How to Approach Conflict
With that, I’m going to jump into our series together on the ideal family. And just so we recognize, you saw this even the video, there is ideal and there is real. And we realize in the context of family relationships, when we talk about ideal family, we are not after perfection. God is doing something in us in our relationships that we understand that we are not perfect, but we want to pursue who God calls us to be in Him.
And we started this series, we’re focusing to begin this series on the idea of relationship and what God calls relationship. And we looked at this term called covenant relationship last week and what that means for us. And we’re going to continue in that idea of covenant relationship as it relates to marriage and into conflict. So, that what we say today will affect not only just marital relationships, but the wisdom gain and the wisdom taught here, I think can apply to conflict in general. And then over the next two weeks, we’re going to talk about children and family and what’s God’s desire as it relates to family. So we’re spending the month of May discussing Godly family and what that looks like for us as God’s family meets together to honor the Lord and honor each other before the Lord.
But covenant relationship, when we think in terms of covenant relationship, covenant relationship is sacred. And it really becomes, for the life of the believer, and really for all of us, it’s the basis for all relationship. Jesus told us in Luke 22:20, a new covenant I make with you, which was seen in the demonstration of the sacrifice of His life for us. He made a covenant with us, He cut a covenant with us, and giving His life for us. And from that covenant then defines all relationships for us in this world. He says, a new commandment that I give you based on a new covenant or that new relationship. And He says in John 13:34 and 35, others will know you are my disciples by the way that you love each other. And so our covenantal relationship with Jesus is demonstrated through our love for one another.
If we love God we’ll love what God loves. Jesus is intangibly with us and so the way we demonstrate our love for Jesus is caring for what Jesus calls us to. Jesus creates for us gifts and gifts call us in the ministry. And ministry is all about serving people, caring for people. And the greatest ministry you have is determined by the relationships around you. And if you’re in marriage and family, those become the primary responsibility of the greatest ministry which God wants you to care for in this world. And the Bible tells us in Genesis when he created marriage, it says, through that relationship, it not only blesses one another, but it blesses the world around you. A society is only as strong as the relationships that support it. Families. I think it’s why God calls the church as a family.
And so through the covenant relationship with Christ, we’re called into relationship with one another to demonstrate that love, and the Bible even said in Malachi 2:14, another type of covenant relationship that we can experience is the marital relationship, all of which are defined in the idea of love. Agape love. It’s unconditional sacrificial love. And we defined what love was last week. Love, Biblically speaking is not something that we fall out of, because love is a decision of the will more than just an emotional expression or feeling. Love never fails, it tells us in 1st Corinthians 13:8. And so the idea of a covenant is different than a contract, and a contract today we think contractually you’re obligated with another party, both of you contribute something, it’s a 50/50 deal. Covenantal love is 100 and 100. You’re giving all that you are for someone else. And so you think in terms of Jesus, Jesus gave everything for you and calls you to lay your life down for Him. That’s covenantal love. 100/100. And covenantal love is not obligated on the other person. Jesus came and gave it all while I was a sinner.
And so, marital love is the same as it’s the idea of giving all that you are for someone else. And when you think in terms of covenantal love, the beauty of what that type of love creates is intimacy. In Genesis 2:24, the Bible says, two become one flesh. That was God’s goal when creating marriage, where two become one. It literally in Hebrew means, you’re glued together to the point you can’t tell where one spouse ends and the other one begins. This covenantal, intimate, safe, security, hope, trusting love.
And when you think in terms of covenantal love, what the Bible often does in reflection of that relationship is it regularly renews us in the idea of covenantal love. Jesus doesn’t just tell us, “Look, I love you,” and then that’s the end of the story. When you read the 66 books that make up the Bible from the beginning to the very end of scripture, it’s all about the communication of this covenantal love where God is in pursuit of us, even while we sin. And I think it becomes important because there are things that tear apart our covenantal relationship with the Lord and we often fall in sin and we want to know, “God, how do you respond to that? God where do I find myself in you? How is your love expressed towards me when I turn my back towards you?”
And so throughout scripture you see this, God continues to call us to Him and loving us in Him and nurturing us in Him. In fact, the Bible is built on this idea in Nehemiah 9, look at this. In the book of Nehemiah, this is after Israel’s turned from God, then they go into exile and Ezra is reflecting on the identity of God as they’ve come to know Him throughout the years, and this is what he said, “But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in loving kindness. And you did not forsake them.” Is thinking about Israel and how they continue to turn away from God.
Even when they made for themselves a calf of mold, you in your greatness did not forsake them in the wilderness. Israel found health in their walk with God by continuing to renew themselves in what covenantal relationship is. It’s not just God saying to you once, “Look, I love you.” And that’s all you need to know, but every day. Every day renewed and refreshed in this idea. I love you. I’m forgiving, I’m compassionate, I’m patient, I want what’s best for you. I want to pursue what’s best for your heart when you don’t even have the wisdom to want to do that.
