Tag Archives: marriage

Does the cross glorify passive acquiescence to violence?

From Donald MacLeod, Christ Crucified.

But if the cross does not quite glorify violence, does it not glorify passive acquiescence in violence? This is a serious issue, particularly if it can be shown that part of the message of Calvary is that victims of abuse should endure it silently, soak up the pain, offer no resistance and demand no justice.  The charge gains plausibility from the fact that too many Christian men have seen meekness as a distinctive feminine virtue and quiet submission as the crowning glory of womanhood, and too many Christian women have accepted this role definition. Even where they have not been abused and violated, they have taken it for granted that they exist to serve their husbands and children, and should sacrifice their own personal fulfillment to those objects.

The cross certainly commends non-violence and non-resistance to the extent that it portrays Christ as one who went like a lamb to the slaughter and who suffered without any threat of retaliation (Isa. 53:7; 1 Pet. 2:23). This fits in with the great kenotic perspective which Paul describes in Philippians 2:6-11. Far from insisting on divine rights, Christ made himself a no-person, devoid of rights, and there can be no doubt that the apostle lays this down as the paradigm for all believers. But that is precisely the point. It is the paradigm for ALL believers, above all for the powerful, who must renounce their own rights and strive for the rights of others. No man who takes the cross as his paradigm can make it an excuse for demanding that women acquiesce under his authority and submit to servility and abuse. Christ has exactly the same destiny in mind for the woman as for the man, and in the meantime, each of us, male and female, is called to do everything in our power to encourage the other in his or her journey towards that destiny. At the foot of the cross, the husband is bound to subordinate his own interests to those of the wife no less than she is bound to subordinate hers to those of her husband. It is patriarchy, not the doctrine of atonement, that needs to be redeemed. (Page 192-193)

When asked for the secret of a happy marriage, the answer is the same as the secret to a blessed and happy life. “Take up your cross, and follow Jesus.” I would add that the responsibility to put to death our old nature belongs to every Christian, as MacLeod so admirably teaches. But it is doubly laid upon the husband when Paul also writes, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.”

Perhaps it is because God knows our pride and our demands and our desire to be kings in our homes that He commands us twice: first as Christians, “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus;” and second as husbands, “Love your wives, as Christ loved the church.”

It is time to put to death our lusts for power, and put on the love of Jesus in service to our families.

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Whom Will You Serve?

8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
(Matt. 4:8-10)

When Jesus was born, the angels told Mary that God would give Him the kingdom of His father David.  Jesus came to do the will of His Father in Heaven and He knew that this will would lead Him to the cross.  Only by suffering the death of the cross would He inherit the kingdom through the resurrection from the dead.

The kingdoms of the world had been given into the hand of Satan as a just punishment for sin.  When Adam fell, mankind became slaves of sin and misery and under the bondage of the devil.

If Jesus was to “plunder the kingdom of Satan”, Satan must first be bound (Matt. 12:29-30).  In order for Satan’s kingdom to be plundered, Jesus must deal with sin.  The only way to deal with sin was to go to the cross and suffer the pangs and torments of hell in the place of His people.

But when Jesus was in the wilderness, Satan offered Him another way.  “I will concede every kingdom to you.  You can usher in peace, prosperity, long life and endless joy – just fall down and worship me, and all this will be yours. No cross.  No wrathful God to deal with.  Just me.”

And so it always is.  He offered the same thing to Adam.  He offers the same thing to every believer.  “Just fall down, serve me, and I will give you your heart’s desire.”

“Are you lonely?  Just one night with that girl in the bar”.

“That man that you have your eyes on can make all of your dreams come true.  God is not good.  He won’t bless you.  Reach out.  Serve me.  Everything will be better.”

“Perhaps if you just work a bit harder; submit a bit more; make sure dinner is on time – then you can have the home of your dreams.  Your husband is angry and stressed.  Make things easier on him and you can have all you want.  Serve a little harder.  Try a little more.  Work a little longer.”

And how often do we forget that God alone is the fountain of all good.

17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (Jam 1:17 KJV)

We reach out to people or to things or to ideas in order to ease the pain of a cursed world, and forget that Jesus already paid it all.  He alone can salve this broken and contrite heart.  He alone can take away the curse.

But the devil and his children will always offer another way.  “Just serve me a bit better, a bit more; just work harder, and you can have whatever you dream of.”

But whatever you do, and whatever you say, and however hard you work, you will never attain it.  It’s a lie.  It’s a lie because the devil is a murderer and a liar and his children follow in his footsteps.

