“If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!” My daughters learned that song in Sunday school. If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands, stomp your feet, shout Amen!
Then we went to a nearby playgroup where they sang the song differently. “If you’re mad and you know it stomp your feet.” Wow. Kids were allowed to be mad and not just happy? Who knew?
Sometimes it seems like in Christian circles there are only a few acceptable emotions–happiness, joy, peace. Anger, even if it’s righteous, is seen as being judgmental, and certainly not gentle, like women should be.
And we often treat love the same way. When I speak at marriage conferences and ask women how to love their husbands, they always say something “nice”–be affectionate, praise him, encourage him. These things are all wonderful and necessary, but they do not encompass the sum total of what love is. That’s why I love this little nugget from 1 Corinthians 13:6:
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
After talking about how love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs and love isn’t vengeful, Paul says that, with all of that in mind, love still has boundaries. Love wants the best for the object of affection. Love does not just want to be loved in return; love wants the object of one’s affection to flourish. And that loved one cannot flourish if evil, or sin, are abounding.
An important part of love, then, is confronting sin and pointing people to Christ (Tweet it!).
Love is not just about being nice; love is about being good. That means that love does not tolerate something that will hurt the person who is loved.
Now, I’m not talking about making a big issue if a spouse won’t put dishes in the dishwasher or is always late or isn’t that affectionate. These are just differences that all couples must iron over in marriage. I’m not nearly as neat as my husband is, and when we were married, we had to work out how many clothes it was acceptable to have on the floor at once time–and I had to learn about the virtues of a laundry hamper.
But sometimes in marriage there is something “evil”–something that is jeopardizing a person’s relationship with God and relationship with their families.
I once received a letter from an older woman explaining how God had given her the ability to forgive her husband again and again in their marriage; how God had helped her stick it out for 41 years before he died of alcoholism. Her husband had been angry. He had yelled and at times hit. He had squandered their money. Their children had all fled when they were quite young, and many had made poor decisions themselves. But she was so happy because God had helped her be faithful and loving.
And I thought: Is it loving to do nothing while an alcoholic hurts himself, his kids, and his marriage? Or is it better to confront that alcoholic and say, “you need to get help and this needs to stop.” Paul tells us that love rejoices with the truth. Love does not cover over evil and enable it; love says “there is something wrong here and it needs to be addressed.”
Of course, none of this can be done in isolation. We can’t confront sin if we aren’t also kind, patient, and keeping no record of wrongs. We need to get our hearts right first. As Jesus said in Matthew 7:3-5:
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
When we take a good, hard look at ourselves first, and ask a mentor friend to pray with us, God often reveals things about our own hearts that may be difficult to see. And in that revealing, a path to deal with the difficulty in marriage often emerges.
Sometimes, though, the problem does not lie with us. And that’s when it’s time to stop covering up sin and start rejoicing in truth.
Unfortunately, that can be easier said than done emotionally. I’ve often had women say to me, “If I take a hard stand against his porn use, he may choose the porn over me.” They are scared to say anything or do anything because they may lose the relationship.
However, if they’re putting their own dreams for the relationship ahead of the good of their spouse, then they’re not actually being loving towards their spouse. They’re saying, “my marriage continuing matters more than my spouse getting well.” That’s not rejoicing with the truth. In a backhanded way, that’s actually being selfish.
True love does not rejoice when someone does something that hurts their soul. True love says, “you matter to me more than the relationship, so if I have to rock the boat a little, I’ll do that, because I care about you so much.”
Paul gives a blueprint in these verses for dealing with sin in marriage. We don’t do it vengefully. We don’t do it to prove that we are right or better than someone else. We don’t do it in anger. We do it gently, with the goal of restoring the person and the relationship. We do it because we believe in Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and we want our marriages to delight in that Truth, too–even if the way towards Truth seems a little rocky.
Sheila Wray Gregoire is an award-winning author of eight books, including Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage. She blogs daily at To Love, Honor and Vacuum. This article is based on Thought #5 in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: what submission in marriage really means.
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