they have been wronged by this outsider. Their honor and pride have been damaged, and nothing would allow them to get over the dishonor. Their sense of injury is of injury to themselves, not Dinah. They don’t care about her as much as they do about themselves and the standing of their family. So they agree to let Dinah marry IF, and ONLY IF, all of the males of the tribe agree to be circumcised. Anything less would be a disgrace.

I would think that right there would be enough to make Shechem say, “I love the girl, but maybe I should look for someone new.” But he’s so taken with Dinah that he agrees. Not only does he agree, but he goes and sells the notion to all of the men in their tribe. This guy should be salesman of the year! SALESMANAnd three days later, while the men are still in pain, Dinah’s brothers go into town and kill every male and capture every woman and child AND make off with the livestock. And they got Dinah from Shechem’s house and brought her back home. It’s an even more tragic ending than Shakespeare could come up with for the Montagues and Capulets. Deceit, fraud, murder, thievery…where does it end?

This is where Jacob steps up to his sons and says, “What have you done?!? Your behavior has made me a stench to the people of this land!” And their only response is, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?” But it is their words, their point of view, not the actions of Shechem, turn their sister into a prostitute. What they really mean is that their honor cannot be bought—which means that no restitution to Dinah herself is satisfactory. The injury is an injury to them and they seek revenge. By saying that Dinah has become like a harlot, the sons of Jacob show that they do not regard Dinah as having been raped. Instead, they are pointing to the fact that she has become a marginal figure by engaging in sexual activity outside her society and without the possibility of bonding, since the sons are unwilling to give their sister to an uncircumcised outsider. For them the relationship threatens the unity of the tribe. It is to this threat that the sons react.

Ironically, if there is a rape in this story, it is Simeon and Levi who ‘rape’ the Shechemites. It is their behavior that is violent and hostile, carried out for the purpose of exploitation. It creates the illusion of dominance, control and superiority, in order to silence their feelings of vulnerability and inferiority. What could have been a beautiful relationship, a loving relationship, is destroyed by honor and shame. It is destroyed by pride and lack of grace and forgiveness.

This story speaks so strongly across the years because the message remains true. What is good, what is lovely, is destroyed by pride. Destroyed by misplaced honor. Destroyed by placing personal agendas above other people. This happens today all the time. Think about the last time you were really offended. Think about who it was that offended you, and what they did that offended you. Know that being in relationships with people and organizations means that every once in a while you might get offended by something. It’s inevitable. Most of the time the offense is not intentional. Did Shechem mean to offend Dinah’s brothers? Heck no! He simply fell in love with a pretty girl. The question is this: How will you respond when that offense comes?

We could be like Dinah’s brothers. Nothing will assuage our anger! We can’t be calmed down! We’ve been wronged! That just isn’t right! Or we can look to see how Jesus handled offense.

Luke 17:3-4 ~ “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4″And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

Or how about Matthew 18:21-22 ~ 21

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, give up your coat. Jesus’ method of dealing with offense brings forgiveness and restoration. Dinah’s brother’s method of dealing with offense brings slaughter, bloodshed, and hurt. I think we can all agree that it’s easier said than done, forgiving and letting go of an offense. But too often we see people in the church dealing with offense in the wrong way. What? I can’t believe I’m being treated this way! This just isn’t right! I’ve been wronged! And we go on a destructive rampage. This isn’t the Christian method. It’s being Dinah’s brothers. Think again to some grievances you have with people or groups. Are you willing to turn the cheek, walk the mile, forgive another 70 times?

Or are you ready for blood?

Do Your Friends REALLY Care?

Ain't Nobody Like This Buddy
Ain’t Nobody Like This Buddy

Are you a good buddy? Do you consider yourself to be a friendly person? What’s the difference between acquaintance and friend? Do you have a close friend? Do you have a friend that is so close that the friend is, in some regards, closer and dearer to you than family? Now, how far would you go for a friend?.

Would you go out of your way and drop what you’re doing in order to help out a friend? When our oldest child was born, we had several friends who went out of their way to help us out. I was at the hospital with my wife while friends went to pick up my mother-in-law at the airport. That night, I stayed at the hospital with my wife and the baby. We gave my wife’s car keys to her mom who was going to sleep at our place.

