Overcoming Evil in Marriage

I was miserable in the rain. We owned a Ford Aerostar minivan, and one of the sliding glass windows was leaking. It was our first ministry job, and while we could afford a house (barely), we didn’t have a garage. I had just gotten back from a ministry trip, and Laura told me about it then. She had noticed it leaking during the week, but didn’t have a way of fixing it. Now during this unexpected thunderstorm rain was coming inside the van in bucketfuls. I was upset; I questioned her care of the family. I lashed out in anger at her—openly accusing her of not caring for our vehicle. I don’t remember all that I said to my wife at that time, but I know it was hurtful, accusatory, and condescending—a too common trinity of evil speech from me to her.

I grabbed some caulk and went outside trying to fix our minivan’s window frame. It was rainy, and I was steaming. I was angry at my wife, angry at my circumstances, and angry that one of my idols—our minivan—was being damaged on the inside by the rain.

My wife came out and gave me something I didn’t deserve—grace. She told me later that she wanted to come out and yell at me—I deserved it, but instead she was kind. As we stood there in the rain she asked, “Kraig, how can I help you with this?” with a sweet, loving tone, and she meant it! The Spirit used her kindness to lead me to repentance. I asked her forgiveness and she graciously gave it.

Not all sin in marriage ends with forgiveness, does it? God was gracious to me that day. I wish I could say that I haven’t sinned against my wife or kids since then with my speech, but that’s far, far from the truth.

My wife was applying truth found in Romans 12. And when I say she was applying it, I mean it wasn’t accidental. She thought about how she should respond to me and knew what Scripture said.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Rom 12:21 (ESV)

I had treated her sinfully–very wickedly, but she responded with good. You see, the good overcomes the evil. It destroys the evil. It’s not how any of us naturally respond. We want our revenge–something also condemned in Romans 12. But revenge extends the evil. It prolongs the evil. It feeds it.

Anybody can give back evil for evil. That’s easy. That’s natural. What my wife did that day was something that only those empowered by the Spirit can do. Giving good for evil kills the evil.

Husbands and wives must overcome evil with good. But you cannot do it in your own strength. The gospel changes us into people that can do what comes unnaturally. We give back good for evil.

Maybe your marriage is stuck right now, and it’s stuck because neither of you will give in. Neither will do good when sinned against. Trading verbal blow for verbal blow accelerates quickly. It harms your marriage. Evil for evil hasn’t worked very well, has it? Make the first move. Be gracious and kind to your spouse especially when they don’t deserve it.

“Judge Not”

This Sunday my pastor asked me to teach in our Community Service, and he–probably unwisely ;)–gave me total freedom as to subject. I’m going to look at Matthew 7:1-5 both this week and probably next. It’s a passage I often use in my counseling ministry; it reminds us of our bias towards self. We really think the other person in conflict is wronger than us, but we are hobbled in making that judgment because of our inability to see ourselves clearly.

Verse 1 tells us not to judge others, but it doesn’t mean what most unbelievers think it means. It’s not a blanket condemnation of making evaluations about others. We know this because in the same chapter we are told that we can make some evaluations of others (7:6, 19-20). It is a command not to sinfully judge or condemn others.

Years ago I developed this chart to help me understand the difference. Hopefully it helps you too.

By the way, I hesitated to call it discernment because of the misuse of that word by so-called discernment ministries online. However, it’s a biblical word that should be rescued, and maybe by emphasizing grace, I will contribute to a more accurate understanding of it.

Sinfully JudgingGraciously Discerning
To condemn someone (often based on personal opinion). To act in the place of God.
Rom 14:3–4 (ESV) Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
To see things as they really are, as God describes them in His Word.
Phil 1:9 (ESV) And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, Heb 5:14 (ESV) But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.    
Will be spiritually blind to my own lack in the same area (Mt 7:3-4).Will thoroughly examine myself first (Mt 7:3-4; Gal 6:1).
Will be eager to tell about another’s failure.
1 Cor 13:6a (ESV) [Love] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing….
Will deal with the matter as privately as possible (Mt 18).
Will feel superior because of their failure. “I’m better than that.”Will grieve because of their failure. “I’m very much like that.”
Will base opinions on hearsay.
John 7:24, 51 (ESV) Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” 51 “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?”
Jam 4:11 (ESV) Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.
Will be concerned with accuracy.
Prov 18:13 (ESV) If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.  
Will go to him to get the story straight (Mt 18).
Luke 17:3 (ESV) Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, [Has the idea of rebuking tentatively. You might not have the whole story.]
Rejects a sinning brother.
2 Cor 2:6–8 (ESV) For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.
Restores a sinning brother (Mt 18; Lk 17:3; Gal 6:1).

