- GALATIANS 5:15 (NKJV): “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!”
- EPHESIANS 4:3 (NIV): “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
- ROMANS 12:18 (ESV): “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: Keeping the Peace
LET’S ZOOM IN on our lovable neighbors, Darryl and Marcia.Typical of their neighborhood, they’re in their late 30s to mid 40s, with three children in middle school and high school.
Our lovebirds have finished dinner. The children are dispersed to their rooms to finish homework before settling into some TV time, and Darryl and Marcia are cleaning up.
What seems like a routine conversation, basic husband-and-wife question-and-answer stuff, turns into a heated contention, with each partner flinging words they hope our Lord doesn’t hear. (Fat chance of that!)
How does that happen, they ask themselves afterwards, sulking and hurt. Why do we do that?
The Bible tells us it’s in our hearts:
“Who can understand the human heart? There is nothing else so deceitful; it is too sick to be healed.” – Jere. 17:9-11 (GNT)
At this point, it doesn’t matter what our neighbors were discussing, nor which one of them (if either) was right. What matters is that two people who love one another, who sought each other out and committed to one another, can still argue over what is, in the larger scheme of things, essentially trivial.
WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT?
WE’RE ALL IN *MIXED* MARRIAGES.
Typically, we think of mixed marriages as two people from different races or religions, or maybe different social classes, even if we don’t state it outright.
But, even within our “tribe,” our marriages are mixed because we pair a female with a male. Whether we’re familiar with the various books comparing men and women as Mars and Venus1 or Waffles and Spaghetti2, we know from personal experience and our own interactions that we are markedly different, that oil and water have nothing on estrogen and testosterone.
So, how do we “keep the peace” in a marriage between two different energies, no matter how much we love and desire one another?
Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, has much to say about “contentious wives.” Consider Proverbs 19:13 and then 21:9 and then 21:19 and then 25:24 and then 27:15 and then again at 27:16.
Solomon, considered the wisest man ever, gives us some six verses where he likens a difficult wife to the continual dripping on a rainy day, life in a desert, or living in the corner of a housetop. He complains that trying to restrain an emotional rant is like grasping the wind or oil that seeps through the fingers. (He doesn’t say “emotional rant,” but you know that’s what he meant.)
Solomon does not tell us whether the woman is contentIous because she’s a shriveled up, bitter malcontent or because she’s chaffing under the arrogance and selfishness of her monster husband. (We can assume she’s responding to her husband’s failure to love her and protect her. If she were a malcontent when he met her, he probably would not have married her.) Of course, those verses apply as well to a woman living with an irritable husband!
Still, we get the point that, in today’s terms, “Happy Wife = Happy Life.”
SURVIVING MARITAL BATTLES
DOES MARITAL CONFLICT, once resolved, lead to a more fulfilling, satisfying union than one built mostly on lust and shared interests? We know the answer is “yes.” Any couple in their early 20s could build a marriage on physical attraction alone.
But how do they manage to stay together, buy a house, raise a family, pay off the mortgage, send the children to college, finance their retirement, and buy a burial plot together? What about all that arguing?
Do they argue? Do you argue? Doesn’t everyone argue?
Several years ago, our local church offered a series of Sunday morning adult classes on how to improve our marriages.
We hesitated to sign up for fear it would brand us as marital misfits, the couple everyone should avoid. To our surprise, when we walked into the classroom — late, of course, because of our hesitation — we saw most of our church friends there!
In our book, those couples were the winners, the church’s poster people for happy marriages, and yet there they were, eager to learn how to make their marriages better.
SLOW TO ANGER
THE BIBLE’S WISDOM always gives us the best answer. Interestingly enough, we read admonitions to hold our tongues, especially when we’re angry. James (the Lord’s half-brother) tells us in James 1:19 to be “slow to anger,” while Proverbs 16:32 reminds us that he who is slow to anger is “better than a warrior.”
In his book, Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas asks if God designed marriage more to “make us holy than to make us happy.” As much as we might like to believe the fairy tale endings of how the prince and the beauty “lived happily ever after,” the whole notion of marriage as preparation for Heaven makes more sense.3
Recalling two of Solomon’s bromides against angry wives, Proverbs 27, verses 15 and 16, let’s not overlook they set up verse 17, that as “iron sharpens iron,” so does one man (or one woman) sharpen another.
That could well mean that all of those marital tiffs, no matter how uncomfortable they may be at the moment, serve a greater purpose as character building for our eternal lives with the Lord.
Even so, God makes it very clear that our “character building” exercises should not take us to sin. Consider both Ephesians 4:29 (“In your anger, do not sin”) and Psalm 4:4 (“Be angry, and do not sin.”)
PLEASE DON’T MISTAKE this meditation as a call to arms! We’re not promoting quarrels, tiffs, and hissy fits, but we are saying that marital discord may serve a greater purpose: smoothing out our rough spots to make us more like the Savior we worship.
We know that marital discord is part of the curse (see Gen. 3:16), where God tells Eve there will be conflict in her marriage. So, we know that every married couple has disagreements.
But God continues to take care of His creation so that, even in the curse, He finds a way to make our discord pay off for us.
Maybe this is just another example of Romans 8:28? There God tells us through Paul that God works “all things” to the good of those who love him and are called to His purpose.
HOLY FATHER GOD, how blessed we are to rest in Your loving care, to be redeemed by Your Son’s blood, to be kept for salvation by the Holy Spirit. You love us and nurture us, shaping us to be more Christ-like and preparing us for eternity with You. Thank You for your constant attention and for using even our sin to prepare us as a bride “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”4 In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN
1 John Gray, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, HarperCollins, 1994
2 Bill Farrel and Pam Farrel, Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti, Harvest House Publishers, 2017
3Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich., 2000
4Ephesians 5:27 (NIV)