In Colossianss, when you think about the new covenant, verse nine of chapter three, it says this, “You laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and you’ve put on the new self who was being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the one who created him.” So he’s saying for us in Jesus, like, not only is God telling us in the book of Nehemiah covenantal love is here, but also reminder of you to reflect on what it means to be renewed in covenantal relationship.
Joshua 24:15 towards the end of Joshua, Joshua gives this statement to Israel. He sort of comes to this precipice where they’re about to make a decision on how they’re going to take a step forward in life and he says, “Choose this day whom you will follow. But as for me in my house, we will serve the Lord. He’s renewing himself in covenantal relationship with God. He’s finding his identity there. And just like our covenantal relationship with God, it’s significant to consider this way as it relates to marriage. The need to renew covenantally with one another. In fact, we often see the idea of vow renewals practice in our culture, because it takes two willing people to make a relationship work.
And when you think about the marital relationship, just as God’s people walk this earth, they go through all sorts of life experiences.Some are brought on them, some they bring on themselves, but God, where are you and where are we in light of you through all of this God. We want to find security, we want to build intimacy, we want to have trust and hope and that covenantal relationship defines that for them.
And so it is with us, in the marital relationship. I mean, you go through all sorts of changes. Body changes, your metabolism changes, your hormones change. Kids introduced a new dynamic, you change jobs, you change homes, you change cities, but wants to be constant. Covenantal love. And the security of being renewed in that. I remember when I was getting married, I decided I was going to go to visit… within the church, I was going to talk to all these older guys that have been married for years and wanted to gather wisdom, and I went to one guy and I just said, “What’s great advice you can give me as a young guy? Get ready, get married.” And he turns to me and says, “I’m on my 19th wife.”
And then all of a sudden I’m like, “Whatever he’s about to say. Okay, I’m asking for help but this is not the wisdom I want right here right now.” Like I’m just thinking longevity here, maybe not 19 wives. And then as he started to explain I realize what he was saying. He said that, “Actually, I’ve been married to the same wife my whole life, but now she’s about 19 wives different.” Life changes you, but the thing that God desires for us in our lives is to experience the beauty of what covenantal relationship is with Him and marriage is designed to model that relationship. In fact, we’re going to see that in just a moment when we look into 1st Peter 3.
When we think in terms of covenantal relationship, life will rip at you. And so the renewing of identity in that becomes important. We think about family and raising kids and having a marriage, like, there’s a few different ways you can operate, but I can tell you one of the most unhealthy ways to operate is out of fear. Like, it’s about what you don’t want to become. And so out of fear you just sort of respond to that, but rather when God talks about moving forward, He has a target in mind that rather than operating out of fear, He wants you to operate out of faith. And the covenantal love becomes the basis for that as life rips away a bit.
In the book of Song of Solomon 2:15. When Solomon thinks about this relationship, if you ever read the book of Solomon, that’s not a good family devotional book to go through, or to sit down and read with your grandmother anything like that. This is the kind of book that will make you blush when you’re in a bigger group setting. So Song of Solomon that when they talk about their relationship, look how they describe it here in chapter two, it says, “Catch the foxes for us, the Little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, while our vineyards are in blossom.” What does that mean?
What’s describing relationship as this vineyard. You till the soil and finally things begin to flourish and you can appreciate the product of that, the fruit of that labor. But when that fruit starts to happen, so does life. And foxes enter into that garden and they begin to pull at everything that you’ve worked for. And so in connection to relationships is to be conscious to the idea that, things in life are going to come towards your relationship and they’re going to create conflict and they’re going to run at it and without addressing those things, without actively renewing your covenant together, those things can rip apart what God desires to do. Conflict is a natural part of relationship. In fact, we all have conflict, it’s what makes us similar as families. So we think about the terms of ideal family, we’re not saying that you’re not going to have conflict. Perfect family isn’t a family that doesn’t have conflict, it’s a family that engages in conflict in a healthy way.
Matt Chandler said this, he said, “Marriage is going to dig up some really dark things in people’s hearts. Walking according to the Spirit, we can learn to love each other well, take responsibility for our sins and forgive as we have been forgiven, we learned to serve and sacrifice and submit in such a way that marriage becomes the real deep lasting joy it is meant to be as it glorifies Jesus Christ.” Meaning, marriage is a great sanctifier. Left into yourself when you have no relationship in this world, you’re a pretty perfect person. I am the greatest gifts to life. But it’s not until you enter into relationship that you begin to realize there is conflict here. Like, under a roof with someone else, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, things come up. And what you begin to find out in the middle of conflict, what we tend to do as people is we start to blame others for why we behave the way we do. But let God hold you responsible for you. And that conflict starts to reveal what really rests in your heart. And when you’re honest with that, God uses that as an opportunity in those relationships to teach you where you should grow.
