Rain is going to fall on your marriage; it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.
Which means, you better have a spiritual umbrella nearby.
- One husband wrote to me, furious that his libido is “twenty times” that of his wife.
- A wife is upset that her husband has a more intimate relationship with his game controller than he has with her.
- A husband believes his wife says “yes” to everyone—the kids, her parents, their kids’ school teachers, friends at church—making it all but impossible for them to get any alone time where she’s not distracted, trying to save the world while she may be losing her marriage.
- A wife can’t believe that her husband has fallen again after promising he was done with an activity that disgusts her.
I could go on and on. The circumstances may change, but the question is always the same: “What am I supposed to do?”
When your spouse lets you down…
When your spouse is too busy….
When your spouse is sinning…
When your spouse is apathetic…
When your spouse is ill…
When your spouse is acting in an evil manner…
When your spouse is succumbing to horrendous priorities, what are you supposed to do?
Paul answers this question for us in the book of Philippians. He really does. But before we get to that answer, we have to set it up (as Paul does).
The first thing you notice with Philippians is that Paul is obsessed.
In the first sentence, he calls himself a servant “of Christ Jesus.” In the second sentence he writes to the “saints in Christ Jesus.” In the third sentence he offers grace and peace from “the Lord Jesus Christ.” In verse six he reminds them of the “day of Christ Jesus.” In verse eight he tells them how he loves them with the “affection of Christ Jesus.” In verse ten he mentions the “day of Christ” once again, and in verse eleven he speaks of the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.
Eleven verses, and Christ is mentioned 7 times.
Yeah, obsession is a proper word here. A glorious obsession.
We’ll never get Paul’s words to husbands, wives, children, even slaves, until we understand his theme song, “For to me, to live is Christ.” (1:21)
More than he cared about anything—his comfort, his freedom (in prison or not), his standard of living, his reputation, Paul cared about the Name. He lived for the Gospel (the good news story) of Jesus Christ.
Our first thought—beyond our own hurt, our own welfare, our own comfort, our own desire, we embrace an entirely new motivation: “What action of mine will best serve the cause of Christ?”
Sometimes, it might indeed be leaving. Other times, it might be staying. On occasion, it might mean patiently enduring. At still other times, it could mean courageously confronting.
Whatever the response, the all-important motivation must be, “How does this reflect on Christ’s work in the world?”
If the call of the Gospel is to endure a difficulty or sacrifice a pleasure, we find joy even in that: “For it has been granted to you, on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.” (1:29)
Our individual actions when married to an addict, an angry person, a busy person, an insensitive person, may vary, but every one of us should strive for the same motivation: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
It may not always be obvious what the specific answer will be, but motivation is well over half of decision making. In good faith, before God, I’m seeking a response that is worthy of the good news of Christ. Even if we make a mistake and apply that motivation in a poor way, God will see our heart.
Instead of asking what we want, what will make us happy, what will serve our first interests, we are encouraged to ask, “What will my actions say to my non-believing friends? What response will best showcase the love, grace, and presence of God in my life? What response best serves the work of Christ’s church?”
I can’t control how loved ones treat me, but I can control whether my response to their actions is worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.