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Are You in an Abusive Relationship?

SOURCE:  Justin and Lindsey Holcomb/

Editor’s note: Although this excerpt is addressed to women, we know domestic abuse happens to both men and women. If you believe you are in an abusive relationship, please seek godly counsel from your pastor or a counselor. Depending on your particular situation, you may also need to seek legal protection and make a safety plan. For a more complete exploration of what Scripture has to say about abuse, please read the Holcombs’ entire book, Is It My Fault: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence.

An abuser typically has a well-stocked arsenal of ways to exert power over you.

When the abuse first begins, many women in abusive relationships aren’t sure if what they are experiencing is abusive. In fact, one of the biggest hurdles to addressing domestic violence is that very few victims self-identify as experiencing abuse. Many think abuse happens to “those women” and don’t want to have the stigma of being one of “those women.”

The most telling sign that you are in an abusive relationship is living in fear of your spouse. If you feel like you have to walk on egg shells around him—constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blowup—your relationship is unhealthy and likely abusive. Other signs include your spouse’s belittling of you, his attempts to control you, and feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation.

An abuser typically has a well-stocked arsenal of ways to exert power over you. He may employ domination, humiliation, isolation, threats, intimidation, denial, blame, and more. What’s more, he is often creative and strategic in when—and how—to put these to their most effective use.

None of this is your fault. Your abuser is the only one to blame.

And because he is so good at deceptively wielding control, it can often be difficult to discern if you are being abused. From the perspective of outside observers, these signs of abuse may be cut-and-dry. But for those trapped in the cycles of abuse, making sense of these complicated relational dynamics—especially when the relationship is intimate—can be suffocating and confusing.

If this is where you find yourself right now, here are some ways to discern if your relationship is abusive.

What the abuser does: eight common profiles

Some abuse victims may be so confused by the relational dynamics in their relationship—understandably so—that they need to hear stories and common experiences from others in order to make sense of their own. Some find it helpful to identify domestic abuse by understanding the common profiles of abusers—and recognizing their partner among them.

Since abuse is defined by an abuser’s behavior—not yours—we’ll start with identifying just that. Here are eight categories or personas abusers commonly exhibit:

  1. Bully
    • Glares
    • Shouts
    • Smashes things
    • Sulks
  2. Jailer
    • Stops you from working and seeing friends
    • Tells you what to wear
    • Keeps you in the house
    • Charms your friends and family
  3. Head worker
    • Puts you down
    • Tells you you’re too fat, too thin, ugly, stupid, useless, etc.
  4. Persuader
    • Threatens to hurt or kill you or the children
    • Cries
    • Says he loves you
    • Threatens to kill himself
    • Threatens to report you to social services
  5. Liar
    • Denies any abuse
    • Says it was “only” a slap
    • Blames drinking, drugs, stress, overwork, you, unemployment, etc.
  6. Bad father
    • Says you are a bad mother
    • Turns the children against you
    • Uses access to harass you
    • Threatens to take the children away
    • Persuades you to have “his” baby then refuses to help you care for it
  7. King of the castle
    • Treats you as a servant/slave
    • Says women are for sex, cooking, and housework
    • Expects sex on demand
    • Controls all the money
  8. Sexual controller
    • Sexually assaults you
    • Won’t accept no for an answer
    • Keeps you pregnant
    • Rejects your advances and allows sex only when he wants it rather than when you initiate

Belittling behavior

Does your spouse:

  • Yell at you?
  • Embarrass, insult, criticize you, call you names, or put you down?
  • Treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your family or friends to see?
  • Put you down, but then tells you that he loves you?
  • Ignore or belittle your opinions or accomplishments?
  • Blame you for his abusive behavior?
  • Use any mistakes you made in the past against you?
  • Not allow you to disagree?
  • Ignore your feelings and ideas?
  • Tell you that you are a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
  • Act like the abuse is no big deal, tell you it is your fault, or even deny doing it?
  • See you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?

