Saturday, February 18, 2012

Marriage Matters: Person or Object? Honor or Manipulation?

"Marriage Matters" by Winston Smith is the focus this semester of our Wednesday morning MOMs bible study. My goal is to post a brief summary of our weekly large group lessons. I take and seek no credit for the concepts presented. We are the beneficiaries of the work of God and Winston Smith!
God's law of love states we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Who is my closest neighbor? My husband.
When you look at your husband what do you see, an object or a person? People bear God's image, having a unique identity and purpose, are free to make responsible decisions, and have infinite worth. It is God who has the final say on who we are, what purposes we have been given, and what we are worth. Objects, on the other hand, may or may not be unique, make no choices, might not belong to anyone in particular and have varying worth. We manipulate or use objects for our benefit. That's what they are made for. When we treat people as objects we violate God's law of love, degrade others, and God as well.
Unfortunately, we have a tendency to be back scratchers or schmoozers. You do for me and I'll do for you. An agreement like this on paper is called a contract. Marriage is not a contract, it is a covenant relationship that says I love you no matter what. But we find it difficult to live that way for especially one reason. Idolatry. I love myself and will use you to serve me. This is not Christ-like love. It is manipulation. Christ-like love honors a husband who is made in God's image. How do we maniuplate our husbands?
By punishing them. If you don't do what I want or like I will give you the silent treatment, be unavailable emotionally, physically, sexually. Or punishing may take the form of hurtful language. Whatever form punishing takes, it's a lose-lose situation for both wife and husband. We also manipulate by showing favoritism. James chapter 2 tells the account of two men who showed up at a local church. One was wealthy and the other poor. The church men fawned all over the rich man in order to serve their purposes. The poor man was forced to sit on the floor. In showing favoritism, the churchmen elevated themselves above not only the poor man, but the rich man, too. The churchmen were not focused on God's purposes for their visitors.

How do we as wives use favoritism in connection with our husbands, thus ignoring God's purposes for them in our lives? We show favoritism toward our children. Look at that face. Look at her curly hair. This baby girl captures my heart and if you knew her your heart would be captured, too. How easy would it be to set my husband aside for one such as this? Especially when small children have large needs and noisy demands. Just be aware of this very real temptation. Be aware of Spider Girl, your own spider girl.
And cheetah boy.

And baby gumdrop girl.

If manipulation violates the law of the love, then honor fosters love. The apostle Paul writes a lot about honoring others. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. This way of life is critical to growing into the likeness of Christ for it is the very action and attitude of Christ. Phil. 2:5-7. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus; Who, being very nature God, did not consider equality something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Eeek! Our complaint is the more I serve, the more he demands. If I begin living this way there will be no end in sight to my being taken advantage of. Yes, it is not only possible, but probable that there will be times we will be taken advantage of, that we will give and not receive in return. But honoring our husbands means that if we experience an "ox in the ditch" moment of service, we honor our husbands by serving them in their time of need. If being taken advantage of is a pattern of behavior, we honor our husbands by being willing to enter into a place of possible conflict to talk about it because our concern for the growth of their Christian character exceeds concern for my own wants and desires. Not easy.
Manipulation cries and demands that you are all mine. This sort of "love" is suffocating and oppressive. It is exhausting for not only the recipient but the giver as well. Honor considers how we as wives can build up our husbands. Serving one another practically means to labor to make the other successful. And what is success in marriage? If God's purpose for marriage is to display His love for His people, Christ's love for the church, and to bring you spotless before the throne, then encouraging your husband while being conformed to the image of Christ is success. How do you build him up? Ephesians says by respecting him. Details to follow on that mission in a lesson to come.
Manipulating my husband blames him. Smith says this form of manipulation is like a vending machine. You have a need, put your money in and expect something in return. Something you wanted. But then you receive nothing in return for your investment. Or what you receive is not what you asked for or expected. So the coin return gets flicked a hundred times, the machine gets some undesired "attention" and what was to bring you a solution to your problem suddenly becomes your problem. That's treating your husband like an object, not a person. It's treating him as if his sole purpose is to meet your needs and wants.
with the word, then my husband is a tool in the hands of God. As iron sharpens iron it would be a good thing to stop and ask, "What could God be teaching me here?" Honor prays for an attitude of humility that desires to be taught and asks for input, especially when it is uncomfortable and humbling. Make use of the ordinary moments of marriage (in our house it's deciding whose route we take to Dogwood) to learn from one another and appreciate the way we are made to compliment one another.
So much for the "brief summary." Next we move on to emotions, transparency, humility and hiding from one another. Why spend lots of money on rides at a theme park when you can join the wild ride of Marriage Matters?