The Beatitudes for Marriage: Part 8

Those who are persecuted for righteousness are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Matthew 5:10, HCSB

No one in their right mind seeks persecution.  While Jesus warned that His followers would be persecuted, He never told us to go and look for it either.  Persecution is simply inevitable when two opposing forces are wanting to occupy the same space.  If the kingdom of heaven is seeking to occupy space that belongs or belonged to the kingdom of darkness, you better believe God’s people will be persecuted (sadly, God’s people have also done their share of persecuting).

If, in a marriage, there is a believer and an unbeliever, the believer had better be ready to face persecution (I use persecution very broadly, and in fact, am not referring to abuse at all.  More on this later).  A spouse may not believe that going to church is necessary.  They may speak against your church, the people you love, and even your faith.  They may mock you–and what’s worse–do it in front of your children!  They may seek to bring your children to their side.  There is much more to say than I can put in a blog, but let me give you some biblical encouragement:

  1. Read 1 Peter! The entire book is about persecution and suffering for the faith.  This is something that you should regularly read, whether experiencing persecution in marriage or not.  Chapter 3 deals with persecution within marriage.  It mainly deals with wives since wives tend to be the physically weaker of the couple.  In Peter’s day, women were not much more than property.  Jesus and His followers changed all that, elevating women to the equality of men (that is not to say that women can or should do everything that men can and should do).  I will write about chapter 3:1-7 below.
  2. Know that God is using you.  Paul wrote that Christians were not to divorce their spouse, but stay with them (unless the unbelieving spouse chooses to leave).  Why?  “For you, wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband?  Or you, husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife,” (1 Cor 7:16, HCSB)?  That isn’t a promise of salvation, but it is an encouragement to the Christian that God can and does use a believing spouse to bring the other to salvation, no matter how hopeless.
  3. Pray and have people pray.  Peter wrote,
    Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.  Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.  Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world, (1 Peter 5:6-9, HCSB).

Satan is looking to destroy marriages.  He doesn’t play around and neither should we.  If you are serious about having a godly marriage, then be sure to take it seriously and pray seriously about it.  There are others out there struggling in their marriages.  Pray for them, and ask them to pray for you.

Now let me get to 1 Peter 3:1-7.  In this passage Peter tells the wives to remain silent in order and in hopes of leading the husband to the word without a word.  This fits well in with the idea of preaching the gospel and if necessary use words.  I am not a fan of that doctrine, but it is true at times. Peter says that when it comes to the gospel it may be best to keep silent.  “In the same way, wives, submit to your own  husbands, so that, even if som disobey the Christian message, they may be won over without a message by the way their wives live,” (1 Peter 3.1, HCSB).

He has set up people’s positions in society, masters and slaves (today: employers and employees).  He has set up people’s positions in the homes.  God created Adam and then Eve. From them came children.  So there is a sense of authority within the family.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ,” (1 Cor 11.3, HCSB).  I’m not a fan of the way this verse was translated by the HCSB team, for the idea that Paul is conveying is that of husband and wife, not just any man and any woman.  But what we see is that even in the Trinity there is a sense of authority.  Christ did everything that the Father told him to do.  He spoke as His Father said.  He acted as His Father said.  The husband answers to Christ.  Christ is the head of the husband and if he does not submit himself to Christ he will answer for it.  At the same time, the wife is to submit to her husband.

The subjection in once sense is through silence.  Your husband may not love Jesus.  He may despise Him.  Remember that this is being written while the first generation of Christians is still alive.  That means that men and women were already married when they became believers.  It wasn’t that Christian men married pagan women and vice versa, but rather two pagans or two Jews would already be married and one would follow Christ while the other didn’t.  We know that Paul would go on to write not to get married to an unbeliever, but at this point the couples were already together.  And that still happens today where one person within marriage follows Jesus and the other doesn’t.

Men and women tend to act differently when they have life changes.  Men tend to give a quick synopsis to people who will listen and then continue on.  Women tend to talk about it.  They want to share what has happened with them in detail.  Men are all about big picture; women: about the details.  This can be grating to a guy.  What happens then is that rather than being more interested they become less interested.  The husband begins to get pushed away from the topic of discussion.  They want to shut the conversation down.  They will either argue about it or they will walk away or they will just simply tell you to stay quiet.  And so Peter tells the wife just to stay silent.  Pique his interest by not saying a word.

