Monday, August 6, 2007

The Motive of Confrontation

Tim Challies posted a wonderful article on loving his wife properly. His point was so good, I thought I'd quote a bit of it.

I am committed to Aileen. There is no doubt about it. She is the one for me and there isn’t much I wouldn’t do to make her happy. I love her to death. This Wednesday we’ll celebrate our ninth anniversary and I love her now more than ever. I am committed to her good as well. But this is where things get tricky; this is where the lines seem to blur. What is her good? It seems clear to me that what is best for her is to have her character conformed more and more to the image of Jesus Christ. Her good is Christ-likeness. And thus when I challenge her on areas in her life, when I seek after her good, the ultimate goal should be to help her see where she is falling short of the example of Christ and to help her strive towards the character of a Christian. I hope she holds this out as the goal as well when she feels that she needs to challenge or confront me.

The problem is that often I confuse her good with my good. And this is what I’ve been thinking about and trying to write about all this time: how often do my concerns for change in her life really center around me? How often, when I address an area in her life am I really just trying to make my own life easier? How often do my exhortations, which I strive to make gentle and loving, revolve around how she has fallen short of my standards rather than God’s?

I find this same problem to be true in my marriage. I deeply love Amanda, and she is my best friend. I don't know many women as committed to Christ-like love as her. However, in those areas where she falls short, it is my responsibility as her husband to help her see it, and change. I think Ephesians 5:25-30 commands this. The texts where we are commanded to exhort one another also come to mind.

The fascinating thing is that the areas where she may need the greatest encouragement may also be the areas where she'll get the least. The reason for this is simple. My radar screen is zoned in on the areas that most affect me, not necessarily the ones that most offend God.

Let me see if I can create a generic example. Suppose my wife struggles with gossip. (She fights that well, and anyone who knows her would vouch for that. But let's suppose she doesn't fight well.) Let's also suppose my wife struggles with anger. (She also fights that well, but let's suppose she doesn't.) So, let's suppose that my wife is an angry gossip. (Sorry, Amanda).

Which sin do you suppose I'm more likely to confront? I'm saying the anger. As long as she's not gossiping about me, and not making me look bad, then I might be tempted to let that go unchecked indefinitely. But what I can't stand, and what God surely hates, is anger. I must help mold Amanda into a less angry, more sweet-mannered person. Why? Because her anger interferes with my agenda.

It's very difficult for an angry wife to turn on intimacy. It's difficult to ride in the van with an angry, pouting wife. It's difficult to converse with one predisposed to angry responses. In other words, if I have an angry wife, I have a lot of relational headaches. I want a good, happy, submissive friend who wants to have sex all the time. So anything that interferes with my agenda has to be nipped and tucked. In the meantime, any sinful areas that my wife may struggle with can be shelved until later. As long as they don't affect me.

I am grateful that Tim was bold in his honesty. I used his honesty as a challenge to my own heart in this area. Whether you're the husband or wife, I pray that you will, too.

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