They can’t give you eternal life.  They can’t give you peace.  They can’t even give you food and drink.  They can never ease the loneliness and the heartache of living in a sinful world.  But they can enslave you to a life of “work harder; do better; submit more; don’t make me mad – you know how my temper is!”

If this sounds like your life,  please remember what Jesus said to the tempter.  “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”

Wow.  Astounding words! He will do good to all men.  He will willingly wash feet.  He will take the lowest form and die the death of a criminal.  He will do good deeds of love and mercy and truth.  He will become servant to all and call us to do the same thing.

But He will never, ever worship anything or anyone other than the One True God who has revealed Himself in His word.

As redeemed men and women, we have the glorious calling of reflecting Christ’s glory – of being transformed into His glorious image.  We have the Holy Spirit.  God calls us the apple of His eye!

When the devil and his children give this promise, “I will give you what you want if you will only serve me,” remember where it comes from.  That which comes from God is pure and peaceable, brings joy and reconciliation, and gladdens the heart.  the promise of the devil brings shame and guilt and bondage.  There are always strings attached to every promise of an evil man.

You shall worship the Lord Your God, and Him alone shall you serve.

But there’s more.  Jesus commanded Satan to depart.  Satan and his children will never settle for anything less than worship. They will continue to hound, berate, revile and reproach you until you are finally grovelling at their feet – but even then, they will not be satisfied.

There is only one thing to do with this:  Cast him out.  Get out!  I will worship God alone.

I will serve God in my marriage by seeking my spouse’s good; by taking the lower place and joyfully doing what God has called me to.  I will joyfully give up my rights and even my life if that is what God calls me to.  But I will never, ever, worship and serve the creature.  I will worship and serve God alone and expect good only from His hand.  If my marriage has been irretrievably broken by the wicked actions of my spouse, I will pursue divorce; but I will no longer submit to the demands of the wicked one to bow and serve and worship the creature rather than the Creator.

I will not grovel at the feet of a scoffer and reviler hoping for some crumbs of peace to fall.

I will not serve a son of Belial in the desperate hope for a smile from the sneering face.

I will not seek from the creature what only the Creator can give.  I will seek reconciliation; I will seek forgiveness; I will seek peace, but if they are for war, I will withdraw and plead my case to the Almighty.  But I will never worship the creature.

Only the Creator can give me peace.  It will never come from the lies of the devil.  Jesus has freed me from the bondage of sin and misery.  He has made me an heir to eternal life!

I can’t earn it.  I can’t work harder and get it.  It’s the devil that tells me to work more, be better, grovel more, abuse my body more.  Jesus’ love is sanctifying, cleansing, unearned, complete and infinite.

Husbands, if you are withholding love and tenderness and honor from your wife until she works harder, submits more and learns her place, ask yourself who you most resemble.  Is this the picture of Christ, who loved the church and gave Himself for her?  Or is it the picture of Satan who said, “All this I will give you, if you only fall down and worship me.”

Perhaps this is why Paul said that a reviler (one who uses abusive and vicious speech to belittle and intimidate others) will never inherit the kingdom of heaven (I Cor. 6:9).  Nothing can be further from the beauty and love of Jesus than a reviler.  A reviler says, “Worship me, and I will give you rest.”  But the reviler is the one causing the unrest!  So not only is he a reviler, he is also an extortioner.  How can he inherit the kingdom of heaven unless he repents and becomes something else?

But Jesus actually gives rest.  He takes away sin and shame, doesn’t use it to control and manipulate.  He covers our ugliness and bitterness with His perfect righteousness.  He gives us a new heart and a new spirit so that we can become more and more like him.

So we can say with confidence, “I will do good to all whom God has placed in my path.  But I will worship and serve God alone.”

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God’s grace an excuse for cruelty??

A pastor’s primary function is to preach and teach God’s word to the sheep that Jesus has placed in his care.  In order to do this effectively, he must be a lover of language. He must become a master of communication.  Not, indeed, the language of the world wielded by the manipulators of rhetoric, but as a steward of the treasure that God has placed in his care.  The ungodly man uses language to manipulate people, to get people to act in a way that he wishes them to act.  As Christians, however, we must learn how to use language in order to convey truth clearly and effectively.  But unfortunately, pastors frequently become manipulators of people instead of preachers of truth.

To be a God-pleasing preacher of truth, a pastor must understand two things:

First, he must understand what God teaches in His word.  Good seminaries drill this into the heads of their students with original language classes, systematics, apologetics, Old and New Testament survey classes, exegesis classes, and other offerings.

But unfortunately this is not enough.  A man may be an expert in the meaning and theology of the scripture and be completely unable to communicate that effectively, for he has not yet understood the English language.  Through poor choices of words, truth is skewered and equity is fallen in the streets.