Controlling behavior

Does your spouse:

  • Act excessively jealous or possessive?
  • Withhold affection as a way to punish you?
  • Control where you go, what you do, and demand your whereabouts?
  • Keep you from seeing your family or friends?
  • Limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
  • Withhold basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter)?
  • Make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
  • Restrict you to an allowance?
  • Prevent you from working or sabotage your job?
  • Steal from you or take your money?
  • Constantly check up on you?
  • Control your plans and friends?
  • Stop you from seeing your family or friends?
  • Force you to drop charges?

Violent behavior or threats

Does your spouse:

  • Hit, kick, slap, choke, burn, shove, shake, drag, bite, push, punch, or physically harm you in any other way?
  • Throw things at you?
  • Have a bad and unpredictable temper?
  • Threaten to hurt or kill you?
  • Threaten to take your children away or harm them?
  • Threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
  • Intimidate you with guns, knives, or other weapons?
  • Destroy your property or belongings?
  • Threaten to kill your pet?
  • Force, threaten, or coerce you to have sex?
  • Destroy your belongings?

Three kinds of abuse

There are different kinds of abuse but all of them are wrong. To help you take inventory of your unique situation, let’s consider three different kinds of abuse:

When we talk about domestic violence, we are often referring to the physical abuse of a spouse or intimate partner. This means using physical force against someone in a way that injures or endangers that person. Physical assault or battering is a crime, whether it occurs inside or outside the family. The police have the power and authority to protect you from physical attack. And you have the right to protect yourself and your children, if you have them.

Any situation in which you are forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity is sexual abuse. Forced sex, even by a spouse or intimate partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is an act of aggression and violence. Sexual assault includes rape, but it also includes coercion, intimidation, or manipulation to force unwanted sex. We define sexual assault as any type of sexual behavior or contact where consent is not freely given or obtained and is accomplished through force, intimidation, violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception, or abuse of authority.

Sexual assault is a display of power by the perpetrator against the victim. It is not a product of an “uncontrollable” sexual urge. In fact, it is not actually about sex at all; it is about violence and control. Perpetrators use sexual actions and behaviors as weapons to dominate, control, and belittle another person.

If you feel as though you are being pressured into sex or that you are doing something that you do not want in order to placate your spouse, then let us tell you now that your feelings are valid and that it is abuse.

Most people can identify physical abuse—pushing, hitting, kicking—if it is happening in their relationship. Emotional abuse, on the other hand, is not always so easily spotted.

It’s harder to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong, and easier to minimize what’s really going on. It doesn’t leave you bleeding or bruised. The neighbors can’t hear it (not always) through the walls. But emotional abuse is no less destructive than physical abuse, and it is no less wrong.

The aim of emotional abuse is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence—a violent process, in that it degrades you and your sense of God-given worth. If you’re the victim of emotional abuse, you may feel that there is no way out of the relationship, or that without your abusive partner you will have nothing.

So how can you identify if what you’re experiencing is emotional abuse? There are several ways. Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behaviors are also signs of emotional abuse. Sometimes, abusers throw in threats of physical violence or other repercussions if you don’t do what they want.

Emotional abuse also includes economic abuse such as withholding money and basic necessities, restricting you to an allowance, sabotaging your job, and stealing from you or taking your money.

These are just some examples. But if you don’t see your particular experience listed here, use this as a general guide: Does your partner do something deliberately and repeatedly that puts you down or thwarts your plans? If the person who is supposed to be providing love, support, and guidance is keeping you in a situation where you are constantly made to feel inferior, you aren’t in a healthy relationship.

Your thoughts and feelings

The descriptions above are focused on your spouse’s behavior, which are all the telltale signs of abuse. These next questions are for you—to determine how you feel regarding this behavior. The more “yes” answers here, the more likely it is that you’re in an abusive relationship.

Do you:

  • Feel afraid of your spouse most of the time?
  • Avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
  • Feel afraid of your spouse’s temper?
  • Feel afraid to disagree?
  • Feel that you can’t do anything right for your spouse?
  • Believe you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
  • Have to justify everything you do, every place you go, every person you talk to in order to avoid your spouse’s anger?
  • Feel afraid to leave or break up because your spouse has threatened to hurt you, himself, or someone else?
  • Avoid seeing family or friends because of your spouse’s jealousy?
  • Wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?
  • Feel emotionally numb or helpless?

