There are four basic things that motivate us as human beings, the first and most powerful is LOVE. Number two is physical needs: food, water, shelter, clothing and things of that nature. The third is physical pleasure including possessions and other things that we desire. Fourth is pain, fear or harshness. Anger, meanness and unkindness also fall into this category of motivating factors.
Now, as husbands and wives, as we are trying to get our spouse to change in some way – or motivate them to do what we want, or stop doing something – what do we normally gravitate toward? Most often, we gravitate toward the fourth, and least effective motivator. We tend to be angry, resentful, nagging, ignoring one another, or holding back physically. We do this because this all stems from our sin nature, which comes very natural for us. This doesn’t make us bad. It makes us normal.
But, as Christians, God has called us to do something different. We are to not allow our carnal side to dictate how we behave and treat one another; but to act in the Spirit, yielding to God’s Word. However, all to often, in marriages, we immediately react out of our flesh.
Think about what motivated Jesus to come and die for each of us:
“For God so LOVED the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
It was God’s LOVE that motivated Him to come and die on the cross for us! Not the fear of His Father.
So, as we daily transform more and more into the image of God, we need to keep in mind that our spouse is transforming into God’s image, too – not into what WE want, but what GOD wants.
We read about how we can go about loving our spouse and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform them (as well as ourselves) in Colossians 3:8,
But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.
These things are the opposite of love. The words Paul uses,” put off”, means: To purposefully stop doing. To be led by the Spirit. To have a desire in our hearts to say, “God, I know this is wrong, and I am not going to do this.” It has to be something purposed in our hearts.
Yet, it is all too common in Christian marriages that the husband or wife never takes responsibility. We’ll often act or react in a sinful and unloving way toward one another and say hurtful things to one another; and never take any responsibility, but instead blame our spouse.
You can’t find that anywhere in the Bible.
We cannot blame someone else for what we do or don’t do. Instead, we need to measure ourselves against what God’s Word says. When we put the blame on someone else, we disobey God and there are consequences for that. The Word of God teaches us to respond to one another in a loving way, with an unconditional love.
“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.” (Proverbs 15:28)
If we are going to study how to answer, we need to read God’s truth in the Bible and discover what the right answers are. We can’t rely upon what our parents taught us, or what our friends tell us; but we can rely on God’s truth.
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)
Through our actions toward our spouse, if they are sinful or unrighteous, we can actually be provoking our spouse into unrighteous behavior.
For those of you who are parents: if you haven’t learned this wonderful secret – if you are acting in unrighteous and unloving ways toward your children – you shouldn’t wonder why there is such chaos and disrespect in your home. It’s often due to your unrighteous communication to them. Your sinfulness toward them actually creates this environment.
I see many husbands and wives doing this to one another and they never think that what they are doing is actually causing their spouse to respond in a sinful way.
Therefore, our actions need to be dictated by God’s Word. The Lord wants us to respond in truth! Not by our fleeting feelings and emotions, but instead by His will.
Remember that the purpose we are supposed to fulfill is to glorify God in our marriage.
Have you accepted and embraced this purpose for your marriage?
He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, But he who is impulsive exalts folly. (Proverbs 14:29)
When this verse says “impulsive”, what they mean is not allowing the Spirit of God to work through you and speak through you; but allowing your flesh to reign instead. And our flesh acts unlovingly very naturally.
Truth means we have informed our heart and mind with the Word of God. This is our only measuring tool!
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, ”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-39)
Is your spouse closer than your neighbor?
I sure hope so! But, often times, we treat our spouse worse than we treat our neighbor. Now, you may be thinking, “Well, I don’t have to live with my neighbor! You don’t know my husband. That’s why I do what I do and say what I say.”
But, God’s word doesn’t have an “if” clause in Matthew 22:36-39. He simply tells us that we need to love one another.