This goes against the desires of a woman to speak.  There is a war now within that the woman has to now fight in order to not say anything.  So there is suffering from within.  The husband may have already been a jerk about her faith by telling her to keep it to herself, and so there was suffering from without, and now that she is staying silent she is suffering within.  But if the wife is wanting to suffer well she will go to war with herself.  She will give the respect that God requires of her to her husband.  She is to realize that God has, in His great unknown design and plan, set that man to have authority in her life.  So by respecting him, she is respecting God’s prerogative.

How then is she supposed to win him over?  By having a changed spirit.

They my be won over without a message by the way their wives live when they observe your pure, reverent lives.  Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes.  Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes, (1 Peter 3.1b-4, HCSB).

Peter of course isn’t saying that you can’t look nice or wear jewelry or do your hair.  What he is saying is that your husband’s adoring eyes ought to first look to the soul of his wife and not her hair or clothing or jewelry.  A husband should wake up in the morning and think he is the luckiest man in the world, not because he has a pretty wife, but because she has a beautiful spirit about her.  What once concerned her: her looks, her clothes, her accessories no longer concern her.  Her spirit is now in tune with God’s Spirit and it shows in how she responds to her husband.

If your attitude change, your body language changes, and your voice changes, then your husband will notice.  It may take a while, but it will soon get the best of him, and he will want to know why.  Now is the time to speak up.  When he asks you what is different about you, or why you’re different, then is the opportunity.  He asked the question.  He wants to know.  He’s ready to listen.  He may not want to hear everything, but that’s okay.  Give him the gospel until he walks away.  Then start the process over again.  Be silent, be of gentle spirit.

A husband should wake up in the morning and think he is the luckiest man in the world, not because he has a pretty wife, but because she has a beautiful spirit about her.

And find solace in the Lord.  “For in the past, the holy women who put their hope in God also beautified themselves in this way, submitting to their own husbands, but as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.  You have become her children when you do what is good and are not frightened by anything alarming,” (1 Peter 3.5-6, HCSB).  Peter wrote that these women found their hope in God.  It was not in their husbands.  It was not in their own dignity even.  It was in God.  They found rest and solace–hope in God.  That hope resulted in subjection.  Just as the citizen is subjecting himself for God’s sake (1 Peter 2:15), and just as the slave is subjecting himself being mindful of God (1 Peter 2:19), so the wife is to subject with the hope of God.  This was why Peter wrote earlier that you are to prepare, “Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” (1.13, HCSB).

Everything within you says that it is not worth it.  Everything in you says that you are not appreciated.  Everything within you says to strike back, to quit, to walk away.  Why?  Because everything within you is hoping for something better, or maybe someone better.  Peter told us to hope in God—to hope fully on the grace that is to come.  Some wives put their hopes in their arguments, their jabs, their nags, their pleas.  Peter says to hope in God.  Be silent.  Be of good spirit.  Find solace in God.  If you do so, there is no need to fear: no need to fear that you will be taken advantage of, no need to fear what submitting may do.  The lack of fear is evidence of a life that fully hopes in God and the grace that He brings.

Husbands don’t get off scott-free.  Peter has some admonishing words to them as well.  “Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives with an understanding of their weaker nature yet showing them honor as coheirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered,” (1 Peter 3.7, HCSB).

In the same way.  With the same thought and practice as the wives have toward the husband.  Just as the wife should love and respect her husband, and her way is to show it through following well, husbands should love and respect their wives, and their way is to lead well.  How do they do this?  They do this by treasuring their wives.

Physically speaking women are generally weaker than men.  There are exceptions, but generally speaking this is so.  At the time when Peter wrote this, women were little more than property.  They were rarely consulted, rarely thought of as having importance.  Peter wrote that the Christian man will never see his wife this way.  This is why the Christian man ought never to demand submission from his wife.  This is God’s work in her spirit, not the husband’s work in breaking her spirit.