Reflect on your spouse’s abusive behavior. Do you see him in these descriptions? Can you see evidence that the behaviors were deliberate, controlled, or planned? Does he act differently toward you when there are other people around? How has he attempted to stop your resistance to his abuse? Does he treat others with respect, while treating you with disrespect?

Take a look at your own experience to get clarity on your situation. Our hope is that as we spell out the nuances of what you may be experiencing, you will be able to call it what it is, plain and simple—abuse.


How To Protect Your Relationship When You’re Drifting Apart

SOURCE:  Laura Silverstein

Sometimes we feel like we’re rushing through life so fast that we’re missing out. You try to prioritize exercise and meditation, but self-care is often the first thing to go when the chaos rises.

Trying to keep all the balls in the air can mean you aren’t seeing what’s right in front of your face. You and your partner might be drifting apart. Here’s what you need to know to bridge distance:

1. Chances are, this is just a phase.

You won’t always be so busy. Someday, if all goes according to plan, you’ll be sitting next to your partner, smiling about the life you have built together.

2. Long-term love is an extraordinary gift.

This security is tremendous, and not to be taken for granted. A person who celebrates how awesome you are and doesn’t leave you when you mess up is something to be treasured.

3. A relationship can die without a single slammed door or raised voice.

Even when there is no cheating, no screaming, no irreconcilable differences, relationships can end. It happens slowly, subtly, and silently. Distance left unaddressed is a leading cause of separation.

Relationship researcher Dr. John Gottman’s research identified eight predictors of divorce. Many of these predictors are symptoms you would expect, like poor conflict management and a high degree of negativity. Of the eight predictors, emotional distancing is the hardest to recognize.

4. There are warning signs. You just have to know what they are.

These include the absence of affection, humor, curiosity, excitement, and empathy in daily interactions.

If you have a huge fight with your partner, it’d be strange for both of you not to notice. Those conflicts are usually addressed. It is much more difficult, however, to recognize that the two of you have been holding hands less frequently or having fewer interesting conversations.

Example: Your partner asks you a question when you’re in the middle of something. You let him know now isn’t a good time, and you both move on with the day, leaving no one hurt or offended. But when attempts at connection are pushed away over and over again, people naturally reach out less and less, and eventually stop altogether.

5. The solution is simple and can be carried out in as few as six seconds each day.

In couples therapy I often tell my patients that I cannot teach them to love one another. But I can teach them how to nourish the love that they already have. You don’t have to hire a babysitter or plan a vacation. As few as six seconds at a time can make an immense difference over the long term.

To stay emotionally close, intersperse tiny moments of connection into your lives every single day. Simply put: Reach out warmly to your partner on a regular basis and respond with warmth when your partner reaches out to you.

Here are a few ways you might do this:

  1. You kiss your partner goodbye every day on the way to work. It becomes a habit, and you stop paying attention. Instead, slow down, enjoy the kiss, and recognize that you are kissing someone you’re in love with — not your Great-Aunt Lulu. Gottman recommends kissing hello and goodbye for six solid seconds.
  2. You’re rushing out to meet friends for dinner, giving instructions to the babysitter, and your partner tells you how nice you look. Switch gears for a second or two. Make eye contact, and say, “Thank you.” If you want appreciation, appreciate it when you get it.
  3. You’re finally in bed with your favorite book, enjoying the peace and quiet. Your partner climbs into bed next to you. Be willing to put your book down for a moment and say, “Hey, I’m totally wiped but so glad you’re home!” Acknowledge that you’re pleased to see your partner before you return to reading.

These tiny energy expenditures will invigorate your relationship exponentially.

When running a long-distance race, it’s essential to drink water before you get thirsty. Similarly, you need to nourish your relationship before you feel that it’s been drained. This will make you feel better, giving you that additional boost you got when your relationship first started, and a reminder that you are loved.

You have shared your heart with an amazing person. Stay close to him or her even when life is turbulent, so you’re still together when it isn’t.

