That thought started me thinking. Some situations seem to be pretty set in stone and unchangeable. Divorces are just happening regardless of how others try to help couples. But what do we do for a couple that we see starting to head down the same path? Is there anything friends can be doing to keep each other off the Divorce Trail?
I think the answer is yes. And it comes down to principles that Christians should be living by in everyday life when nothing traumatizing like divorce is on the table.
We can stop thinking that sin is innocuous.
"On the contrary, as God is holy, all holy, only holy, altogether holy, and always holy, so sin is sinful, all sinful, altogether sinful, and always sinful." It does not matter whether our sin is scandalous or respectable, all our sin is sinful, only sinful, and altogether sinful. Whether it is large or small in our eyes, it is heinous in the sight of God. (Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, p. 29)We can stop thinking that sin is confined to the individual who commits it.
Because we live in relationship with one another, sin is never confined to the person who commits it. In some ways the American ideals of individualism and privacy rights have infected the church to the point where we no longer believe that we have the right to point out sin in our friends. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about this. A man was sleeping with his father's wife and no one was saying anything! He actually told them to remove the person from within their body.
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. (1 Corinthians 5:6-7)Do I think we should go around throwing out everyone who sins? No. There wouldn't be anyone left. My point is that Paul knew that one person's sinful actions could and would affect the character of the others within their community, potentially causing others to stumble and the character of God to be maligned.
We can stop turning a blind eye to sin.
I think most of us are pretty good at seeing our spouse's sin clearly. We don't mind pointing that out to him and many of us tend to do it quite often. But when it comes to watching our friends harm their marriages, we frequently do nothing. Maybe it's part of the uncertainty of youth; maybe older men and women do this better. As a young wife, I frequently turn a blind eye to the obvious damage I see my friends causing to their marriages. I've had countless conversations with one friend about her part of their marital issues, but I've watched another friend repeatedly mock her husband in public. I've listened to another recount disrespectful conversations that occur while the two of them are bickering. Have I said a word? No. Am I close enough to them to say something? Yep. But I'm afraid to rock the boat. I love my friends and don't want them to be mad at me. And if I think about it, I can't remember a time when a friend has pointed out anything that I'm doing to harm my marriage. Are they watching in silence while I sin against Dave? If so, that worries me.
What often happens is that many of us watch our close friends commit sins against their spouse and live in ways that dishonor God. Our friend's situation builds up to a crisis and then we are finally spurred into action. The problem is that it's often too late.
Sin is hard to admit and talk about, but our approach to it has made it even more difficult. Consequently, much that needs to be brought into the light never sees the light of day until it has grown so serious that it cannot be ignored. Issues that were once small and simple are now huge and complicated, and the process of confrontation is much more difficult. (Paul Tripp, War of Words, p.140)What should we be doing? I think Paul answers that question in Colossians 12-17. First he tells us to put on...compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. He tells anyone who has an issue with another to forgive each other as Christ forgave us. Then he instructs us to above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. After all of this, there is one interesting phrase where Paul writes that we are to let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom...
Out of love, compassion, and kindness...out of a humble remembrance of how Christ saved us from our sins...out of a desire to bring peace and unity to the body of Christ...we are called to teach and admonish each other. That means living in the kind of relationship with one another where we aren't afraid to gently help a friend course-correct to be back on the path of glorifying God. The kind of relationship where it isn't a huge dramatic occurrence to correct each other, but the kind where it's just as normal as encouraging each other or rejoicing with each other or mourning with each other. It's living in authentic community. It's a lifestyle. Remember the disrespectful comments I've heard about others' husbands? What if I gently said to the wife, "Hey, I've noticed you talking about John in such-and-such-a-way. How are you guys doing?" and opened up a dialogue about her marital struggles. What if she never noticed how disrespectful it sounded? What if changing the way she talked about him in public began to change her heart towards him? What if that was a key to closing the distance between the two of them? Why do we live as though we think that God hasn't called us to make a difference in each other's lives?
I know that ultimately it isn't really us and our words that will change a person's heart or behavior; only God can do that. But "God calls us to be concerned with faithfulness, not with results (Ken Sande, The Peacemaker, p.182)" Knowing that God is the only one who can change hearts doesn't remove from us the responsibility of trying to warn each other off the destructive paths that they appear to be on. I wonder what would happen if we all took that responsibility more seriously and chose to enter into the inner sanctums of each other's lives instead of skulking around in the courtyard?
Sharing with: The Better Mom, The Alabaster Jar, NOBH, Graceful