After her mom had been gone for about 15-20 minutes I realized that her key ring didn’t have our apartment key on it. Mom couldn’t get in! One of my closest friends and his wife lived around the corner of the hospital and he was kind enough to drive me home so we could let Mom in the door and then drive me back to the hospital. There is something humbling about asking and receiving help from friends. But I have found that many times friends don’t mind helping out if you genuinely need it!

Would you be willing to destroy someone else’s property in order to help out a friend? How far would you go, and where do you draw the line? One time Jesus was back home from his travels, probably to rest before getting back to work. But people had heard that he’s back in town and they swarmed Jesus’ house. And some guys bring a crippled friend and, in an effort to get to Jesus break through the roof and lower their crippled friend right down in front of Jesus.

Now we’ve got 5 major players here: Jesus, the crowds, the crippled man, the crippled man’s friends, and the teachers of the law (who were there probably to evaluate and assess who Jesus was and what he was doing and saying. Listen to the story and specifically think about the story from the teachers of the law’s point of view.

Several days later Jesus returned to Capernaum, and it was reported that he was at home. So many crowds had gathered that there wasn’t any room left for them, even in front of the door. Jesus was speaking the word to them when some people came and brought him a paralyzed man being carried by four men. Since they couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof over the place where he was. They dug through it and let down the cot on which the paralyzed man was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some scribes were sitting there, arguing among themselves, “Why does this man talk this way? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

At once, Jesus knew in his spirit what they were saying to themselves. He said to them, “Why are you arguing about such things among yourselves? Which is easier: to say to the paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your cot, and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then he said to the paralyzed man, “I say to you, get up, pick up your cot, and go home!” So the man got up, immediately picked up his cot, and went out before all of them. As a result, all of the people were amazed and began to glorify God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

It would be great if we could really get inside the heads of the people in this story. Can you imagine being able to ask them questions about what they experienced that day?

Jesus, it seems to me that you simply wanted some peace and quiet at home. Maybe put your feet up, munch on some fish and chips…. How did it feel to have so many people pressing around you invading your personal space? How did you feel when these yahoos ripped apart your roof so you would see their friend?

Teacher of the law, why were you there? What did you expect to find? Why were you so offended at Jesus’ comments about forgiving sin?

I’d have to ask the friends of the crippled man, “What were thinking when you carried your friend over to Jesus’ house?” Do you think it was fair to be cutting in line when so many people wanted to see Jesus that day?

To the crowd, “What was it like being there on that day?”

I’d ask the crippled, well, formerly crippled, man, “Did you have any idea what your friends were planning that day? How does it feel to have such good friends that they would go to any lengths to get you in front of Jesus?

I guess it really comes down to this; with whom are you going to choose to identify? Clearly, we can be Jesus. Many of us have had an encounter with Jesus already. That means we are left with 3 characters with whom we could identify. You can be 1) the spectators, 2) the judging legalist, or 3) the friend who stops at nothing to take his friend to meet Jesus.

Don’t be the spectators. They’re just coming to see the show. They don’t really care about what is happening. Don’t be the judging legalist. He’s never understood what Jesus was up to. I love the line where Jesus says, “Which is easier to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk?”

Which is easier? What happens if you say, “Your sins are forgiven” but you’re wrong? Who notices? What happens if you say, “Get up and walk,” but you’re wrong? Who notices? It’s MUCH easier to SAY your sins are forgiven. But Jesus doesn’t hide behind anything. He says, “So that you know that I have authority to talk about the forgiveness of sins, watch this – Get up, pick up your mat, and go home!” And the teachers of the law are left with egg on their faces.

We don’t want to be mere spectators. We don’t want to be the teachers of the law. We want to be the friends. How far would you go to take your friends to meet Jesus? Would you carry them? Would you break through buildings? We all know hurting and crippled people who need Him. How far are you willing to go to bring your friends to Jesus?

Top 5 Areas of Marriage Conflict and How to Manage

Conflict

I teach a 9-week course on developing and maintaining healthy relationships. In the class we regularly do breakout groups of men and women to discuss a certain question or issue. In one of our classes we asked the men and women to split up and, as gender groups, identify their top 5 areas of marriage conflict. Like a couple other issues, both groups came up with the exact same list of conflict areas.

Any guess as to what they came up with?