Husbands are to honor their wives.  They are to treasure them.  They are not property. They are not objects.  They are more than just the mother of your children and your servant that gets you a drink and makes you dinner.  They are first and foremost the daughter of God, and if you are a believer then they are secondly your sister-in-Christ.  You and she will receive an inheritance.  Again, in that day and age women would not receive an inheritance.  There had to be a court case to get a woman an inheritance.  Peter told the husbands that with God this is not so.  She is equal in all respects to the man, and how the husband treats his wife will be judged on how he treated Jesus.

Remember all believers are a part of the body of Christ.  He identifies with them so much that He not only said that how you treat the least of these you have treated me, but upon stopping Saul on the way to Damascus to throw Christians in jail, Jesus appeared to him and asked why Saul was persecuting Him.

They are first and foremost the daughter of God, and if you are a believer then they are secondly your sister-in-Christ.

Peter warned that if you are not treating your wife with the respect that a daughter of the King deserves, then your prayers will be hindered. Husbands, if you ever hope to have answered prayer, treat your wife with the greatest of dignity and respect and love. This goes to the husband of an unbelieving wife as well.  You still show her respect.  You still give her honor.  Do not force her against her will to do that which God has not yet called her to.  Otherwise you’re just messing things up. You’re praying for her salvation, but you’re treating her in a way that repels her from the gospel.

I know this has been a longer than normal blog, but let me close with this: abuse in a relationship is unacceptable.  If one can remove themselves from the situation they must do so.  The Bible allows for divorce in certain situations, and abuse for whatever reason is not one of them.  But Paul would allow for separation.  While Paul would encourage a wife of an unbeliever to stay in the marriage, he allows for separation, but wrote, “But if she does leave, she must remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband,” (1 Cor 7:11, HCSB).  The hope in it all is to reconcile, to get help for both the abused and the abuser, and then bring them back together when they are well and ready.

Once again, I would love to hear from your whether your agree or disagree.  I only ask you to be respectful in whatever you say.  If so, your comments will be posted asap.  If not, they will be deleted.  If you know of anyone who would benefit from reading this, feel free to share.

The Beatitudes for Marriage: Part 7

The peacemakers are blessed, for they will be called sons of God.
Matthew 5:9, HCSB

One of the most important sayings in Hebrew was and is shalom.  It is a part of their every day language.  It is said in their hellos and good-byes.  The capital of ancient Israel was named Jerusalem (yay ru shalom), which means “foundation of peace.”  For a people who never seemed to live in peace and yet were promised everlasting peace, the desire has always been a part of their make-up.  The desire is in their DNA.  By the time Jesus said these words, He was being followed by a man whose name was Simon.  Simon belonged to a sect of people known as the Zealots.  Zealots, as their name indicates, were fanatics.  They hated the Roman occupation.  When I say hated, I mean hated.  No one likes an occupying force in their country.  Yet, most people shrug their shoulders and try to make the most of it.  Not Zealots.  Zealots would lead raids, ambushes, and battles.  They didn’t care if they died.  They’d die as martyrs as long as they could take some Romans with them.  So when Simon the Zealot is sitting on the side of the mountain, everything is probably sounding a bit odd, but bearable, until Jesus got to this part of His sermon.  “The peacemakers are blessed…”  This went against everything he believed in.  If we are honest, it goes against everything we believe in too.  We may not be of the Zealot sect, but we don’t like backing down from a good fight or argument, especially if we’re right.  And we are always right!  And it feels good to be right.  If feels good to win the fight/argument.  It gives us satisfaction; it gives us happiness.

Yet here Jesus said the peacemakers are blessed, not the arguers or the fighters.  People who make peace are the happy ones.  How could they be happy?  Won’t people run all over them?  Won’t they lose fights?  Won’t people miss out on the wonderful wisdom that they have to offer?  Perhaps all that might be true.  Let me deal with why these peacemakers are happy, and then I will deal with those questions with some caveats on peacemaking.

