March 26, 2012

Misplaced Efforts of Manipulation

Coworkers, government officials, politicians, neighbors, husbands, children and even domestic animals . . .

There will always be someone or some behavior that we wish would change in the people around us. Our coworkers make crude sexual jokes in our presence. Our family members gossip about one another. Our neighbors allow their animals to parade around your yard. Our husbands won't fix or finish projects on our timetable. Our children are obstinate and rebellious. Our cat insists upon urinating on our couch. And these don't even begin to scratch the surface of things we would change if we could.

So we attempt to manipulate others by nagging, complaining, whining, giving the cold shoulder, expressing fear, maybe even throwing a temper tantrum. Some wives try to manipulate their husbands by withholding physical intimacy. Some husbands try to manipulate their wives by beating them. But in the end, all our efforts of manipulation are fruitless. Yes, we may win a battle or two here and there, but it will never change the person at whom it is directed.

Let's look at a common example of an unequally yoked marriage. In the case of a redeemed, believing wife and an unregenerate husband, there is nothing she can do to win the soul of her husband over to Christ. The Bible tells us that the woman, by her attitude and acts of service, her humility and chaste behavior, can be a means of grace by which the Lord might entice the heart of her husband to Christ. This is not a guarantee, but a general observation and very real possibility. If the woman tries to nag him, belittle him and otherwise tear him down by provoking him by her sinful actions, she is only perpetuating the problem. He will NEVER change. She will drive him further away from Christ and deeper into his idolatry and rebellion.

Her strategy is all wrong. She is acting out of selfishness and not out of love. She is more concerned about her reputation than she is about the soul of her husband and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a very dangerous habit of sin. Not only will her actions reap judgment for herself, but also encourage the rebellion leading to eternal damnation for her husband! She is not representing Christ to her unsaved husband. The Bible tells us to "love our neighbors as ourselves." Your husband is your closest neighbor therefore, you are commanded to love him. And if you don't consider him your neighbor, but more like your enemy there is a verse for that too. "Love your enemies. Do good to them." Luke 6:27-36. Do enemies deserve love? No, they don't. But this is the commandment of God. Your faith in Christ is clearly seen by your ability to show love to unloveable people, just as Christ did. Love is not just a feeling of affection or sentimentality, but a willful, calculated decision to act on their behalf.

And consider the wife who has benefited from the love of God through Christ. "But God demonstrates his own love toward us in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8 We didn't deserve the love of God and we certainly didn't deserve the atoning sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. We deserve hell, eternal condemnation, the wrath of God burning in unquenchable fire forever without relent. But Christ stepped in and took that for us in obedience to the Father! How amazing is His love and commitment toward His sheep! If, after receiving such a wonderful gift of grace, we are not urged to do the same, we are above all, hypocrites.

Love includes ceasing from perpetuating a sinful lifestyle. Let's say the husband weighs 800 pounds and is bedridden because of his obesity. The wife should not bring him the 10th helping of food as a means of submissive service to her husband! She's only making it worse! This is not an act of love. We are commanded to submit to our husbands out of reverence for Christ. This means that we submit to the man as long as what he asks is not disobeying the Lord. This works in lots of circumstances: when the husband tells his wife to bring him a drink of alcohol when he's already clearly drunk; when the husband tells his wife to hide the illegal drugs somewhere in the house and lie to the police; etc. Sometimes, the most loving thing a wife can do is to let the husband get into the trouble that he's caused himself. People do a lot of thinking when they're behind bars.

The Biblical response of the believing wife toward her unsaved husband in obedience to Christ is to remain with her husband, serve him and submit to him. She is not responsible for changing him, but she is responsible for her own actions and reactions. Unless SHE is willing to change her attitude and action toward him, she can NEVER hope that he will change either. This is the best way to "manipulate" those around us, by heaping burning coals on top of their heads. We do that through love, service and respect out of a motivation to please God through obedience. Manipulation is always out of a selfish, self-centered desire for our own pleasure. But if we resolve to serve our husbands and children out of a loving obedience to Christ, the impact will be more profound, more genuine, and more enduring. Choose this day whom you will serve: yourself or the Lord Jesus Christ.

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