10 Ideas: Helping Your Marriage Last a Lifetime

SOURCE:  Family Life Ministry/Mary May Larmoyeux

Advice from couples who have been married over 50 years.

Like most couples, Joan Fortin didn’t foresee any problems when she and Bill married more than five decades ago. After all, she says, “I really loved him. For me, marriage was going to be a white picket fence, roses, and raising a bunch of kids.”

“I loved her, too,” Bill says, “and thought we could raise a nice family together and just have a wonderful marriage.”

When they married on November 20, 1954, they were like most newlyweds—anticipating “the better,” but not “the worse.” If the Fortins had looked into their future on their wedding day, they would have seen an unfaithful groom and a bride who had a choice to make.

The following ten ideas, shared by couples married for 50 years or more, will help your marriage last a lifetime.

1. You need a Savior. “We didn’t realize that it was two sinners who married each other. Two very sinful people who needed a Savior.” (Mona Sproull)

2. Stay committed to one another. “Love is not a feeling, it’s a commitment … no matter what, I will stand by your mom.” (Charles Powell)

3. Pray with your mate. “Rather than each of us having ourselves at the center of our thinking, there enters a willingness to let God be at the center.” (Jerry Bell)

4. Forgive one another. “All I could think of was if God could forgive me of all of my sins, who am I not to forgive my husband.” (Joan Fortin)

5. Realize that there’s no such thing as a perfect husband or perfect wife. “Christ has given me understanding and lets me know that everyone does something wrong sometimes.” (Mattie Foy)

6. Have faith that God knows what He is doing. “A lot of people would ask me, ‘No children yet?’ And I’d say, ‘No, but I am sure having a good time telling you how to raise yours.’” (Jodie May)

7. Trust that God gives grace and direction as we trust Him. “How can a parent trust the Lord when they lose a child? It takes a lot of faith.” (Richard Long)

8. You’ll need to make compromises. “You can’t always have your way. I just thought that marriage would be a give and take situation.” (Nelda Davenport)

9. Be objective and take the emotion out of problem solving. “If I say something to you that’s disrespectful to you and I don’t really know it, you need to trust my heart.” (Mona Sproull)

10. Love your spouse. “The love comes from God.” (Mattie Foy)

What is the result of a marriage that lasts a lifetime? After 53 years of marriage, five children, eight grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, Joan Fortin says, “I just see the blessings that God has given us through this marriage and the love that the family has for one another, and I could have missed all of that.”

In an age of widespread divorce, it is becoming less and less common for marriages to last a half of a century. Read the rest of the story on these couples who have been married 50 years or more.

Does He Need to Confess Adultery to His Wife?

SOURCE:  Russell Moore

Today I have an email that came in from someone who is writing—he is a Christian man, a member of a church, who writes and tells me that he had an affair several years ago, that this affair only lasted about a week, that he put an end to it, but he writes and wants to know whether or not now—even though he has confessed it to God, he has repented toward God, he has talked to a couple of key accountability partners in his life—whether or not he ought to tell his wife. Now, this man says that their marriage is already precarious. It has been precarious for some time. He is not sure whether or not his wife knows the Lord—or if she does, how mature she is in Christ—and he doesn’t want to jeopardize their marriage. He doesn’t want to split up their marriage and really wreck the lives of their children.

And so he says do I have to tell my wife?

Now, what I want to say is first of all I just stopped and prayed for this family because I know that this has to be absolutely agonizing.  It is agonizing for him. It will be soon agonizing for her and for the children—those who are completely innocent in this saga.

I do think that you need to tell her and for several reasons: One of those reasons being, you have sinned against her. Your having this adulterous affair is a sin against your wife, and until you have confessed to her and until you have repented to her I don’t think you are finished with the process of repenting. Biblically she has ownership—that is radical language, I Corinthians, chapter 7—she has ownership over your sexuality, and so your sin affects her, even if she doesn’t know about it. And it affects her in several ways: one of them being you have joined yourself with some other woman outside of your marriage, which has a spiritual, mysterious effect, Paul says in I Corinthians, chapter 6.