So the second thing that a pastor must understand in order to communicate God’s word effectively is how the English language works and how to put the truth of God’s word into accurate language to be understood clearly by his audience.  The goal in communicating truth is to speak in such a way that the ideas in the speaker’s head are transferred to the mind of the hearer with as little loss as possible.  We may think that we are communicating one thing, when in fact our hearers hear something else entirely.  If pastors do not understand this, their work will be ineffective at best and outright harmful to the soul at worst.

A word in any language may have different nuances or even different meanings altogether depending upon the context of the word.

Take the word “love”.  I saw a car with two bumper stickers.  One said, “I love my Golden Retriever.” The other said, “I love Jesus.”    Same car; same bumper.

What the owner of the car was attempting to communicate was lost to me.  Two abstract thoughts, one referring to the affection that a man feels for his dog, and the other a religious affection for our Lord and Savior, were both denotated by the same word: “love”.  Two thoughts.  One word.

At the very least, I would hope that in the mind of the car owner these were two separate ideas.  But perhaps he meant that his love for his dog was exactly identical (univocal) to the love that he has for Jesus, in which case we would have to charge him with polytheism, in the same way that you would charge a man with bestiality for loving his dog and loving his wife univocally.

For those who may think that I am splitting hairs, or using ridiculous examples, I would like to remind you that we are currently inundated with predators and pedophiles who use the same techniques to cover their horrendous and vile actions.  I take great offence at the North American Man/Boy Love
Association for using the word “love” to describe their filthy lusts, hoping that our refusal to analyze language will give them a pass.  But do not be deceived.  What they mean by “love” and what I mean by “love” are two different things entirely.

A recent blog, A Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism  commits a similar error, with similar deadly consequences for the truth of the Gospel.

You can find some excellent refutations here.

I have much to say.  But I will limit my comments to only one question of this catechism:

Q11.    How good a husband is my husband to me?

A11.    Much better than I deserve, and therefore I will thank God for him every day.

Here the writer makes a deadly error.  Here we see the error of using a word with several different meanings as if it only had one meaning.  Let me illustrate:

What he is saying in effect is this:  Because I deserve eternal punishment in hell for my sins, it follows that I deserve to take whatever injustice and abuse that my husband wishes to dish out to me.

But does this follow, or is it possible that the English word “deserve” has different meanings depending on the context?

In Shakespeare’s great tragedy Hamlet, Hamlet the Prince asks Polonius to take the newly arrived actors to their accommodations and make sure they had what they needed for their comfort.  Polonius replied, “I will treat them according to their desert.”

Hamlet replied, “God’s bodkin, man, much better!  Treat every man according to his desert and who shall ‘scape whipping?”

Hamlet has made the same error.  Polonius was merely speaking of giving them the accommodations and amenities that their station and their labors warranted.  Hamlet then replied, swearing by the bodkin, or dagger, of God, referring to their standing as sinners before the Throne of God. But the desert of the actors at the hands of Polonius and the desert of the actors at the hands of God are two different things!

Are we to believe that since no one has ever earned any favor from God whatsoever, but has received every good thing by grace alone that it would therefore follow that my boss can withhold my paycheck from me, since I deserve far worse?

If the blogger in question would be consistent with his univocal use of the word “deserve”, we would expect the following exchange:  “My employer has robbed me of my wages.  What should I do?”

Answer, “Rejoice that you have received far more than you deserve and continue to work for him with a meek and quiet spirit.  Don’t make a fuss.”

Take it one step further:  “My family was slaughtered by a wicked man.”

Answer: “It was better than they deserved.  Let it go, and don’t make a fuss.  No need to involve the police.”

It is indeed true that God’s mercy can never be earned – or deserved.  We increase our guilt daily before God.  We are fallen sinners.  Unless we are born again, we deserve nothing but eternal wrath and damnation.  This is taught clearly throughout Scripture.

(Eph 2:8-9 KJV)  8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

But this is speaking of our standing before the Judgment Throne of God.  It does not follow that we therefore deserve to be treated with cruelty, hatred and dishonor by wicked men.

If the grace of God can be used to justify injustice and cruelty, then words no longer have any meaning.

From the hand of God we always and continually receive far more that we can ever merit or “deserve”, for even the best works in this life are all polluted by sin.

Does it then follow that we do not deserve kindness, love, respect and honor from our fellow man?  Not according to the Bible.

Consider the following passage:

(Rom 13:7-8 KJV)  7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. 8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

God teaches here that there are those who deserve our taxes, our honor, and our tribute.  But then in verse 8, he carries the argument further:  We owe all men love.  Not the love of the world, but love defined by the law of God.

