It’s not even 11 AM, and twice today my wife, Cetelia, has irritated me.
The first time happened about two hours ago when she spoke to me like she would speak to one of our kids. I didn’t appreciate the “motherly” tone in her voice.
The second time happened about 20 minutes ago when I felt she lectured me for having an opinion. Honestly, I’m still a little miffed as I write. But, that is precisely the reason I’m writing while miffed. There’s a lesson in there.
In my heart I heard the Lord say, “Just because you didn’t like the way she treated you doesn’t mean you can be a jerk towards her.”
Boom. End of story. Checkmate.
As much as I didn’t want to hear that correction, I needed to because it’s correct. I am not allowed to be jerkish to my wife just because I got offended. That goes against one of the commands Jesus gave while preaching his first sermon after being baptized.
Here’s how the Message Bible expresses what he said:
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer.” – Matthew 5:43-44, Message
Now, before you think I’m declaring my wife or yours as the enemy, let me say that “enemy” here refers to anyone who you feel has disrespected you in some way.
The people in Jesus’ audience were used to loving those who loved and treated them well, and hating those who treated them badly. Sounds normal, right? That’s not too hard to do.
But enter Jesus’ challenge to a higher way of living:
love your enemies…
let their displeasing, frustrating, irritating, and maddening actions bring out the best in you.
He wasn’t done. He told them to not only let their enemies bring out their best, but also to pray for them. What a challenge!
“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God–created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” – Matthew 5:48, Message
Is it just me or is asking us to do what can seem impossible at times?
Now that we’ve heard the commands, let’s break this into seven actionable steps.
- Love your enemies. This sounds fuzzy & impossible until you recognize what love in this verse means. It’s not saying be buddy-buddy with the person who has offended you (although you should be buddy-buddy with your wife). Instead, the word love is directing you to give what’s needed – not deserved. When Cetelia irritated me, what she deserved was starkly different from what she needed. What she needed was for me to give her the benefit of the doubt, recognize that she probably had no ill-intent, and respond in kindness. That’s what your wife needs, too.
- Do good. When we feel we’ve been wronged, the LAST thing we want to do is do good for that person. Instead, we want to hold back, give the cold shoulder and ignore. Resist these reactions, and overcome them by finding a way to do something for your wife that she considers good and helpful.
- Pray. This is pretty self-explanatory. In the midst of your irritation, pray for your wife. Call out her name before the Lord, and ask him to hold & mold her. Pray that she’ll be healthy, have God’s wisdom, and be strong in his might. Pray that she’ll love you and your children, and that she’ll feel loved by you and your children. Pray that you’ll be the husband she needs you to be as God makes her into the wife you need her to be.
- Grow up. Odds are that you’ve made it through puberty successfully, so physically you are a grown man. If you’re like me, there are times when your actions don’t match up with your physical stature. Grow up. Understand that being a man, husband, and father means having to sacrifice, live with the slights, go without at times, and lead your family forward and upward. Even though there will be times when you feel like you’ve gotten the short end of the stick, don’t stay there. Even though there will be times when you feel like you’ve been crapped on, don’t stay there. Get up. Grow up. Keep maturing spiritually so it reflects in your attitude.
- Live out your God-created identity. If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, his Spirit lives within you. That means you have his presence and power within you to help you live a life that pleases him. I like the way Ephesians 4:22-23 (Message) talks abut this life,
“Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything––and I do mean everything––connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life––a God–fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” – Ephesians 4:22-23 MessageWhen you live from this inward identity, your actions towards your wife will look more and more Christ-like.
- Live generously & graciously. To me, these two words can be summed up by saying, “Be nice to your wife.” That’s it. Be nice. Be free with your time and heart. Assume the best. Think good thoughts about her. Find out how you can bless her. Be generous. Be gracious. For Pete’s sake, be nice.
- Live the way God lives towards you. This one is huge, and perhaps grandaddy of them all. I’m often brought back to my senses regarding how I treat my wife when I consider how God lives towards me. He’s not a brute. He’s not pushy. He’s not mean, ill, or selfish. Rather, he’s forgiving, loving, kind, helpful, positive, and thinking better of me than I’m thinking of myself. And here’s the kicker: he’s living this way towards me EVEN when I’m at my worst. Wow – that’s sobering. Perhaps even more sobering is that I’m to live towards Cetelia that way, and you’re supposed to live towards your wife that way. “How do I do that?” you as? Re-read #5 about living out your God-created identity.
Well, I’ve arrived at the end of this piece and I’m not longer frustrated or upset with my wife. Given the opportunity I’ll let her know that *how* she said what she said upset me. Or, then again, maybe I’ll just let it go lest I kick up dust needlessly. Either way, I have my marching orders from Jesus. And in today’s vernacular, they’re “Don’t be a jerk to your wife.”
Did any of this stand out to you? Let us know in the comments below.