Secondly though, you have brought to the marriage a breakdown in intimacy. You are keeping a secret from her about something that is at the core of your marriage. She deserves to know this, and I don’t think you have finished repenting until you confess it to her and until you ask for her forgiveness. I also don’t think that you are going to be free from the weight of conviction that you feel from that sense of guilt that you either feel—or if you don’t feel, it’s because you have covered that over and you have a heart that is numb to that. I think that you need to confess this and get that out in the open.

Having said that, I want to say to you be prepared for the consequences of your sin.

And I think that you need to make it very clear when you confess this to your wife that she is more important to you than the risk that may come along with your confessing this to her. And so you need to own your sin. You need to communicate this to her as a sin, and do not give any indication that you blame her at all. She is already probably going to be looking for that in whatever it is that you are saying. Do not give even the appearance that you are blaming her. So whatever problems you may have had in your marriage, whatever sorts of issues that you may have with her, this is not the time to talk about those things. You have no ground to give any list of grievances to her—regardless of whether or not those things may be legitimate. She is not to blame for your immorality and your sin, and so don’t imply that she is.

And I would also say don’t take her first reaction to be necessarily her last reaction. She is going to feel betrayed. She is going to feel outraged. She is going to feel as though she doesn’t even understand what her world means right now. That is all completely natural because you have broken the covenant. You have sinned against her, and you have done so with a breach of trust. Don’t defend yourself. Don’t give excuses, reasons. And let her express the grief and the anger that comes out of this. You have been carrying this sin with you now for several years. It could feel to you almost as a relief to get it out in the open in front of her. But this is the first time she is hearing about this, and so, you can’t expect her to forgive you immediately, reconcile with you immediately, move on. She has to grieve this, and she has to express the sort of anger that she has. Let her do that, and then wait patiently for her to forgive you. Don’t expect that she owes you some sort of immediate reconciliation. You are going to have to spend in many ways the rest of your life in your marriage rebuilding the trust that is there, even when she does forgive you.

So I am really sorry about this, and I am praying for your entire family, but yeah, you need to tell her. That is the second step for you, after confessing to God, in your repentance.

Q&A: My Wife Say’s I’m Controlling? Is She Right?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question: My wife says I’m manipulative and controlling. I don’t think I am. Let me give you an example. We have been separated for about a year, but recently we were out to dinner. While we were sitting there, she was friendly to some other patrons (policemen who she knew). She wasn’t flirting but I felt slighted and insulted that she was ignoring me. I told her how I felt and she accused me of being controlling. Is that true? I don’t see it?

Answer: First, let me applaud you for even asking the question. Most people when given that kind of feedback totally ignore or discount it. The fact that you are asking the question suggests that you might be open to the possibility that it’s true, even if you don’t see it.

Manipulating and controlling behavior are often subtle and hard to prove in the moment. They become much more obvious over time. If we just take this one incident, you might find it difficult to see your behavior as controlling. 

I think most people feel a little uncomfortable when they are out to eat with someone and that person has an extended conversation with someone else and does not include us, whether it is in person or on a cell phone or even texting.

So the only way we can truly answer this question is to examine your patterns over time, especially in relation to your interactions with your spouse. As you do this, you may begin to see a pattern of manipulative and controlling behaviors emerge.

Most people who use these kinds of behaviors don’t usually recognize them as wrong or harmful, it’s just the way they have learned to cope with uncomfortable or painful emotions or ways they’ve learned to get their own way or what they want from others. Underneath these dysfunctional behaviors are usually attitudes of entitlement as well as unrealistic expectations of how others should be or how they should treat you.

For example, perhaps you felt insulted at the restaurant because you believed that you were entitled to your wife’s undivided attention and anything less than that meant that she wasn’t interested in you or your conversations. Ask yourself were you attempting to control her friendliness with others by making her feel guilty about “slighting” you.

Or you may believe, “A wife should never talk with other men, even as friends. If she does, that means she doesn’t love me or I’m not most important.” Again your response to her indicates that you had some expectations of her to give you her undivided attention the entire time you were together. You didn’t say how long she was engaged with the policeman, but was it extensive or just a few minutes?

Here are other ways people manipulate and control others. Read through the list. Perhaps you will recognize using these methods to get your way.