For a husband, we owe our wives the same love with which Christ loved his church.  Does she earn it?  Of course not.  But does she deserve it?  She certainly does.

In another place, Paul teaches that husbands and wives are both owed benevolence – they deserve it because they are husband and wife:

1 Corinthians 7:3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

If it were not possible to treat our wives worse than they deserve, as this blog implies, then it would not be possible to defraud your wife, and Paul’s command would make no sense (1 Cor. 7:5).  Paul’s argument depends upon the Biblical truth that a husband owes his wife benevolence (favor, good-will, sexual intimacy).  To put it passively, she deserves it because she is his wife.  To withhold those things is to defraud her – or to treat her less than she deserves – directly contrary to the statement made by this blogger.

To the beloved daughters of God, do not allow your husband to treat you less than you deserve as his wife.  On the same token, do not treat your husband less than he deserves as your husband.  God requires equity in our dealings, not fuzzy appeals to misunderstood grace.

Equity means that we treat others fairly, or as they deserve.  Fulfill those obligations and remember that you have a right to expect the same in all of your relationships.  This is what a covenant of marriage is.  We are in a covenant and there are covenant obligations.  A husband owes his wife the fulfillment of his vows, and she deserves that fulfillment, because she is his wife.

If I make a contract, the other party deserves for me to fulfill my end.  Why is marriage any different?

Let us exegete scripture correctly, lest we become prey for the devil, and expose ourselves to the abuses of wicked men.

To affirm the covenant of marriage is to affirm the obligations of that covenant.  The husband deserves for the wife to fulfill her vow, and the wife deserves for the husband to fulfill his vow.  Neither party deserves to be treated with abuse, cruelty, violence and hatred.

The Bible also teaches that a husband or a wife can behave in such a monstrous way that they ultimately forfeit the benefits of this covenant, but that is another post for another time.

I have much more to say, but I have wearied the reader enough for the day.

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What the husband of a chronically ill wife wants her to know.

My dear wife recently sent me a list of three things that a chronically ill person wants her loved ones to know.  You can access that article here

It is very well done, and puts to words all that you are feeling.

My darling, I know.  I’ve heard you.  I understand.

I also want you to know that there are three things that a husband of a chronically ill wife wants her to know:

  1. I want you to know that your value to me is not connected to how many chores you can accomplish.

I don’t love you because you do stuff.  I don’t value you because of your efficient shopping and laundry skills.  I know you have them; I brag about them.  I know that you long with your whole heart to be healthy enough to do chores; and I admire you for that.

But I don’t love you for what you do; I love you because of who you are.  I love you because God has joined us together and my life would be black and white without you in it.  I love you because you are a daughter of God and with your whole life you point me to the beautiful Savior.  I love you because we have something quite special: in our union we picture Christ and the church!  In our relationship, we are something far greater than simply two people who share chores.  We are one flesh, linked together by covenant as Christ is forever united to His church.

I love you because you are my half of the orange; my flesh and my bones.  When you hurt, I hurt.  When you grieve, I grieve with you.

When all you can do is reach out when we are sitting together and touch my hand, the universe moves.  It may seem small, but worlds pass between us.  You aren’t a maid, a laundress, a schoolmarm – you are my wife.  Your touch moves my world.

  1. I want you to know that life consists of more than activity.

I don’t dream of the next party, the next activity, the next thing.  All of that is nothing if you are not there.  My life is already full of too much activity.  What I dream of is simply sitting with you; talking, watching, praying, thinking.

My life is not full because I do a lot of stuff.  I know that you apologize for not being able to be there, but I’d rather bring a meal to you in your chair than dine without you in the banquet hall of the great ones.

I want you to know that when you are here, I’m not missing out on anything.  You may feel useless and a drain on us all, but you have no idea how much we all lean on you.  You are our stability, our home, our comfort.

  1. I want you to know that I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I say this – even though I grieve with you; even though I pray and long for your health and strength; even though I do get weary and overwhelmed sometimes.  But what it all comes down to is this: When I vowed “in sickness and in health” I wasn’t just saying words.  I know that health and sickness only come from the hand of God, and that He is good.

I know that all things must work together for our salvation.  I know that He has linked my life to yours, and we are in this together.  We will grieve together; we will pray together.  And if you NEVER recover strength, we will lean on our God together.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s you and me.  I’m with you.  That’s where I belong.  Let’s do this thing together.

“Set me as a seal upon your heart, As a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, A most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love All the wealth of his house, It would be utterly despised” (Sol 8:6-7 NKJ).

 

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