See what the scriptures say:
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:21-24 (RSV)
Jesus Christ is often hurt by his spouse, the Church. Yet Christ sets an example for us to follow when he is hurt by the world he created. Christ redeems his spouse and we ought to do so too. Let us dissect 1 Peter 2:21-24 a bit.
- Know that you will suffer because Christ suffered
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”(1 Peter 2:21)
One of the top lies that people believe about the Christian faith is that if I become a Christian, God won’t allow anything bad to happen to me. The second top lie they believe is that if I become good Christian and stick to the rules, God will be my personal bodyguard and hurt those who hurt me. Newsflash, Beloved. God will allow suffering to build your character. He has done that since the start of the world and we are no exception. God is more interested in who you become more than in how you feel in a brief moment of pain. Why? Because the joy of maturity after the pain outweighs the brief moments of pain. If you feel your pains are longer, then your joy will be equivalently longer. Jesus Christ did not suffer only so that the Christian would not suffer but also and moreover that WHEN the Christian suffers, he or she would overcome. He not only picked the cross for us; he also showed us how to pick up ours. Christ is not only the Hero that saves us from pain; He is also the exemplar of how to handle pain that is sure to come. And when our relationships cause us to hurt, we ought to remember that sin is the ultimate cause of suffering and that sin is temporal. Don’t allow a temporal suffering to deny you an eternal blessing. God will reward each man according to his work. Is your behaviour in your marriage in response to suffering producing an eternal, imperishable reward kept in heaven for you or it is storing up results that will be consumed by fire despite your salvation?
- Watch your mouth
“He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips.” (1 Peter 2:22)
No other time are our mouths more dangerous that when we suffer. In the height of human suffering, Christ Jesus kept his mouth shut. Matthew 12:36 says that on the day of judgement men will account for every careless word they spoke on earth. Proverbs 18:21 says death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruits. Spouses will always eat the fruits of what comes from their mouths when they are hurt. Unprocessed words will only cause more hurt. Hurt people end up hurting people. I have personally found it necessary to retreat in prayer when I am hurt and angry. When the LORD has processed my thoughts and words, I start to see my share of the problem that I was previously blind to. And even when I don’t see the solution after prayer, the LORD has often prompted me to extend grace to those that hurt me just as he did for me on that cross.
- Give up the right to retaliate
“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return” (1 Peter 2:23a)
Christ set the bar. You cannot sin if you have been sinned against. That is the bar he has set. Often, people retaliate intentionally for an offense that their spouse made accidentally. Revenge is an ultimate mark of a lack of Christlikeness. At the heart of Christianity is a perfect God who forgave sinful men. At the heart of revenge is an attitude that counters God’s work on the cross. I like that Jesus tells us that if we don’t forgive those who’ve hurt us, neither will God forgive us. It is plain and simple. Mathew 6:15 “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”(NIV). So what do I do, you ask. Look at what 1st Peter 2:23c says “but he trusted to him who judges justly.” Christ left vengeance to God, who judges justly. You ought to do the same. Many people have misconceptions about forgiveness. Some think that if they forgive their spouse they are endorsing the sin against them. Beloved, forgiveness is to take the keys and open the prison gates only to discover that the prisoner was you. That is why lack of forgiveness does not ultimately and eternally hurt the offender but rather the offended.
- Do not threaten or punish
“when he suffered, he did not threaten.” (1 Peter 2:23b)
One way spouses can do this is to deny each other conjugal rights. Denying conjugal rights is not only dangerous to your sexual life but also sinful in the eyes of God. The LORD says in 1st Corinthians 7:4-5 “4 The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”Of course there are countless other ways spouses can threaten and punish each other when they are hurt. For example, the self-preserving spouse once hurt fears being hurt again. Often this spouse tends to believe that their marriage is meant to be magical and devoid of any strife. So when disagreement occurs, they act as if something strange were happening to them. To cordon their space from further hurt, they punish their partner through indifference or ignoring. Indifference and ignoring your spouse may look like a wise tactic, but it is otherwise; it is lazy and ineffective. The logic behind such a spouse’s tactic is, “I won’t be close to them, so that when they hurt me, it won’t sting so bad.” Don’t treat a marriage like a war-zone, Beloved. The hurts will only get worse. Husbands who threaten or punish their wives must know that their prayers are waste: 1 Peter 3:7 “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”
Hurt will come, Beloved. And the best thing we can do about it is not seek strategies to dodge it but rather ask God to prepare us to learn through it. One myth that my wife and I often hear from couples when they hit a snag in their relationship is that they never imagined struggling with basic things such as lack of exclusivity, poor boundaries, unfaithfulness, horrible communication etc. They thought things would be natural and so got surprised when they got hurt. Beloved, the only natural thing after starting a relationship is a break-up. Everything else must be intentional. Boundaries with the opposite sex won’t be kept naturally. Purity won’t be observed naturally. Faithfulness won’t be established naturally. Exclusivity won’t be maintained naturally. Friendship won’t grow naturally. Good communication won’t occur naturally. Romance won’t bud naturally. All these pillars that support a great man-woman union must be done intentionally, purposefully and diligently, if you want a thriving relationship. If you think that boundaries, purity, faithfulness, friendship, good communication and romance are natural once you start dating, you will be surprised to learn that anything but an intentional commitment to things that matter is an unintentional commitment to things that do not matter. If you are not intentionally committed to making your marriage work, you are unintentionally committed to make it fail.