Legend has it that in a land far away, many centuries ago, there lived a husband who welcomed his wife’s rebukes. When she challenged him on some weakness in his character, he listened patiently and humbly, thanked her for her loving concern, made her remarks a matter of prayer, and changed his behavior accordingly. Eventually, he became known as “the husband who welcomed his wife’s rebukes.”
Have you heard of that legend?
There’s a reason for that.
It doesn’t exist. It’s too far-fetched.
Except that Proverbs kind of encourages us (men and women alike) in that direction.
Proverbs 12:1 puts this attitude in bold-faced, italicized print: “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.”
I don’t have to consult the commentaries on this one. The Bible says that if I hate my wife’s loving challenges, I’m stupid.
In fact, it’s even worse. A straight-out translation would call me an “ignoramus.” One commentator says the word “refers to a stupid man who does not have the rationality that differentiates men from animals.”
This is where believing that God designed marriage to make us holy even more than to make us happy (expressed in my book Sacred Marriage) becomes so relevant and practical. Though Proverbs is written primarily to young men, and this instruction is most naturally seen as that between a parent and child, we know from many biblical passages that “growing” our character is a work that is never completed. If I truly desire to grow in holiness. I will, indeed, welcome my spouse’s appropriate rebukes. “Understanding” and “wisdom,” biblically speaking, are something we pursue and attain, not something we’re born with: “Whoever listens to correction acquires good sense.” Proverbs 15:32
It’s not that I love being rebuked, it’s that I love knowledge and understanding, and reproof is the road I have to travel to get there. My wife can be more objective than I can in seeing what my behavior looks like without me trying to defend myself. The Bible tells me my heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), that I can’t truly know myself. How kind of God to give me a spiritual sister in Christ who can protect me from delusional thinking.
The challenge, of course, is that sometimes I’d prefer to be delusional and comfortable than convicted and unsettled. As long as I remain in this state, I will resent my marriage and the exposure it brings instead of being grateful for it.
Christian husbands and wives are to be more than best friends and lovers. They are brothers and sisters in Christ, helping each other grow in God and righteousness.
One area where I see some wives and husbands struggle with this is when they think they are the more mature believer. The thinking goes, “As long as I’m stronger spiritually than my spouse, he should listen to me but he has no right to challenge me.” This can be especially true if the husband has fallen into a bad habit that the wife has struggled to forgive. As long as he hurt you that way, you (somewhat understandably) drift toward, “Don’t even think about challenging me, given all that I’ve had to forgive you for.”
You’re cutting off a major avenue of growth if you go down that road. If God can use a donkey to speak his truth (Numbers 22:28), he can use a “less mature” spouse. No one is perfect, and our evaluations, such as they are, shouldn’t be with other fallen sinners. The standard is Jesus Christ. When someone, be they ever so immature, can help us become a little more like Jesus, if we are wise we will embrace the correction. If we resent it, according to Proverbs 12:1, we’re stupid (God’s words, not mine!).
So, here’s a wild date-night idea. In the interest of holiness, what if husband and wife were to go to a nice public place and both ask (and then answer) one question: “What one area do I need to grow in to become more like Christ?” Before you do that, friends, please, read, re-read, and memorize, Proverbs 12:1: “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.”