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Keeping Love Alive - Volume 4
Four Relationships Great Marriages Have in Common
We’ve all heard or read news stories that celebrate couples who’ve been married for 5, 6, or even 7 decades. So how did they stay together that long? What’s their secret? And better yet… how can we build those types of lasting bonds? Through the 4th volume of our Keeping Love Alive series, Chip’s identifying 4 relationships great marriages have in common. Learn why these connections are critical to every relationship and how you and your spouse can better prioritize them in your marriage - starting today.More from this series
This final message is the most challenging, but the one that has the potential to bring the greatest breakthrough. And the fourth and final relationship is a Christlike relationship to personal attacks and injustice. Great marriages are characterized by couples who refuse to repay evil for evil, within or outside their relationship. In case you missed that, great marriages are characterized by couples who refuse to repay evil for evil, within or outside their relationship.
I mean, all the things that we have talked about, right? “He did this? Well, I’ll do that.” “Well, since she did this, I’ll do that.” And it can come out in sarcasm, it can be passive-aggressive, it can be withholding affection, it can be being late on purpose.
Some of us know how to press our mate’s buttons. And we have been wounded so we come around the side and we have jabs and then we say, “Oh, I was just kidding.” Right? We have all kind of ways to repay evil for evil. And when we do it outside our relationship, it creates havoc in our soul, so that destroys our marriage.
Translation: Every couple wounds one another and injustice, betrayal, and personal attacks will happen to all of us from within and outside the church. If these haven’t happened to you, don’t hold your breath; they are coming. It’s a fallen world. You will be betrayed. You will experience injustice. And you will receive wounds from people that you love and the ones that hurt you the most are the people that are closest to you.
No one can hurt you like your kids can hurt you, and no one can hurt you the way your mate can hurt you. Your greatest joys and your greatest pains will be with the people that you love the most.
The principle is we must extend the mercy and the forgiveness to others that Jesus has extended to us. Colossians 3, after talking about our new life in Christ, he says, “And so, as those who are chosen, holy and dearly loved by God,” here’s an action, we are commanded, “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving each other just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. And beyond all these things, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts to which indeed we are called into one body. And be thankful. And let the Word of God richly dwell within you, with all wisdom, admonishing and teaching one another, giving thanks through Him to the Father. And in whatever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to the Father.” We must extend the mercy and the forgiveness to others that Jesus has extended to us.
Well, how do you develop a Christlike relationship to personal attacks and injustice? I’m going to give you three ways. Number one, we need to know Jesus’ teaching. Matthew chapter 5, verses 43 to 48. Jesus is speaking to His followers. And they have been told: This is how life works. And so, He says, “You have heard it said,” this is how life works, basically, “but I say to you.”
“You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Could you underline love your enemies and then underline pray for those who persecute you?
And then there’s a purpose clause – why? “That you may be children of your Father in heaven.” It would mean you have family likeness. To be a son of or to be like your heavenly Father. It’s: This is how you treat your enemies. And then he says, “Well, what is your Father like?” “He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even tax collectors doing that? And if you greet your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even the pagans do that? Be perfect,” and circle the word perfect. The Greek word is teleos. The idea is be perfect. In other words, be mature or be exactly how you are designed and created to be. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
And so, the question is: How would obeying Jesus’ teaching about our enemies change your response to your mate when their words or actions wound you? That’s loaded, isn’t it? This wasn’t hypothetical. I mean, Nero would take the Christians and he would bind them, and then he would tar them, and then he would light them. And for his cocktail parties, they would provide the light on the patio.
Peter would later write, “Why are you surprised at the fiery trial that you’re undergoing, as though something strange is happening?” He would write to them, he says, “If you suffer for doing what is evil, you know, you’re probably going to get the consequences. But when you suffer for doing what is good, this finds favor with God.”
When I respond in a counterintuitive way, the way Jesus did and the way Stephen did – they weren’t doormats. It was out of their strength, not their weakness. “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” It’s a power.
And I find at the very personal, practical level, it can be a real challenge when your mate wounds you. It can be a comment, it can be a behavior. Now, by the way, forgiveness doesn’t mean you don’t deal with the issue. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you kiss and make up and everything is okay in twenty-four hours.
Forgiveness is you take away the right to pay back. The root word is to release. You release them from: You owe this because this is what you did to me and this is how I’m going to pay you back. And you say, “God, this is – I’m going to give them what You have given to me.”
The second way that we learn to have a Christlike relationship to personal attacks is that we have to practice overcoming evil. And in Romans chapter 12, he begins at verse 14 through 21 speaking to the fifth group that he addresses. After eleven chapters of grace, verse 1, this is the normal response of a believer in his relationship with God. You offer your body as a living sacrifice. You’re surrendered to Him. The normal response to the world system with all its temptations, energized by the enemy, is that you are living separate from the world’s values.
The normal response to your relationship with yourself is you have a sober self-assessment, an accurate view, you discover where you fit in the body of Christ, and you exercise your gifts to serve others. And then in verses 9 through 13, the normal response of a Christian toward other believers is to radically, sacrificially serve one another. Then in verse 14, he shifts and says, “Well, how do you respond to the evil, especially evil people, coming at you?”