Argue: You don’t take no for an answer but rather continue to make your point over and over again until she wears down and finally agrees with you. The underlying message is it’s not okay for her to disagree or have her own opinion.

Begging: “Please? Please? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeease? Continuing to ask, beg and plead until she changes her mind. The underlying message is she is not allowed to say no.

Bargaining: “If you do this, then I’ll give you….. A bribe to get her to do or not do what you want. You use favors as a means to manipulate her into doing something that she would not have wanted to do otherwise.

Guilt Trips: You might say, “You’re not following God or you’re being an unsubmissive wife or God hates divorce or if you really loved me or our children you would…..” The message here is that if she doesn’t do what you think she should do, God will be upset with her or you won’t be able to handle it or she is not a good/godly person.

Micromanaging: This is usually in the areas of time and money where one person makes the other person feel like a subordinate employee or child. She is not allowed to make her own decisions or handle her own life without asking your permission.

Misquoting or Twisting: “You said……” when in reality the person didn’t say it that way but you twist what they said to suit your own purposes. For example, “You said we were going to get back together soon, when what she really said was, “I don’t know if we can get back together soon.”

Playing Holy Spirit: We are all tempted to do this when confronting someone with his or her sin. But it is not our job to convict or change someone else’s behavior to line up to what we think it should be. When we see someone caught in a sin or trespass, we can try to restore such a one in a spirit of humility and gentleness (Galatians 6:1) but if we try to hold someone accountable to a change that they have not initiated, we are attempting to play God in his or her life.

Promises: I will do anything, just ……… Whether or not you keep your promise is irrelevant. You use a promise to get her to do something you want her to do.

Punishing actions: Using physical, sexual, economic, or verbal pressure, abuse or tactics to punish her for not doing what you think she should do. You might stop paying the bills, close the bank account, curse at her, call her names, accuse her of things, tell friends and neighbors untrue things about her to teach her a lesson for not doing what you want her to do. You feel justified because she did something “wrong” and won’t change or stop or admit she was wrong.

Irritation or Silence: I am so bothered or angry that you won’t do what I want that I won’t speak with you or treat you kindly until you change and do what I want.

Threats: Threatening to leave, to hurt one’s self or others, to hurt something she loves like her pet, her parents, her children, her stuff if she doesn’t do what you want her to do.

Some of these patterns overlap and many are used in conjunction to try to get another person to do something we think they should do or to stop doing something that we don’t want them to do. When we do that we try to control their behavior and often their thinking. That is not our role or responsibility and when you do this you will not have the intimacy or love you desire.

If you see yourself in these examples, that’s a good start but it usually doesn’t result in permanent changes unless you invite your wife and others to tell you when you fall back into them. Then it is your responsibility to learn how to tolerate the uncomfortable emotions that you may feel when she disagrees with you, doesn’t want to do what you want her to do or wants to do something different, in a mature way.

Is It True That Jesus Never Addressed Same-Sex Marriage?

SOURCE:  Family Life/Daniel Akin

According to the Scriptures, Jesus spoke clearly about sex and marriage, and about issues of the heart.

Today it is popular among those promoting same-sex marriage to say that Jesus never addressed the issue, that He was silent on the subject.

Those who affirm the historical and traditional understanding of marriage between a man and woman often are admonished to go and read the Bible more carefully. If we do so, we are told, we will see that Jesus never addressed the issue. So, the question that I want to raise is, “Is this assertion correct?” Is it indeed a fact that Jesus never addresses the issue of same-sex marriage?

When one goes to the Gospels to see exactly what Jesus did say, one will discover that He addressed very clearly both the issues of sex and marriage. He addresses both their use and misuse. And, as He speaks to both subjects, He makes it plain that issues of the heart are of critical importance.

What did Jesus say about sex?

Jesus believed that sex is a good gift from a great God. He also believed that sex was a good gift to be enjoyed within a monogamous, heterosexual covenant of marriage. On this He is crystal clear. In Mark 7 Jesus addresses the fact that all sin is ultimately an issue of the heart. Jesus was never after behavioral modification. Jesus was always after heart transformation. Change the heart and you truly change the person.

