Performing a Biopsy on Your Marriage

May 23, 2012 at 9:29 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians, John | 10 Comments
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Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

I Corinthians 13:4 (emphasis added)

A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.

Proverbs 14:30

Husbands and wives are one flesh. The opposite of a sound heart is a divided heart. Can a one-flesh body thrive with a divided heart? No, the Bible says that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. We have a word for when something inside our body starts attacking the very body that gives it life: cancer. That’s what “rottenness of the bones” means. It is describing an eating-away from the inside.

This is how it works: First you think there is at least some basic minimum to which you are entitled. “I don’t ask for much, but…” Second, you see something that you don’t have that would fulfill that longing (covetousness). “All I’m asking for is…” Third, you see that your spouse does have the thing you long for or something that satisfies him or her in the way that you are not being satisfied (bitterness). “Well, I don’t see you having to put up with that…” Fourth, it occurs to you that if you don’t get to have it, he or she shouldn’t either (the wrong kind of jealousy). “Fine! If you’re going to be that way about it…” Fifth, out of spite, you don’t want your spouse to have it, or you want to have it for yourself instead (envy).

To further aggravate the situation, there are usually two sides to envy. You are not happy because you don’t have something, and you are resentful that your spouse does have it. Even if you are able to suppress the kinds of statements used for illustrative purposes in the paragraph above because you realize that these types of feelings are too ugly to express out loud, you can still succumb to love-negating envy. It’s just that you do it secretly. You rejoice when your spouse weeps. You weep when your spouse rejoices. When that happens you have lost your “soundness of heart.” You have “rottenness” eating away at “the bones” (the infrastructure) of your marriage.

Let’s see how the Bible says to handle this by looking at the example of John the Baptist:

After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison. Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.

John 3:22-27

John recognized that envy is not only potentially disastrous to a relationship or a common cause, but it is an attack on the wisdom and the providence and the sovereignty of God.

Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.

John 3:28-30

Most married couples had a “best man” and a “maid or matron of honor” in their wedding. The attitude of these people is supposed to be happiness for the bride and bridegroom’s joy. How awful if your best man or maid of honor had been standing there at your wedding, secretly seething with anger and envy because you were getting to experience joy that they weren’t – or if you were marrying the person that they secretly wanted for themselves! In my marriage I don’t normally think of me decreasing and my wife increasing, but I should think of the Lord of my marriage increasing. In marriage we are supposed to actually want our spouse to have every good and perfect gift that God has for her or him. There’s no room for envy of each other. (Likewise, there’s no room for envy of what another couple has in their marriage.)

In the last lesson on marriage I asked, “Is there some quality or virtue about your spouse that you wished he or she did not possess?” With recognition of the destructiveness of envy in view, a better question now would be, “Is there some virtue or quality about your spouse that you are glad he or she has even though you don’t have it?

Jump-Starting Your Marriage

May 7, 2012 at 10:47 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 10 Comments
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Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

I Corinthians 13:4 (emphasis added)

Spouses should not be envious. Is there some quality or virtue about your spouse that you wish he or she did not possess? In the Bible’s description of agape love, there are both positive and negative sides. Christian love suffers long, which means that spouses should put up with mistreatment from the other spouse. Spouses should also be kind, which means to take the positive initiative of “doing good” to your spouse at every opportunity. If you are familiar with your car battery, you know that there must be a “negative” and a “positive” charge, or else your car won’t go anywhere.

Without these “negative” and “positive” applications of Christian love our marriages likewise won’t “go” where God wants them to go. The Bible gives “thou shalt nots” and “thou shalts,” often hand in hand.

In I Corinthians 13:4, the Bible adds that agape love is not envious. Envy occurs when you don’t like the situation someone else is in because you perceive that their situation is better than yours. Envy is not exactly the same thing as jealousy. Jealousy in a marriage is not necessarily a bad thing. We need to be jealous over our spouses instead of jealous of our spouses. There is a righteous jealousy which does not want our spouses’ affections to be given to someone else, and this jealousy is righteous instead of selfish because it is motivated by an honest belief that those affections – if given to you instead of someone else – would actually be the best thing for your spouse. In other words, you should desire the affection, attention, and devotion of your spouse, knowing that you will be a trustworthy recipient of those feelings. Probably the best way to illustrate this is to recognize that God is a jealous God because the giving of our devotion or love to anyone or anything else over Him is simply not right, and it’s disastrous for us.

Envy, on the other hand, is a bad thing in general. Think of some instances in the Bible where envy caused problems: Joseph’s brothers in Genesis 37; Haman against Mordecai in Esther 5; Jonah at Nineveh after the Ninevites repented; Lucifer, because his envy was tied to his pride.

In fact, it is primarily because of the relationship of pride to envy that envy is such a danger in marriage. There can be a tendency in marriage to seek what we think we deserve, rather than seeking to serve. Envy defeats service because envy says to your spouse, “You shouldn’t have that.” Or, “You shouldn’t have it your way.” And the hidden agenda is, “You shouldn’t have that because I’m the one who should have it.” Or, “You shouldn’t have it your way because I should be having it my way.” Such thinking leads to a failure to express the love of Christ.

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

Romans 12:15

The love of Christ is an expression of genuine empathy: You genuinely desire the other person’s summum bonum – their highest good.

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