And by the way, he’s saying, “This is normal Christianity.” “Bless those who persecute; bless and curse not.” By the way, the word curse means to desire for someone to be lost eternally. So, this isn’t like someone said something mildly offensive. And bless is the desire for them to not only be saved, but to experience God’s favor. Do you realize how radical this is? Can you imagine being in the first century and your whole life you have been taught, “Love your neighbor; hate your enemy.” And then this rabbi comes and starts, you know, like, really?
And then He lives it out. And because He talks about: There’s a way of life that you see in the world and I’m bringing – the kingdom is here – and I’m the King. And there’s a kingdom ethic and there’s now a set of values in the way that doesn’t make any sense except when you do it, I show up. And the peace and the security and the power that the world is looking for, you experience when you do it My way. And so, when you die you find your life. When you give, you receive. You’re the change-agents of the world.
And then He says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.” In context, He is still talking about how you treat people who are persecuting you or who are evil.
Now, I want to be really clear here. There are certain situations where you need to have boundaries. I have taught this before and had people say, “Well, you know, gosh, my father sexually abused me.” Or, “I have been in physical harm.” Or – we have to bless people, but that doesn’t mean we have to have contact.
And so, there’s always a stance for truth, but He’s talking about personal relationship here. There is a time to fight and there’s a time for peace. But He’s talking about, in personal relationship, you bless those who persecute you and the way you do it is – can you think of someone that maybe hurt you or wounded you and how do you feel like when they get a raise or they get promoted? I mean, down deep. Right?
This is so unfair. Because you know how they treat people and you know all this and you know all that and, yet, they got that. Or – right?
I could tell you multiple stories and I will tell one. A fellow who I know well. And he went through a really ugly, ugly divorce. They weren’t Christians. A lot of bad stuff. And his wife for the next twenty-five years, her goal was to make life miserable. And, I mean, alienate from the kids and hostility and anger and just poured it out.
And shortly after the divorce, he became a Christian. A few years later he married a very godly woman and they began to really walk with God in a powerful way. And out of her bitterness and her soul, she had alienated other people. He ended up becoming pretty wealthy and gave her thousands and thousands and tens of thousands of dollars. And even gave her a house was part of settlements. And she squandered it all and came to a place where, as she was aging, she had nothing.
And he and his wife bought a home for his ex-wife after twenty-five years of those treatments. And his daughters watched how he treated her. And then he set up a fund through one of the daughters so that she couldn’t squander it all, so she would be able to live the rest of her days. And he said, “It was my wife as we prayed who really encouraged us to do that.”
See, he released her. He said, about the first couple years it was just like, you know, I mean, it was stuff like, “Don’t you touch the key to the house that you just gave me.” I mean, it was just so ugly. And he said, “You know, after about three years,” he said, “we actually sat down and we had a Thanksgiving meal, slightly awkward, but this embittered woman sat with our daughters, myself, my wife and we had a civil conversation and I watched a heart that was rock hard begin to open up.”
But then he gives some safeguards. “Be of the same mind toward another.” The idea is when you’re doing this, don’t take this position: This guy, this gal is actually a jerk and aren’t I a wonderful Christian doing this?” In fact, in case you didn’t get it, he says, “Don’t be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly.”
See, you don’t do this out of, you know, right? It’s called being self-righteous. “Do not be wise in your own estimation.” Don’t think, like, Well, I’ve got it all down and this…right? And then the second major command, that’s verses 14 to 16. Verse 17, you might underline the first word, “Never,” well, like, how often is that? What’s the Greek word for never? Never. “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.” And I might add, even to the one we are married to.
“Respect what is right in the sight of all men,” and this is one of the keys, especially in our marital relationships. The word, this translation is “respect.” The word is consider. Take into account. It’s sort of a stepping back and you might write this down, this has helped me. Everybody behaves in a way that makes sense to them. When someone does evil, in their mind, this makes sense to them. “This is how I get ahead; this makes sense to me.” The real step in having your heart where you can be much more like Jesus, it’s empathy.
And you don’t want to have any because you have been wounded. And what you want to do is protect and then bash them. And so, when he says, “Respect what is right in the sight of all men,” it’s this ability to disengage from the emotion and the wound and especially if it’s your mate, “and consider,” in other words, take into account. It’s a word like an accountant looking at all the numbers and wondering how the numbers all fit together. It’s kind of examining things and realizing: He just said this or he wounded me again or there was this action.
And not excusing any of it, but it’s like stepping back and going, “I can see at least how maybe in view of her background or his background and the circumstance and the wounds they have, how this could have happened and how I received it.” You’re not saying it’s right, it doesn’t mean the wounds went away. I will tell you this, we had really, really big problems in our marriage, and yes, we needed Christian counseling. But it wasn’t until I heard my wife explain what it was like to grow up in her home. It wasn’t until I heard – I had seen her father – but I heard what she lived with.
It wasn’t until I heard the journey that she had been on and it was like I was so focused on what she wasn’t giving me, so focused on her lack of response, I was so focused on being frustrated and hurt and protecting myself and attacking her. When I just took the moment, I remember in the counselor’s office thinking, Oh my gosh. It’s amazing that she is even a nice person, let alone this loving person.
And you know what? It didn’t change some things in our marriage I didn’t like and she needed to change and I needed to change. But it was the first time I had empathy. It was the first time I considered we were apart for a long time, there is a lot of temptation, there is a lot of struggles, there is…and he or she absolutely blew it and violated this, but there’s some sense of consider how that person got there.
It’s so important to get a grip on kind of where our mate has been and what they have been through, not to excuse behavior, but to understand it.