Thus, when He lists a catalog of sins in Mark 7:21-22, He makes it clear that all of these sins are ultimately matters of the heart. It is the idols of the heart that Jesus is out to eradicate. Among those sins of the heart that often give way to sinful actions He would include both sexual immorality and adultery (Mark 7:21). The phrase “sexual immorality,” in a biblical context, would speak of any sexual behavior outside the covenant of marriage between a man and woman.

Therefore, Jesus viewed premarital sex, adultery, and homosexual behavior as sinful. And He knew that the cure for each is a transformation of the heart made possible by the good news of the gospel. The gospel changes us so that now we are enabled to do not what we want, but what God wants. Here we find real freedom and joy.

What about the issue of marriage?

Is it truly the case that Jesus never spoke to the issue in terms of gender? The answer is a simple no. He gives His perspective on this when He addresses the issue in Matthew 19:4-6. There, speaking to the institution of marriage, Jesus is clear when He says, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

That Jesus was committed to heterosexual marriage could not be more evident. A man is to leave his parents and be joined to a woman who becomes his wife. This is heterosexual marriage. That He also was committed to the permanence and fidelity of marriage is clear as well.

So how might we sum up the issue?

First, Jesus came to deliver all people from all sin. Such sin, He was convinced, originated in and was ultimately a matter of the heart.

Second, Jesus made it clear that sex is a good gift from a great God, and this good gift is to be enjoyed within heterosexual covenantal marriage. It is simply undeniable that Jesus assumed heterosexual marriage as God’s design and plan.

Third, Jesus sees all sexual activity outside this covenant as sinful.

Fourth, it is a very dangerous and illegitimate interpretive strategy to bracket the words of Jesus and read into them the meaning you would like to find. We must not isolate Jesus from His affirmation of the Old Testament as the Word of God nor divorce Him from His first century Jewish context.

The hope found in Jesus

Fifth, and this is really good news, Jesus loves both the heterosexual sinner and the homosexual sinner and promises free forgiveness and complete deliverance to each and everyone who comes to Him.

John 8 tells the story of a woman caught in adultery. The religious legalists want to stone her, but Jesus intervenes and prevents her murder. He then looks upon the woman and, with grace and tenderness, tells her that He does not condemn her.

Then He says to her, “go and sin no more.” In Matthew 11:28 Jesus speaks to every one of us weighed down under the terrible weight and burden of sin. Listen to these tender words of the Savior, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

This is the hope that is found in Jesus. This is the hope found in the gospel. Whether one is guilty of heterosexual or homosexual sin, one will find grace, forgiveness, and freedom at the foot of the cross where the ground is always level.

When I came to fully trust Jesus as my Lord and Savior at the age of 20, I determined that I wanted to think like Jesus and live like Jesus for the rest of my life. When it comes to sex I want to think like Jesus. When it comes to marriage I want to think like Jesus.

That means I will affirm covenantal heterosexual marriage. It also means loving each and every person regardless of his or her lifestyle choices. It means, as His representative, proclaiming His gospel and extending the transforming grace of the gospel to others that takes us where we are, but wonderfully and amazingly, does not leave us there. That is a hope and a promise that followers of Jesus gladly extend to everyone, because we have been recipients of that same amazing grace.

When Your Spouse Lets You Down

SOURCE:  Dr. Dave Currie with Glen Hoos/Family Life Ministry

Seven steps to letting go of hurt and disappointment.

“Forgive and forget.” It’s a well-worn cliché—one that is easier to say than to practice.

If you’re married, you’ve been there. Your spouse has said or done something that has wounded you. It may be something small, or it may be a major betrayal. Either way, your pride screams at you to take revenge. If you don’t strike back immediately, you at least want to keep this “guilt card” in your pocket, to be pulled out at a later date: “Oh yeah, well what about the time when you …”

When we’ve been offended, the last thing we want to do is to let it go. And yet, if our desire is to have a healthy, lasting marriage, that is exactly what we’ve got to do. Here are seven suggestions to keep in mind when your spouse lets you down:

1. Agree on a time to talk. If you need to talk to your spouse about something, don’t just corner him or her and launch in unexpectedly. That is a recipe for hostility. Instead, agree together on a time to discuss the issue. That gives each of you a chance to think about it in advance, which will result in a more productive discussion.