The reason behind the happiness is because they will be called the sons of God.   God’s children.  Remember in this culture children (sons) were representative of their father.  Therefore, they would seek to imitate their father, and many times it would come natural.  Even today we have sayings like, “He is his father’s son” or “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”  Children are imitators of their father.  Jesus was indicating this same fact.  God is in the business of bringing peace.  Remember Romans 5:1?  “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (HCSB).  God brought peace to us by sending His own Son to die and rise again.  God is the ultimate Peacemaker.  Jesus is the Prince of Peace.  Those who imitate God are obviously His children.  Is there anything greater than to be God’s child!

Listen to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:
All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice.  And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.  Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children.  And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God, (4:31-5:2, HCSB).

While the word peace is not used in these verses, surely we can see that this is how one can make peace: Don’t get bitter.  Don’t be angry.  Don’t show wrath.  Don’t shout.  Don’t speak slanderous words. Be  kind.  Be compassionate.  Forgive.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, wrote well on this beatitude.  He wrote (and preached),

The peacemaker is one who is not always looking at everything in terms of the effect it has upon himself.  Now is not that the whole trouble with us by nature?  We look at everything as it affects us. ‘What is the reaction upon me? What is this going to mean to me?’ And the moment we think like that there is of necessity war, because everybody else is doing the same thing.  That is the explanation of all quarrelling and discord.  Everybody looks at it from the self-centred point of view. ‘Is this fair to me? Am I having my rights and dues?’ They are not interested in the causes they should be serving, or the gret thing that brings them all together, this Church, Society, or Organization [we could include marriage at this point].  It is, ‘How is this affecting me? What is this doing to me?’ Now that is the spirit that always leads to quarrels, misunderstandings and disputes, and it is a negation of being a peacemaker. (Sermon on the Mount: Two Volumes in One; Eerdmans Publishing, 1971. p. 122)

God brought peace to us by sending His own Son to die and rise again.  God is the ultimate Peacemaker.  Jesus is the Prince of Peace.  Those who imitate God are obviously His children.

Now the caveats:

  1. This is not peace at all costs.  Peace will cost you a lot.  It is expensive.  But one cannot have peace at all costs.  If a person breaks into my house and tries to kidnap my children, my obligation to protect my kids will supersede my peacemaking abilities. When the Israelites tried to walk around the land of the Amorites, they were attacked by that nation.  They had to fight back and the lesser army (Israel) won (cf. Num 21:21-25).
  2. Peacemaking is different from peace-keeping.  As Leon Morris has said: “He refers not to peace-keepers but to peace-makers, people who end hostilities and bring the quarrelsome together,” (The Gospel According to Matthew; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992. p. 101).  Peace-keepers are primarily concerned with keeping disputes from occurring.  Peacemakers are concerned about making peace when disputes occur.  We live in a world of sin, conflict is inevitable.  Our job is not to make it so, but to deal rightly with it when it comes.  We do not escalate the situation.  We strive to bring two conflicting people into reconciliation.
  3. There is a righteous indignation, but not all indignation is righteous.  In fact, most is not.  Righteous indignation comes when it deals with the glory of God.  This is seen by Jesus twice when he cleansed the temple at the beginning and end of His ministry (cf. John 2:13-17; Matt 21:12-13).  It may come also when injustice is done.  To deny justice is an affront to God.  We are called then to see justice and be angry when injustice is done (cf. Prov 31:8-9).

“He refers not to peace-keepers but to peace-makers, people who end hostilities and bring the quarrelsome together.” ~Leon Morris

Now, what does all this have to do with marriage?  Everything!  Where else do we have so many arguments and fights?  Is it not in our homes?  Is it not so often with our spouses? Rarely is there a marriage that goes without arguments.  Anytime you have two people in close quarters there will be conflict.  Yet, we are called to be peacemakers.  We are called to imitate God even in our homes.  Especially in our homes!  When the hubby is revving up for a good fight, wives be the peacemaker.  Don’t go for the fight.  Step back emotionally and check your pride and bitterness and anger.  Are you angry because of a lack of glory to God or because they are in disagreement with you personally?   Husbands, the same thing applies to you.  Being the leader of the household you should also be leading in peacemaking.

