As I’ve mentioned before Ephesians 4 had a great impact on the way that I responded toward my wife. Starting at about verse 25 to the end of the chapter is some very good instruction for all of our relationships. Instructions about speaking truthfully, controlling our temper, sharing and being generous, and speaking in a way to build others up. It speaks of getting rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice, and forgiving as we’ve been forgiven by Christ. If everyone applied these to all of their relationships think what better relationships we would all have.
The heading in the New International Version beginning at verse 17 is Instructions for Christian Living. Perhaps the best place to begin living in a more Christ-like manner is within your marriage. As Dr. Emerson Eggerichs points out in his post, What’s the Alternative to Love and Respect?, hate and contempt are not likely to ever improve your marriage.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.~Ephesians 4:25 (NIV)
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.~Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
Since these two verses are about communication I’d like to take them together. I’ve seen and heard a lot of strange ideas about marriage and “protecting” our spouses from our negative feelings. Now I want to be completely clear, the title of this blot is A Grown Up Marriage so when I talk about sharing our negative feelings I am talking about doing so in a constructive (Ephesians 4:29), loving and respectful manner.
Why do this? Scripture is pretty clear that we are to be honest and show integrity in our relationships. Hiding how we’re feeling is neither honest nor does it show integrity. Now this is NOT an excuse to be tactless, remember, we’re sharing in constructive, loving and respectful ways. If you cannot do that then it is best to show some tact and keep your mouth shut until you can be constructive, loving and respectful.
Also, hiding our feelings is the antithesis of intimacy, and isn’t intimacy supposed to be a very important ingredient to a healthy marriage? Why then do we not sit down and share these emotions with our spouse? How can we grow unless there is understanding?
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.~Ephesians 4:26-27 (NIV)
Here’s another reason for dealing with our negative emotions. The more we hold on to them the more they hold on to us and the more we give the devil a foothold into the relationship. Notice that it doesn’t say that anger is a sin. Anger isn’t a sin. How you respond to anger can be a sin. So, in your anger do not sin. In other words, show some self control when you have negative emotions. Seek self understanding about why you feel the way you do and then, if need be, have the constructive, loving and respectful discussion with your spouse about those feelings.
We should all think hard about this question: Are we giving the devil a foothold into our marriages?
Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.~Ephesians 4:28 (NIV)
I know what you’re asking, what does this have to do with marriage. Well, if you think about it, a lot. We enter marriage “for better or for worse, in sickness or in health” with the understanding that we will all work for better and healthy. We’d be crazy to marry someone that told us otherwise. Sometimes we become lazy in our relationships. We take them for granting. We’re stealing the joy from our marriage. We have nothing useful to share. It’s time to grow up and quit taking our spouse and our marriage for granted.
If your spouse doesn’t know you love and respect them through your actions, what you are sharing with them, then you need to learn how to better love and respect your spouse. Grow up and stop stealing the joy from your marriage. Do something so that you will have something useful to share with your spouse.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.~Ephesians 4:30-32 (NIV)
A failure to do the things we talked about so far lead us to negative feelings. When we hide our true self from our spouse, when we hold onto our hurt instead of our holding onto our spouse, when we’re stealing the joy from our marriages we’re grieving the Holy Spirit.
The way to rid our relationships of these negative emotions is to deal with them when they arise in a constructive, loving and respectful way. Instead of stuffing our emotions, only to explode in a fit of rage one day, sharing works to eliminate the bitterness. When we feel heard and understood it is a cleansing agent to our marriage and opens the door for greater intimacy and to forgiveness.