Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pathetic Husbands and Hindered Prayers

Do you think God holds a grudge? If you sin and seem to get away with it, does God come back to get you in another area? What about for Christians whose sins have been forgiven, and the wrath of God against them has been forever assuaged by Christ? Of course, we're all familiar with lying in the bed one has made and accepting the consequences for one's actions. But does our sin personally affect our relationship with God? Or is God just statically, perpetually level in his response to us? We have to be careful.

On the one hand, if you are in Christ and he has paid your sin-debt, the wrath of God does not remain upon you (Colossians 1:13-14). His forgiveness has perfected you for all time in his eyes (Hebrews 10:14). But does this mean that God is static in his relationship with you? That what you do, whether good or evil, doesn't matter anymore because God never changes in his relationship to you? I don't believe so, and I believe that by believing this, many have rushed headlong into all sorts of sins and cut out a vital aspect of our union with Christ.

Was the wrath of God lifted from the apostle Peter when he wandered around Israel with Jesus? Yes it was. Was Peter forgiven through the blood that Jesus would soon shed for him? Yes he was. Was God happy with Peter because of the work Christ was doing on Peter's behalf? Yes God was. So consider this disturbing voice of Jesus: "But he turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man'" (Matthew 16:23). Jesus called Peter Satan! That's a very stern rebuke. Did God suddenly change his mind concerning Peter? Was the wrath of God all of a sudden thrown back upon Peter? Did the blood lose its power? No. But Peter was made well aware that his agendas were bumping up against Christ's. The covenant love of God for Peter never diminished, even though the relationship went through a rough spot. Peter is righteous in Christ and representing the agenda of Satan to God himself - at the same time. What does this mean?

Peter writes to husbands: "Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered" (1 Peter 3:7). There are many husbands who profess to be Christians, yet refuse to obey this verse. They will not be gentle with their wives, and they will not treat them like precious china dishes. They are harsh and snappy and crude toward their wives. They are quick to anger and ridicule and criticize. They place burdens on their wives that they would never bear themselves. They degrade their wives and treat them like objects or like little children. They will not put their wives on pedestals of honor and adoration. They are pathetic husbands - Pathetic [puh-thet-ik], adjective, 4. miserably or contemptibly inadequate. They're husbandry is inadequate to nurture flourishing growth in their wives. They're pathetic.

What is God's response to pathetic husbands? He doesn't listen to their prayers. For a Christian who truly understands how radically God-centered this universe is, there is no greater threat available to offer. The Christian knows he is positionally right with God because of what Christ has done for him. But that doesn't mean that the relationship doesn't fluctuate. Think of it like this. Imagine that you were born with the last name Jones. But the Smith's adopted you, so you became a Smith. Now, if you do something displeasing to your new parents, they don't un-adopt you and take away your name. They don't say, "You trampled my flowers so you're not a Smith anymore!" Instead, they say, "You trampled my flowers so I'm taking away your video games until they're replaced." If you ask them if they still love you and if you're still their child, they say, "Of course we love you. We always will, and you'll forevermore be a Smith. But you're not getting your video games back until the flowers are replaced."

Being adopted by God through Christ didn't protect Peter from being called Satan when he set his mind on earthly things. And the prayers of husbands who are adopted by God into the family of Christ are not protected when they prove to be pathetic husbands. I've heard several preachers explain our relationship with God as follows: A husband and wife were driving in a car when they passed a young couple in a convertible snuggled right against each other. The wife asked her husband, "Why don't we sit like that anymore?" to which the husband replied from behind the wheel, "I haven't moved." Everyone in the congregation laughs at the joke, and then the preacher says, "If you don't feel as close to God as you used to, just know this: God never moves."

Now, I understand the intention of this story. It is to show the dependability of God. But I'm not sure we can defend it from Scripture. Consider these verses:

"If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened" (Psalm 66:18).

"If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination" (Proverbs 28:9).

"But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear" (Isaiah 59:2).

"We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him" (John 9:31).

These verses, along with the one Peter wrote to husbands concerning their prayers, does not seem to support the idea that God remains the same with a Christian who moves away from God. In other words, if you choose to act as though God's Word and will do not count when you want to treat your wife like dirt, do not think that God's Word and will are going to be there for you when you ask for a raise at work or relief from an illness or the salvation of your mother or a more smooth-running home life or guidance in a decision.

Jesus did not let Peter's mind remain on earthly things. He didn't allow Peter to be a perpetual representative of Satan. How long do you think he'll tolerate your earthly-minded agenda, pathetic husband? How many prayers are going unanswered right now in your life because you refuse to honor your wife? It rhymes on purpose. Start chanting it to yourself: "How many prayers are unanswered in life because I refuse to honor my wife?" If you choose to live as though God is insignificant in your marriage, don't be surprised when you can't find his significance anywhere.