This does not mean that you take abuse.  If you are being abused, get out and get safety.  Be a peacemaker from a distance.  God is not calling you to be a punching bag.

Anytime you have two people in close quarters there will be conflict.  Yet, we are called to be peacemakers.

Again I would love to hear your comments.  As long as they are respectful (even if you disagree with me), they will be posted, however all comments will be reviewed.  I try to review them

The Beatitudes for Marriage: Part 6

The pure in heart are blessed, for they will see God.
Matthew 5:8, HCSB

Adam and Eve started off in this world having God walk among them.  They actually got to see God.  It wasn’t until after their rebellion that they were forced to leave the Garden of Eden, and the separation of spirit also was separation of presence.  But there are times in the Old Testament that God shows up.  Moses wrote that “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among his contemporaries; Noah walked with God,” (Genesis 6:9, HCSB) and  “Then the LORD appeared to Abraham at the oaks of Mamre while he was sitting in the entrance of his tent during the heat of the day,” (Genesis 18:1, HCSB).  Daniel recorded an encounter in chapter 10 of his book.  And who can forget about Isaiah!?  “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe filled the temple,” (Isaiah 6:1, HCSB).  But God’s ultimate revelation to man was through Jesus: “The one who has seen Me has seen the Father,” (John 14:9, HCSB).  “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation,” (Colossians 1:15, HCSB).  “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word,” (Hebrews 1:3, HCSB).

How amazing would it be to have such an experience!  The question is not so much if we will see God.  Everyone, young and old, good and bad, living and dead, will see God at the judgment.  It’s more of a question of how we will see God.  In this sermon Jesus was referring to seeing God in a positive sense, not in a negative sense.  Seeing God as Father not as Condemner.  In order to see God as Father, there is the prerequisite of having a pure heart.  A pure heart.  pure heart.  Would you consider your heart pure?  Probably not.  I don’t consider my heart pure, far from it.  Even the most holy person we can think of would never consider himself or herself to be pure of heart if they are actually holy.

Does that not mean then that no one will see God?  Yes and no.  First, remember that these beatitudes were being spoken to disciples, followers of Jesus.  They were Christians (with the exception of Judas, of course).   Apart from Christ they certainly would have impure hearts, but with Christ their hearts are being ever purified.  As Paul would later say, “For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers,” (Romans 8.29, HCSB).  “For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight,” (Ephesians 1.4, HCSB).  To be pure in heart is to be like Christ.  It is to be holy and blameless.  That is what we are becoming, and by God’s grace we shall fully become at our death.

 In order to see God as Father, there is the prerequisite of having a pure heart.  A pure heart.  pure heart.

We can never say that we are fully pure this side of heaven.  However, we can say that we are being purified.  One of the greatest images that Scripture gives to us in this comes from Malachi.  “But who can endure the day of His coming?  And who will be able to stand when He appears?  For He will be like a refiner’s fire and like cleansing lye,” (Malachi 3:2, HCSB).  Every impurity will be burned.  Every spot will be scrubbed clean.  Complete purity will be ours!  But even now, even now, we are being purified.  Paul told the Philippians, “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 1:6, HCSB).  A lot of people love to read and hear this verse, but rarely do they connect it with what Paul wrote in the same paragraph and just two sentences after.  “And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can approve the things that are superior and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God,” (Philippians 1.9-11, HCSB).

Yes, God is purifying you, but that is a two-way street.  You and I must be growing and doing what God is doing.  He is working in us and we are to be living it out.  God is showing us inwardly what is lovely and superior and such, but we must then approve of those things, choosing them over things that are ugly and inferior.  Again, Paul wrote something similar in the second chapter of Philippians: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose,” (2:12b-13, HCSB).  To work out your salvation does not mean that you get to decide how you will be saved, but rather to do outwardly what God is doing inwardly.  God is enabling you (inwardly) to desire His good purpose.  He is enabling you (inwardly) to live it in reality.    That is why Paul went on to say, “Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world,” (Philippians 2:14-15, HCSB).  Notice the word do.  That’s an action word.  It’s not a state of being; it’s a state of action.  Why do these things?  To be blameless and pure.  In other words: act out what God is doing in you and you will be growing in your purity and blamelessness.  We cannot be completely pure in this world, but wouldn’t it be great to be as close to it as possible? God enables us inwardly by giving us new desires and new ways to work out the inward salvation so that it also affects how we act.

