Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Real Men Know How to Commit

The LA Times ran an article on October 19th that discussed the recent divorce of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Their argument is that it is strange that this is news because a little French 15-minute divorce has no bearing on the capacity of President Sarkozy to lead France. (The fact that they reported on it indicates that they indeed think it’s newsworthy, but that’s beside the point.) This is the old Bill Clinton argument – “what he does in private doesn’t affect how he leads the country.” Al Mohler offered a thoughtful view on this and ended with this:

“If a candidate cannot keep and honor marital vows, why should voters believe that he or she would show greater fealty to an oath of office?”

It’s not that marital fidelity itself has any bearing on the activities that enable a president to run the affairs of the nation, but that infidelity is indicative of a deeper problem that does have significant bearing on the capacity to govern publicly. What many reasonable people see when they see a president who can’t keep his personal commitments is a man who may not be faithfully keeping his public commitments.

Up for debate right now is what the Bible says about divorce and remarriage. David Instone-Brewer wrote an article in Christianity Today arguing for greater latitude in what should be allowed for in terms of divorce and remarriage. John Piper responded on his blog with a strong view against remarriage after divorce. Now, Andreas Köstenberger has added a third, more temperate view.

Now, I’m surrounded by all kinds of people who have divorced and remarried while their earlier spouse(s) are still alive. Many of these are Christian. Some of them are now rather godly people. Here’s the trick: I can’t allow this to affect my judgment as I analyze scripture. So far, I’m leaning toward Piper’s reading. I won’t go into the particulars, but I’ll sum up that I think Jesus and Paul both teach that divorce is not ideal. Despite the allowances made in the Law of Moses, God’s plan is that we not divorce. I believe that there are practical circumstances which may necessitate separation (abuse, abandonment, infidelity), but that there can be no remarriage when God does not regard legal divorce as spiritually legitimate.

Now that may not seem fair, but look at our sin. We have not learned or taught what we should look for in a mate. More importantly, we have not learned or taught what it means to keep commitments. Willow Creek Church led by Bill Hybels recently confessed an repented that they have sunk millions of dollars into programs that have failed to disciple their membership. When it is easy to get by without spiritual growth, few will grow. When it is easy to divorce, few will be fully committed. When divorce is sociologically difficult, people will invest more in learning how to discern the best spouse and how to care for their spouse.

I’m a man and I’ll direct this to men. This was said by my pastor recently: “Men think about two things all the time: food and sex. …all men struggle with their sex lives.” The context of his comment was loosely with regard to marital fidelity. Real men know or will learn how to focus this struggle toward keeping their marital commitment to their wives.

For me, my wife and I decided before we were married that the D – word was out. Since that time twelve years ago we have spent all of five seconds with our voices raised at each other. I’m not joking. She thinks that if we express a difference of opinion at all, we’re having an argument. Most of the time we “argue” about who’s going to make a decision:

“Honey, what do you want me to fix for supper? Spaghetti or meatloaf”
“They both sound good to me. You’re pickier than I am. What are you in the mood for?”
“I’ll eat either one. You decide.”
At this point, I go for a coin and she gives me a funny look.

That’s a typical “argument” at my house. Men, how you can make your home like this:

  1. Be willing to sacrifice your wants and desires for your wife. Offer to help your wife often in doing whatever she’s into and be willing to do whatever she says. Your kids will see this and respond positively. The best gift you can give your kids is a healthy marriage with your wife.
  2. Be willing to sacrifice you want and desires for your children. Play with them and show them careful attention. Your wife will see this and respond positively. Third, look for ways to positively influence your wife without making her feel belittled by it.
  3. Consider whether she has a delicate ego and will not take criticism very well. Don’t preach, guide gently. Turn the word “husband” into a verb and husband your wife. If you’ve ever surfed, it’s like balancing delicately on a board and having the ride of your life. If you’ve ever quarterbacked, it’s like a perfect pass into the end zone. You just can’t toss the ball any old way – you have to pay attention and aim carefully. If you’re off by just a little or hesitate either you are or the receiver could get creamed. Complete the pass and you’ve scored big.
  4. If you expect her to change for you, you must be willing to change for her. Allow her sensibilities to inform your relationship.
  5. Take the initiative and treat your wife to her favorite whatever without expecting anything in return.
  6. If she yells at you, recognize that there is a deeper problem. Do not return her ire, but be attentive to what she says so you can treat the immediate issue. However, understand that she is responding to a rift between you. Find out what the rift is and do whatever it takes to repair it in all kindness. She will recognize your earnest desire for her and respond.
  7. Grow together spiritually. Go to church together, study the Bible together, pray together, train up your children together, minister together. I realize that there may be people who read this who have no faith. If so, you have no hope of accomplishing this. That’s the bottom line.

This list is not comprehensive, I’m sure. I just typed it off the top of my head. It’s what I do every day in my marriage. I sacrifice for my wife. I consider that when we married, I no longer had any right to “Jim” because I was now inextricably part of “Jim and Lois” and am committed to do everything in my power to make the best “Jim and Lois” possible.

There are certainly practical situations I have not addressed here. This will be material for some future post, I’m sure. Nevertheless, the principles I have offered here should help most difficulties you encounter. Whether you are President of a nation or the shoveller of manure, I encourage you to keep your marital commitment.

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Blogger Lionel Woods said...

Hey brother Jim, we live in a culture that will not commit even in the smallest of areas, we don't keep promises and it is proven from everything from bankruptcies to broken contracts and this is only a by product. Thanks for this eye opener, I will be ever so careful to uphold all of my promises.

Sat Oct 27, 09:29:00 AM GMT-5  

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