Here are the differences I see. Are there any contrasts that you would add?

Know Your Wife

According to some polls, there is a certain percentage of men who cannot remember the date of their marriage. You would think the percentage would be zero, but it’s a range that is much larger than that. I can remember not only our anniversary (will be 29 years on May 29th! Is there such a thing as a Golden Anniversary—besides the 50th—like your Golden Birthday?) but I can also remember the date when I asked Laura to marry me. I’d prove it to you, but I also use it in some passwords, so you’ll just have to trust me. I know I’m congratulating myself on something that is possibly the lowest bar for fulfilling 1 Peter 3:7, but apparently some husbands cannot meet even that low standard.

What’s in 1 Peter? A Christian husband probably knows in the Apostle Paul’s writings that he is commanded to love his wife in the Apostle Paul’s writings, but tucked in 1 Peter 3:7 is another command that is ignored to his marriage’s harm.

1 Peter 3:7 (ESV) Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way….

This phrase has a variety of translations.

(NKJV) Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding….
(NIV84), Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives….
(NASB95) You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way….
(NRSV), Husbands, in the same way, show consideration for your wives in your life together….
(HCSB), Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives with an understanding of their weaker nature….

You can see that some translations think it means to be considerate of your wife, and others—most—think it means live with her with knowledge. Some Bible scholars take it to mean be considerate, or use your authority considerately.[1]Edmund Clowney and Peter Davids

However, I agree with most that it means live knowledgeably with your wife. It is translated as a command because of 1 Peter’s specific grammatical rules [2]It’s a participle, but in 1 Peter participles are often considered imperatives.

So what does it mean to live with your wife according to knowledge? Peter doesn’t say what kind of knowledge is needed. A bit surprising I think, but several commentators believe it has special reference to the marital sexual relationship. The word was certainly used that way in the LXX—the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The word is sunoikeo [συνοικέω], and it’s used in each of these passages.

Deuteronomy 22:13 (NKJV) “If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her, and detests her,
Deuteronomy 24:1a (NKJV) “When a man takes a wife and marries her….
Deuteronomy 25:5 (NKJV) “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.

So this word in 1 Peter 3:7 at least means don’t be a brute in your sexual relationship. Be considerate. It’s more than just maintaining an intimate relationship with your wife as the Apostle Paul commands in 1 Cor 7. It’s more than fulfilling your sexual duty to your wife. It means to do so with understanding. Husband, are you a selfish lover? Are you only interested in your pleasure, or do you make sure your wife enjoys this part of your relationship? Do you know what she likes? What gives her pleasure? Whatever dwelling with your wife according to knowledge means, it includes the sexual relationship.

But it’s also more general knowledge too. It means to have knowledge in all areas of your wife’s life.

You need to have a curious mind about your wife. What are you supposed to know? The cynic says, “Who can figure out women?” Well, there is one that you better figure out—your wife. You need to be a student of your wife. You can’t throw up your hands and say, “I’ll never figure her out.” You need to be proactive in trying to know her. What intrigues her? What discourages her? What are her dreams? What are her strengths, weaknesses? What are her goals? What does she enjoy? What does she dislike? How can you encourage her? What does she want to change in your marriage? What does she struggle with? What sins continually tempt her? How can you help her grow?

When we were engaged, I use to kid my wife about “Laura Logic.” These were humorous statements that made sense to Laura, but not necessarily to me. But rather than laughing, I should be working toward a doctorate in Laura Logic. I need to understand her.

The purpose of this knowledge isn’t to win some contest—like a Christian version of the old show, The Newlywed Game. It should be insight that leads to loving and considerate care. You cannot cherish someone that you don’t know. So to cherish your wife, as every Christian husband must, you need learn about her.