Hopefully by now you can see how this would benefit your marriage.  If husbands are reading this then you know that becoming more like Christ will then lead you to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water with the word,” (Ephesians 5:25-26, HCSB).  If wives are reading this they will grow in their understanding of what it actually means to submit, knowing that even Christ submitted Himself to the Father: “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:3, HCSB)  Love and humility are the outworkings of an inward change brought about by God.  Those are not the only changes.  There are others: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control,” (Galatians 5:22, HCSB).  Can you imagine your spouse (and you as well) displaying these qualities to each other?  This is what will happen as one grows in purity of heart.  God shows up and changes us from within.

 Notice the word do.  That’s an action word.  It’s not a state of being; it’s a state of action.  Why do these things?  To be blameless and pure.  In other words: act out what God is doing in you and you will be growing in your purity and blamelessness.

Commit now to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.  If you are a believer in Christ, God is already at work inside you.  Now it is time to let what’s happening inwardly to happen outwardly.

I’d love to hear your comments, questions, or concerns.  Feel free to comment below.  All comments are reviewed, and as long as they are respectful (even if they disagree with me) they will be posted.  Trolling and disrespectful comments will simply be deleted.

The Beatitudes for Marriage: Part 5

The merciful are blessed, for they will be shown mercy.
Matthew 5:7, HCSB

I like animals.  I don’t love them.  I can take them or leave them.  I like my dog Luther (he’s part German Shepherd, so I named him after the great Reformer), but if he were to die I would be sad, but quickly move on.  I would feel worse for my kids than I do for Luther or myself.  I would venture to say that this is why I dislike ASPCA commercials (especially the one with Sarah McLachlan’s song in the background).  I do hate that animals are mistreated, don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think it is right to be mean to animals, but I don’t like the fact that my heartstrings are trying to be pulled so I give money to the ASPCA.  Even Sarah McLachlan changes the channel; it’s too depressing.  But those commercials serve as a good reference to mercy.

If D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is correct, and I believe he is, then, “Mercy looks upon the miserable consequences of sin.  So that mercy really means a sense of pity plus a desire to relieve the suffering.  That is the essential meaning of being merciful; it is pity plus action.  So the Christian has a feeling of pity.  His concern about the misery of men and women leads to an anxiety to relieve it,” (Studies on the Sermon on the Mount: Two Volumes in One; Eerdman’s Publishing, 1971. p. 99).  The ASPCA commercials do not only want us to feel pity toward the animals, but enough pity to take action by funding their organization.  It is mercy that causes us to give money to the homeless man or buy the homeless woman a meal from a diner.

The question really is, how do we do at showing mercy to our spouses?  After all, we live with them.  We see them daily.  One would think that mercy would be easier to give to a spouse whom we see daily and love.  Yet, we cannot forget the fact that our spouses are sinners and they have sinned against us more than once in all likelihood.  In fact, they may sin against us in the same way over and over again.  How long do we get sinned against and still show mercy?  It is likely that the heart can become so calloused by the sins committed against us that we could relish in the pain of the spouse rather than feel (and act in) mercy.

Jesus gave a parable about a debtor to a king.  The king called into account his debtors.  One man stood before him and owed him what today could be estimated up into the billions of dollars.  The king demanded the payment which the man could not pay in a hundred lifetimes if that were even possible.  So he was ordered to be sold, along with his wife and children.  The man pleaded for his life, ensuring the debt would be paid back fully.  The king (acting in mercy) forgave the man his debt.  Forgave him the debt!  In other words, the man no longer owed the king a dime!  He was set free.  Wow! What mercy!  On the way out of the palace, this same man saw a man who owed him $20,000 or so.  He went to the man and demanded the money.  Of course, who carries 20k around with them? When the man told him he didn’t have the money, the first man began to choke him and demand it be paid immediately.  Like before, the man pleaded for his life and promised to pay it all in full.  But he was (judiciously) put into debtor’s prison.  The king’s servants saw what happened and told the king.  The king recalled the man and excoriated him for his lack of forgiveness (mercy) and so put him into debtor’s prison as well.

