Thursday, October 20, 2011

Brewing a bitter cup

Everybody loves a loophole.

"But officer...
    ...I didn't see the sign."
    ...didn't know it was a school zone."
    ...can't you see I'm pregnant." (A tough one for a guy to use.)
    ...I'm late to meet with the President."
Despite the passion with which many insert loopholes into Scripture, God's word contains precious few.  Perhaps that's why so many find biblical Christianity unpalatable. No wiggle room. You are or you aren't.  You do or you don't. You will or you won't.

This is especially true for husbands. In fleshing out for the church at Colossae what it meant to live the Christian life (Colossians 3), Paul slaps down on the table a few loopholeless challenges, one aimed right between the eyes of husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. (3:19)
No doubt you've heard the first part of that verse before (um, check out the masthead), but as I opened God's word this morning, my brow knotted on the second half of the verse.  "Do not be harsh with them?" It means to not embitter them, not to sour their stomach. What would prompt the apostle to toss in such an admonition? Could be a couple of things.  One, the Colossians could have been notorious wife-abusers. Having never heard such a thing, we can probably dismiss that notion out of hand.

Perhaps men have a propensity to be harsh toward their wives. Hmm. I think that one might reside a bit closer to the mark. Why is that? Let's toss a few generalities. First, men tend to be results oriented. Get 'er done. There's no crying in baseball! You can't get 'er done, we'll get someone else. You know the shtick. Works fine in commerce, politics, athletics, etc.  But that doesn't fare too well with one (the wife) who thrives on relational interchange.

Second, our relationships don't venture into emotional territory. We just don't go there. You're more likely to find a conservative at MSNBC. Just because we don't normally go there doesn't mean that we can't. If we don't consider the emotional difference and if we don't consider our tendencies when it comes to handling problems, don't be surprised when you want her to hear what you said and she just hears your tone. You could have stated that you were whisking her away to Monaco, but your manner left her feeling like your carburetor and not your bride.

Third, we tend to be harsh to our brides because we take them for granted. This is perhaps the easiest trap to fall into, and on the flip side, it's a trap we should never fall into because of the phenomenal gift that a bride is to each one of us. Outside the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus, I can think of no greater treasure than to have a woman with which to share my days, a woman to love and cherish, a woman to enjoy.  A woman to call my best friend.

That I would embitter her? That I would knot her gut? Paul says "No-no."

You might think he doesn't give us a clue how to avoid embittering our brides, but it is found in the first part of the verse and then throughout the rest of Scripture. We are to love our wives. You want a fleshout of what that means, turn to Ephesians 5:25-32. Love her as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her. Love her as your own body. We are to nourish, care for, and cherish her. That means we treat her with the value that God has given her as HIS princess.

Peter explains that women are weaker vessels than men (1 Peter 3:7), not just physically but emotionally, too. Frankly, I don't care if you don't like that; God's word says it. He created us differently (and whether you want to admit it or not, we've all seen it play out in reality). Look at all Peter includes for men in a single verse.
  • Live with your wives. Dwell with them. Be with her--because you want to!
  • In an understanding way. You have no excuse for not knowing what makes your woman tick. You should know the minefields and not be purposefully setting them off. DON'T PUSH HER BUTTONS!
  • Honor her. The world's not going to do it if she's honoring God. You do it. You certainly don't want another man doing it!
  • As the weaker vessel. There it is. She's not going to respond to "Get 'er done!" The sheets will be mighty chilly if that's how you flirt with your woman.
  • Coheir with you. You're not better because you're the man. Your role is just different. Besides, you didn't do anything to be the man. You came equipped. That's NOT something to lord over your woman. You will be beside your wife in glory, not over her.
  • That our prayers not be hindered. Such bullheaded conduct puts a wedge in our relationship with God.  Bad ju-ju.
Gents, take your bride aside tonight or in the next day or two and ask her first if you're conduct or you're speech has embittered her lately. You may already know this. If you do, man up and apologize. Repent. You have sinned against God toward your woman, and repenting means you have a full-heart attitude to not go there again.

Second, ask her if it is a rare thing or a common thing. Please leave the boxing gloves in the closet. Man up and leave yourself wide open to hear, perhaps, some woeful tales of what you have done to the woman you hold dear. Let her speak. Do not defend. Do not excuse. Listen.

We must give our brides consideration, and that means we must be considerate. Paul tells us succinctly to love our wives and to not embitter them. It will require focused attention to be that man. And please, do not look for an out. There is no loophole.

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