A couple days ago I posted an article in response to an article written by Tim Challies. Tim was questioning his motives when he points out an area of sin in his wife. His article challenged me to do the same. Do I want to see my wife be more Christ-like for her sake, or for the sake of my own temporal comfort? As I've been reading the comments on Tim's post, I see that there is no consensus as to the biblical mandate to confront a spouse's sin at all. So I thought I'd take a minute to point out the uncomfortable necessity of mutual confrontation. I need reassured that I'm not misguided in my entire attempt at mutual edification. I'll start in Hebrews 3.
"Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God" (Heb. 3:12).
The writer of Hebrews is pleading with his readers to not stray from Christ. Here he says that care must be taken. The Christians must pay attention, and be alert. Why? So that an evil heart of unbelief doesn't lead them away from God and toward sin.
"Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb. 3:12-13).
Now the writer explains how the care is to be taken, and how Christians are to stay alert, and how an evil heart can be avoided. It is through the exhortation, or encouragement, of other believers that this care is taken. Why is someone else needed to help me deal with my sin? Because sin is deceitful! In addition, my heart is deceitful (Jer. 17:9) above all else. So I have a heart that desires to lead me astray, and sin is deceitful, and doesn't tell me it's leading me astray. Now, how often do I need someone to encourage me in this sin-fighting? Is this just an occasional corrective measure if I fall into unrepentant adultery or embezzlement? No. "Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today.'" Encouragement toward God, and away from sin, is to be a daily occurrence. What's at stake in this daily encouragement? Is it that important to me that someone helps me fight sin?
"Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end" (Heb. 3:12-14).
Wow! How important is the encouragement to fight sin? Eternally important. If I hold my original confidence firm to the end - I have share in Christ. If I build my life around the deception of sin, I never had an original confidence in Christ. And one of the means that God has chosen for me to continue my original confidence is through the encouragement that comes my way via other Christians. Now I'll look at Galatians 6.
"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted." (Gal. 6:1).
Here Paul tells how one who is caught, or ensnared, in a sin should be helped out of it. Another Christian is to gently restore him. The fact that Paul warns the spiritual one to keep watch shows that this restoration could be difficult, dirty work. Notice that the one doing the restoring is to do it in a loving, gentle manner. There's no room for judgmental or self-righteous attitudes.
Now I'll look at James.
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20).
Here James pictures someone already wandering away toward sinful error. I get the picture of a person who has left the beaten path, and is fighting his way through the thickets and thorns of life without God's influence. James expects that someone will "track down" the wanderer, and hold out a hand, and lead him back to the well-worn path to Heaven. What's the consequence of this rescue? The wanderer's soul is saved from death and a multitude of sins is covered.
There are many other such texts in the Bible. It is clear from these three that Christians are commanded to help one another out of the deceitful and deadly consequences of sin. Now, marriage provides a wonderful lifelong partner in this race toward Heaven. When I run astray, and rush down sinful paths, it's nice to know I have a godly wife who will lovingly and gently confront my error. She will have words of wisdom from the Bible to help me with. Naturally she will have bathed the entire situation in prayer, recognizing that only God can bring about the needed change. But she will not shirk her God-given responsibility to confront and correct.
She will confront me realizing that I may not respond in a cheerful, loving fashion. Being that sin is so deceitful, and so pleasurable, I may not appreciate the encouragement back toward godliness. My first instinct may be to accuse her of self-righteousness or legalism. I may even point out some sin of hers in defense to shut her up.
But since she is not trying to create a comfortable little happy marriage on earth on her own terms, she will trust that God will ultimately work out what he commands. She will confront and correct me because she loves me more than her own comfort. She cares more about my eternal soul than her temporal peace. She is following God's purposes for marriage, not setting up her own purposes. She will realize that her marriage belongs to God. I can't use the life that God gave me to sin. And she can't use the marriage God gave her to avoid the clear commands of God through Hebrews, Galatians and James. She will desire my salvation as she does her own. She will love me as she does herself. She will recognize that my salvation is a community project, and that she is the closest to me in this community.