Mercy really means a sense of pity plus a desire to relieve the suffering.  That is the essential meaning of being merciful; it is pity plus action.

The king was owed billions while the man was owed thousands.  Both had a debtor who could not pay.  Nothing their debtors could do would make up for the loss made to the king and the man.  Both losses were real losses, even if one was of greater proportion than the other.  Perhaps $20,000 is pocket change to a multi-billionaire, but $12 billion is a significant loss.  However for the average Joe out there losing $20,000 is just as signficant.  The greatest difference between the king and the man was the king showed mercy while the man showed justice.  The man wanted mercy himself, but when the time came to give mercy, justice ruled the day.  That is often how it is in life in general, and marriage in particular.  We want mercy to be given, but find it difficult to give.

The prophet Micah wrote,
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God,  (6:8, ESV)?

What we often like is do the first, receive the second, and ignore the third.  We like to meet out justice.  We like to receive kindness (also translated as mercy).  We like to pretend we are more than we really are.  While the three “requirements” listed are in a specific order, the foundation of them is the last one listed.  If we are humble before God rather than puffed up with pride, we tend to understand the truth of the parable Jesus gave: the King is God and I am his $12 billion debtor.  My sins are great and numerous and I could never repay my sin no matter how much I tried.  I deserve to be sold as a slave or thrown into prison.  God could do those things, but instead He sent Jesus to pay my debt for me, so that “He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross,” (Colossians 2:14, HCSB).

If I am honest, I know that I do not deserve such a massive forgiveness of debt.  I am humbled by God’s mercy toward me.  If I am humbled then I am altogether different than I was before I was forgiven.  Not only am I free of the burden of debt, but I am no longer attached to the pride that was once part of me.  My mercy tank is full if I am truly humbled by God’s mercy.  So, if my mercy tank is full, it is ready to be distributed to others.  I love mercy.  I desire to not only receive mercy, but to give it as well.  When my wife hurts me, I need only remember the hurt that I have caused her and more importantly God who has mercy on me, and I find in me the mercy to give toward the sin against me.

This does not negate the sense of doing justice, for in this sense, the word is clearly indicated that all people should be treated fairly based upon God’s Word.  No one should be given partial treatment because of their financial status or their social status or any other status.  No one should be given a snooty nose just because of their financial, social, or other status.

So this all goes back to walking humbly before our God.  Those who walk humbly can freely give mercy (for they know they themselves have been the undeserving recipients of mercy as well), and do justice by treating all people equally and demanding others do the same.  But it also goes back to the beatitude.  The reason that those who are merciful are happy is because they receive mercy.  Did you notice what happened to the man after refusing to show mercy to his debtor?  He was recalled to the king and thrown into prison (the same punishment that he gave his own debtor–not the slavery that the king was initially going to give).  In essence, if we refuse to show the mercy to others that was given to us, we forfeit the right of future mercy.  This doesn’t mean we lose our salvation, but that we shall be disciplined until we learn to give freely what was freely given to us.

If my mercy tank is full, it is ready to be distributed to others.  I love mercy.  I desire to not only receive mercy, but to give it as well.

So when our spouses do what will inevitably happen–sin against us–we are to allow God’s mercy toward us to flow through us to them.  Yes, they may have racked up one massive list of debts and sins against you.  Don’t forget though that if you are a believer the mercy of God is in you and at your disposal.  While it may be difficult to turn on the spigot and let the mercy flow, it can be turned on.  You may need the supporting hands of others to help you turn the spigot, but it can be turned on.

I end with Augustus Toplady’s wonderful lyrics:
A debtor to mercy alone, of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with Thy righteousness on, my person and off’ring to bring.
The terrors of law and of God with me can have nothing to do;
My Savior’s obedience and blood hide all my transgressions from view.
(A Debtor to Mercy Alone, public domain).