In no particular order:

1.      In-laws. Not everyone is blessed with wonderful, supportive, and caring in-laws the way I am. Some people have real conflict with their in-laws – conflict that results in fights, hurtful words, and even hurtful actions. One of the problems in dealing with difficult in-laws is that there is only so much you can do when it comes to other people’s behavior. In fact, you can’t do anything about their behavior. But you and your spouse don’t have to do anything with their behavior. What you CAN do is work on your responses to their behavior.

The Bible tells us that the marriage relationship is the beginning of a new family unity. While there are still ties to the old family, we are told that the man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife and the two become one. Simply put, your spouse becomes an extension of you! Now extend the logic – if your parents have a problem with your spouse then you should see it as though they have a problem with you (and vice versa). We need to be supportive of our spouses and “have their backs” even if it means coming against our own parents. If we take the Bible seriously about the unity within the marriage bond, then taking our spouse’s side against family is imperative. Too many “support” until conflict with the family occurs, then we quickly throw our spouses under the bus. Don’t fall into that trap.

Get your partner’s back.

2.      Money Issues. Always a biggie, isn’t it? One word: BUDGET! It’s important for couples to sit down and work out a family budget together. Each one should have a voice and give input for what the budget should look like. This should happen every month. The more you do it together the easier it gets. Also, it is important that spouses do not keep financial secrets from each other. It’s not “my money” and “your money” but “our money.” Remember, the Bible prioritizes marriage as unity.

How we be united if we’re keeping parts of our lives from each other?

3.      The Ex. Yikes. It seems that many people have a lot of problems with an ex. I’ve seen exes do some pretty crummy things. I’ve seen exes intentionally goad the new partner, pushing buttons and being an all-around jerk. My advice? Treat exes like online trolls (people who search for ways to stir up trouble) – all you can do is ignore them. If you engage then you take the bait and get caught in the trap. There is no good way to deal with a troll. They can’t be reasoned with. You can’t convince them of logic or fact. So ignore and walk away.

On a relational level think of the ex in a similar way to the in-laws. The new marriage is what is important. You ought to be supporting your partner above your ex. That person is not part of the unity any more. There might be kids involved. There might be shared property involved. It doesn’t matter. Marital unity is what matters.

Get each other’s backs, and leave the ex out of it.

4.      Child Discipline. This one can bring up a lot of difficulties whether the kids are part of a two-parent household or if you’re in a blended family. The difficulty lies in the fact that we’re trying to get two adults to agree on the best course of action on how to raise and discipline other human beings. There’s no easy way to help to people come to agreement on the best way to raise kids. There are many different theories on the “best” ways. What I can say is that it’s possible for parents to find compromise. Each partner can up with a list of “non-negotiables” and a list of “preferables.” The preferable is where we strive to compromise (yes, that might mean giving in and letting your spouse win the day). This is not going to be a quick discussion, and there might be lots of give and take over the course of years of parenting. Don’t throw your hands up in the air and quit.  No matter what, even in disagreement, always show a united front before the kids.

Stick with it and work together.

5.      Score Keeping. This is sometimes called quid pro quo which means “this for that.” It really comes down to keeping a tally of who did what and using that tally to try to motivate our spouses to do something for us. Healthiest relationships don’t keep score (I did it this time – it’s your turn to do it now). In biblical marriages, each spouse seeks to serve the other no matter who did what or how many times he did it. If I really love my wife I should strive to meet her needs, whatever those needs may be. That means that sometimes I will be the one cleaning the bathroom several weeks in a row (even though I REALLY don’t like cleaning bathrooms). It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve done it. I will do my best to serve her. And she ought to have the same attitude towards meeting my needs and serving me. It’s mutual.

When this happens we can drop the score keeping and be confident in the fact that our spouses will do whatever they can to love and support us.

What do you think? Have you had personal experience in these areas of marital conflict? Would you add anything to the list?

Related Posts:
~ 8 Things Every Husband Needs to Do

No Cheap Sex

Husband and Wife
Husband and Wife

It seems that there is a general disregard for the power of marriage in our culture. With the divorce rate near 60% couples have a greater chance of splitting than they do going the distance. It absolutely breaks my heart when I see couples split. Of course there are a couple of legitimate reasons for couples splitting, but it’s still heartbreaking. God didn’t design us to be in temporary relationships. We were created to be part of a deep covenant; connected to our spouses in relationships that go far beyond any other relationship. But we don’t talk that way much. Certainly Hollywood doesn’t teach us about committed and enduring relationships. There must be a better way of doing things. I think God has set us up for success if we would just pay attention to what he tells us and learn to live it.