This command requires effort. This isn’t knowledge that just comes by living with a person. We wouldn’t need to be commanded to do it if that were the case. That would come over time, naturally.

And notice nowhere in Scripture are we told to dwell with our kids or parents according to knowledge. That might be wise, but it’s not commanded. No, it’s specifically your wife. It wouldn’t be unusual in counseling for me to find a husband that lived with his wife for years and didn’t really know her. He never put in the effort.

A couple of decades ago a friend of mine was getting married. He and his fiancé were getting discouraged because a few older couples in the church were telling him that marriage is great at the beginning, but eventually you develop different interests and you become roommates, not best friends. That’s sad, and not at all what God intended.

Husband, you should enjoy obeying this command to know your wife. Put some effort into knowing her, and you will also be cherishing her. A cherished wife is a blessed wife.


1 Edmund Clowney and Peter Davids
2 It’s a participle, but in 1 Peter participles are often considered imperatives.

The Hidden Life Is Not the Godly Life

My children are all adults now, but I remember when the younger two went through a period where they liked my wife to play hide and seek with them. It was a fun game that was made more fun by the fact that my two youngest were such lousy hiders—like all little kids are. They loved to hide in plain view. They loved to get caught.  They giggled when you got near them. They hid in the very last place my wife hid in. And of course, they wanted all the lights on when they played. Basically, every rule that makes a good hider they violated.

It’s okay because it’s just a game of hide and seek.

Too often in marriage counseling I encounter the couple that hides things from each other. In fact, occasionally they want to include me in their deceit. “Now don’t tell my wife this, but….” Some couples hide things big and small from each other. It’s one reason why their marriage is a mess. They’re adversaries, not teammates. But other couples, many couples, hide small things from each other. It’s the belief that a small lie is not harmful to a relationship.

I see it in couples I counsel, but I also see it in myself. In my first pastoral position I was an assistant pastor in a suburb of Denver. My wife and I normally went to bed at the same time, but occasionally, as we were about to get into bed, I would tell my wife I needed to do something quick in the home office. I would do it and then get in bed.

When my wife would ask what I was doing, I would say something non-committal.

Want to know what I was doing? It’s probably not what you think. I was reading my Bible. I would go to the office, open my Bible, read a verse or maybe two, close it, and go back to the bedroom. I was ashamed that I was an assistant pastor that had managed to go the entire day without reading the Bible at all. I didn’t want my wife to know I was that kind of guy; that some days I didn’t read God’s Word. It was hiding and it was wrong, so I eventually told her.

I didn’t want her to know who I really was. But choosing dishonesty pushed us farther apart, not closer together.

The hidden life, no matter how small, is not the godly life.

In a passage where the Apostle John talks about God’s essence being light and uses that to encourage us to walk in the light, he drops this.

1 John 1:7 (ESV) But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

We would expect in this passage that John would say that walking in the light leads to greater fellowship with God, and that’s true (1 John 1:9). But isn’t it surprising that this passage says walking in the light leads to greater fellowship with other believers?

Walking in the light means not hiding or evading. it means being honest about who and what I am. Dishonesty moves us away from people. Walking in the light moves us closer. So no small amount of hiding is insignificant.

The recent revelations about Ravi Zacharias have saddened us all. But one part of it didn’t surprise me. When the board examined the initial accusations against him in 2016, it’s been widely reported that he had 3 phones and wouldn’t turn any of them over to the board. It happens over and over again with unfaithful spouses. A spouse that doesn’t let the other spouse see their phone is a bad sign. What is he hiding on his phone?

That’s the dramatic example, but what small, seemingly insignificant thing are you hiding from your spouse? Is it the pre-supper Big Mac (probably the greatest sandwich American ingenuity has ever developed)? Is it a conversation you had with one of your kids? Is it an Amazon purchase? Is it a traffic ticket? Is it a show that you stream until she walks in the room? Every choice to hide is a choice to move further from your spouse, not closer.

Our God is light and he wants us to walk in the light (1 John 1:5-2:2). Come out into the light. You’ll enjoy more genuine fellowship with other believers–especially those closest to you.