2. Handle negative emotions responsibly. When we react emotionally, we often say and do things that we later regret. In many cases, it is best to delay the discussion until you’ve settled down, gained a proper perspective, and prayed about your attitude. This will allow you to go into it looking for a solution, rather than just being consumed with your own hurt.

As partners, you need to respect each other’s need to “take five.” If your spouse needs to wait a few minutes, or even a day or two, to cool down, don’t press the issue. This should not be used as an excuse to avoid the discussion entirely, but it is better to take some time to clear your head than to allow your emotions to take you somewhere that you don’t want to go.

3. Deal with one issue at a time. Remember that “guilt card” we mentioned earlier? Once you’re into the discussion, you will be tempted to pull it out. Soon, your conversation has deteriorated into a long list of offenses, as you try to outdo one another with everything that the other person has ever done wrong. This only intensifies the conflict and deepens the divide between you. It can also be overwhelming to be presented with a massive list of things that need to change. Instead of being motivating, it’s discouraging.

Instead, be content to solve one problem at a time. It is much better to make serious headway in one area of your relationship than to simply rehearse everything that needs fixing.

4. Be clear about your perspective. Give each other some uninterrupted time to share your concerns. If you are just trading barbs back and forth, neither of you will really be hearing the other—you’ll be too busy thinking about your next comeback.

When it is your time to talk, try to help your mate understand your hurt or frustration. Help them to see why their actions and words had the impact that they did. Likewise, the offending spouse should have the opportunity to explain their words or behavior. It could be that you have misinterpreted their motives, and when this is cleared up it goes a long way toward solving the problem.

5. Hold your relationship more dear than this issue. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our feelings or our “rights” that we lose sight of the bigger picture. People joke about marriages breaking up over toothpaste and toilet paper disputes, but it really happens! Remember that your relationship is the primary concern. You may have some issues to sort out, but you still love one another—and loving one another often means letting the other person be right.

6. Walk in an attitude of forgiveness. If you are going to live with this person for the next 20 … 30 … 50 years, you are going to have to forgive one another many times. You cannot afford not to forgive. Unforgiveness not only hurts your spouse, it also hurts you! As Corrie ten Boom said, “Forgiveness is setting the prisoner free, only to find out that the prisoner was me.”

This brings us back to the issue of forgiving and forgetting. In truth, there are some hurts that you will never be able to forget. What is more important is that we choose to let it go. Proverbs 17:9 says, “He who conceals a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.” Forgiveness entails giving up your right to punish your spouse—whether through direct retaliation or just letting bitterness fester.

Over the past year, I have discovered the value of “advance forgiveness.” I make a conscious decision that, the next time my wife, Donalyn, offends me, I am going to forgive her. Then, when it happens, I remember that I have already decided to forgive her, so there is no point in making a big deal out of it now. This really helps to take my critical edge off.

7. Forgive as Christ forgave you. Colossians 3:13 says, “[Bear] one another, and [forgive] each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”

And just how does the Lord forgive us? Fully. Unconditionally. Willingly. Time and time again.

This kind of forgiveness is supernatural; it is more than we can do on our own. Particularly if your spouse has betrayed you in a major way, you may need to ask God for the ability to let go of the hurt and forgive them from your heart. But as you trust God to give you His strength and love, He will help you to forgive … even when your spouse has really let you down.

If you have never experienced God’s complete, unconditional forgiveness, know this: God loves you deeply. There is no sin that is so great that He is unwilling to forgive you, if you would just come to Him. If this is the desire of your heart, pray this prayer:

Dear God, I need You in my marriage, and in my life. I acknowledge that I have sinned against You by directing my own life, and that I cannot go on any further without Your help and guidance—and above all, Your forgiveness. I thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to die on the cross to pay for my sins. I now accept that sacrifice and invite Jesus to take His place on the throne of my life. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and empower me to live the life You have called me to. Thank You for forgiving me. Amen.

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