Here are five elements on the Bible’s perspective on the powerful bond we call marriage:

1. There’s no such thing as cheap sex. God says in the Old Testament, “If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife.” (Exodus 22:16) Wow! One night stands? No such-a-thing in God’s community. Can you imagine if we lived by this principle in our country? The bars would be empty every weekend. Your wingman wouldn’t be the guy who helps you land the girl – he would be the guy to remind you, “You take her home tonight you’re stuck with her EVERY night.” Cheap sex hurts people and does not breed lasting, intimate relationships. Cheap sex does not promote family and thus weakens the nation (I believe strong nations are built on strong families, but that’s a post for another day). Cheap sex is looking for the positive elements of relationship without the commitment and struggle all genuine relationships must endure. In short – it’s not God’s ideal.

2. Marriage is designed to be a lifelong commitment. The Apostle Paul writes, “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wished….” (1 Corinthians 7:39) I do believe that Jesus and Paul do talk about some exceptions whereby they permit divorce, but God’s IDEAL is still clear – marriage is supposed to be an enduring commitment between a man and a woman.

3. Your spouse influences your life (whether or not you realize it!). I once read that we are a composite of the five people we spend the most time with. That’s simultaneously an interesting and scary thought. But the people we “do life” with end up being who we are like. It’s no wonder that the Bible cautions us to choosing spouses that will bring us closer to God rather than drive us away from God. “Shall we then…act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?” (Nehemiah 13:27). Or Paul: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers….” (2 Corinthians 6:14). Contrary to what some proclaim, these verses are not about racial purity. Even ancient Israel allowed foreigners to be part of the their community and God commanded justice towards them. No, the issue is about the gods that foreign people serve. People who serve different gods and have different spiritualities tend to pull us away from the One True God, Yahweh. This was Solomon’s downfall. The Bible actually doesn’t condemn his multiple wives. It condemns his choice of foreign women that led to worshipping false gods. The person we marry will end up influencing us, so choose wisely.

4. Marriage ought to be respected and honored and not taken too lightly. It’s a commitment and not something to fool around with. God tells us in the New Testament, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” (Hebrews 13:4) That certainly goes against the attitude of our day.

5. Marriage is not the same as merely cohabitating. Though there is no direct command regarding cohabitating, there is a story in the Gospel According to John in which Jesus encounters a women outside of a little town. She begins talking to him and tells Jesus that she has no husband. Jesus answers, “What you’ve said is true. You’ve had multiple husbands and the man you’re with now is not your husband. Yes, what you’ve said is true.” Jesus doesn’t see cohabitating on the same level as a committed, covenantal relationship established by marriage.

So where does that leave us? It leaves us with an incredibly high ideal. God’s ways set the standard for us, and we have fallen short. We need a radical change in our perspective – we need to align our behavior with God’s ideals. It can start today. It can start with you. Are you married? Start looking at your marriage through the God’s perspective. Are you single? Start looking at your dates and relationships from God’s point of view. Do you have kids? Start teaching them what God’s ideal is so that they grow up grounded with a biblical foundation for what they desire in marriage. We can change our perspective. The question is – do we want to?

How about you? What do you think about God’s ideal for marriage?

Learning How to Forgive

Now more than ever it seems that forgiveness is an area in which we all need improvement. Sometimes people do things to us intentionally to hurt or wound us. Other times the offense is not intended but damages nonetheless. When we are hurt our response is often to hold on to the grievance. It fuels our anger and animosity towards others. We often forget that we have the same ability and inclination to wound others. It’s easier to forgive our own sin and failure than to forgive others who wound us. This was part of the point of Jesus telling us to “remove the plank from our own eyes before trying to remove the speck from someone else’s eye.” We live in a “BUT THEY…” culture. Jesus says, “Forgive,” and we respond, “BUT THEY…!” We prefer the hurt over the healing and the forgiveness. We demand justice before we will even entertain the thought of forgiveness.

But the Bible doesn’t place any limitations or restrictions on forgiveness. There’s no tally we keep and, once we reach a certain point, refuse to extend forgiveness any more. Forgiveness is an attitude – something that can be extended even before the offender asks. It can be extended even if the offender NEVER asks. Jesus asked God to forgive his murderers, not because they deserved it, but because forgiveness is part of God’s character.

Real forgiveness, then, is what we ought to seek. Real forgiveness lets go of the right to get even or pursue justice and instead extends compassion and love. Real forgiveness is not deserved or earned – it is a gift from the one who is hurt to the one who does the hurting. The Apostle Paul writes: Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord (Romans 12:19). We can forgive and leave payment up to God. He frees us to love. Forgiveness fosters love. Refusing forgiveness fosters hate.

But we don’t forgive because it’s the nice thing to do. We forgive because it is God’s nature to forgive. As we seek to be faithful followers of Christ, we need to be letting his nature become our nature. Paul writes again, “Accept one another and forgive one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive” (Colossians 3:13). And again, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God forgave you in Christ” (Ephesians 4:32). Our forgiveness wasn’t earned. In fact, the Bible tells us that God showed us his love in that Christ died for us while we were sinners. We were broken and messed up and he chose to extend love and forgiveness.

It doesn’t end there. Extending or withholding forgiveness can affect our relationship with God. Jesus says, “If you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.” Tough words to live by, but I didn’t make them up. God calls us to live in forgiveness and reconciliation if we want to have a healthy and vibrant relationship with Him.

Ultimately, forgiveness brings freedom. It allows us to have healthy lives. It opens the door to reconciliation and makes for richer relationships. Our world is being torn apart by hate, hurt, and an unwillingness to forgive. As Christians we can set the example for the way God calls us to live – we can extend love and forgiveness, even when people don’t deserve it. It’s the only way forward.

How about you? Do you have any experience being forgiven by someone else even when you didn’t deserve it?

8 Things Every Husband Needs to Do

Marriage

If you’ve read any of my blogs about marriage and relationships you will know that I believe the Bible calls us to live in mutually submissive and mutually controlling relationships. I am not my own, but I belong to my wife. She belongs to me. I need to submit to my wife’s needs, wants, and desires. She needs to submit to mine. I believe the God calls us to this kind of mutuality. Understanding that groundwork, some of my posts on marriage and relationships will cover biblical principles without expressly quoting the Bible chapter and verse. Like today’s post.

In the 9-week marriage class I teach we split the men and women into gender breakout groups to discuss questions and issues. In one session I asked the women to identify 8 things their husbands do that they greatly appreciate. Here is there list:

  1. He pitches in around the house and with the kids – it seems that women don’t want to be the only caregiver and maid in the house. Men, this is our chance to step up and take ownership of the household. Stop passing the buck and figure out how you can be an active participant in running the family. One good method is to list out every task common to households (there are probably about 30-40 regular tasks) and split them up. Volunteer and say, “These 15 that you are already doing I will take off your hands.”
  2. He takes good care of me when I am sick – it is a great feeling to be cared for when you are under the weather. And let’s face it: women tend to be better care-givers than men. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Next time your woman is sick don’t complain about how you have to pick up the slack. Force her to go lie down and volunteer to make dinner, bathe the kids, read bedtime stories, and whatever else she normally does ALL THE TIME anyway.
  3. He takes care of the kids without complaining – whether you fathered them or are a blended family, BE A FATHER to the kids in the house.
  4. He asks what I need to be content and happy – I’ve heard it jokingly said that “Happy wife = Happy life” but IT’S TRUE! Your life will never be happier as when your spouse is happy. Care for her. Nurture her. Find out what her happiness requires and then pursue it diligently. When she knows that you care about her happiness it frees her to think about yours (you both win!).
  5. He helps me with my job/career – your wife has dreams, ambitions, and goals in her life. Don’t think that she’s a bump on a log. Assist (as much as you are able) in helping her realize success in her career.
  6. He does things without me having to ask him to – seriously, take initiative. She doesn’t want to be your momma. She wants to be your partner.
  7. He helps get the kids off to school – SEE NUMBER 3
  8. He has a good sense of humor – Everyone loves to laugh. We bond with people over laughter. If you and your wife find ways to laugh together it will help cement your relationship.

Well, there you have it. It’s what our class came up with. You want a healthy and happy marriage? Put in the work to make it that way.

How about you? What else would you add to this list?

Related Posts:
~ Top 5 Areas of Marriage Conflict and How to Manage

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