Look, when we talk about marriage, you’re not responsible for how other people respond. When we talk about relationships, you’re not responsible for how other people respond. You can’t control that. In fact, you shouldn’t put that on you. But you are responsible for how you react. You are responsible for how you choose to respond. Marriage is that tool that shows our own hearts where we truly are and how we submit before the Lord. And conflict is a natural part of life.
I heard a story of a wife who went on a European tour where her husband stayed in the states, he couldn’t travel and this was during the days of the telegram. And so while she was on a European tour, she telegramed her husband back and said, “I found a bracelet $75,000 can I buy it?” And he responds back in telegram, “No, price too high.” But when they sent the telegram, they forgot the comma. And so when she receives it, it’s no price too high. She runs in and grabs and you can imagine when she returns home how he might feel when he sees this bracelet while she comes shining in the door. No price too high. I mean, conflict is a natural part of life. It’s not that escaping it, but God’s desire is how you handle it that demonstrates where your heart is.
And we look in 1st Peter 3, these first seven verses, this verse dealing with the marital relationship, this section of scripture is actually birthed out of conflict. In fact, if you were to just go to chapter two and read the very last few verses of chapter two, starting in verse 21, and 25, you’ll see that it’s talking about Jesus in this section of scripture. And it’s talking about Jesus in the midst of adversity and how Jesus gives His life for the benefit of those that are actually coming against Him. How He lays His life down for the well being of people, even people that have considered Him an enemy.
And then, from this example, Peter then launches into this section of scripture to start talking about relationships, and the relationship he begins with is the relationship between a husband and wife. So out of that section of scripture in 1st Peter 2, you enter into chapter three on the marital topic, and it’s dealing right with conflict. And how do we handle this?
You know, what’s interesting about this section of scripture is that seven verses and six of them for the wives, and one of them for the dudes. It’s like, ladies, you get a whole paragraph section here and guys, it’s just one verse. I don’t know what that’s saying about you as guys, it’s like, we got to tell you something quick, we got to make it short, and we got to get to the point here. But seven verses here related to the marital conflict. And some people in this portion of scripture have considered this a difficult section of scripture to work through. But I want us to really see how God uses this section of scripture to not really, I’ll tell you why people call it difficult is that, they read this section of scripture and they think it’s demeaning towards women.
But I want to walk through this text of scripture and I want us to see how this section of scripture is actually intended not only to amplify the marital idea within our minds and help us in conflict, but to elevate ladies as it paints this picture in 1st Peter 3. So let me read this verse, it says, “In the same way, you wives, just like Jesus,” Jesus is our example, “be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be one without a word by the behavior of their wives.” So you see this in the very beginning. Even if husband in conflict to God relationship, there is a way to make an impact in his heart. “And as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior, your adornment must not be merely external braiding the hair and the wearing of gold and jewelry or putting on dresses, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”
Real quick, this passage isn’t saying ladies, you can’t dress nice. I don’t think this is what it’s saying. It’s saying, make character the priority. Some people think it’s all about the outward appearance, but there, I said last week, there isn’t a cosmetic surgery for lack of character. And what the Bible talks about more than anything is the character that rests within your own heart. That’s where real beauty is found and that’s what God is concerned with. Outward beauty fades, but the inner beauty is what endures.
Verse five, “For in this way, and former times, the holy women also who hoped in God used to adorn themselves being submissive to their own husbands, just as Sarah obeyed Abraham calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.”
I saw a guy read this once and turn to his wife and tell his wife, “You must now, I’m serious, you must now refer to me as lord.” I’ll let you guess how long that relationship last, but they thought they’re applying scripture. I want you to know, that’s not what this is saying here. In verse seven, “You husbands,” here’s your one verse guys if you can remember this, “you husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way as with someone weaker, since she is a woman, and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life so that your prayers will not be hindered.” Now, what does this mean?
Ladies, when we read this passage of scripture, I think sometimes in a modern world today we… Let me just say it like this, this is not a dishonoring section of scripture to women, this is a crazy section of scripture when we put it in the context of our culture today. But this passage of scripture is intended to elevate the idea of women, especially in this first century culture, because what you see in this section in verse seven, as he says at the very end of this, “And show honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life.” And so what he’s saying about women here to men at the very end is that she’s equal. She’s a fellow heir alongside of you and the grace of life. Treat her as such.
And so when you understand the context to this passage, it needs to be understood in the basis of, okay, so when we were looking at the male female relationship, it’s not this demeaning of women but rather there’s a different way we need to look at these first few verses because it’s describing both male and female together as fellow heirs in Christ. And so, it begins the idea of this story on that basis. This mentality is what it means to be fellow heirs together in Jesus, and it starts for women on the thought of serving. Submission. How are we to view submission as it relates to scripture in our roles today?
When it comes to the idea of submission, remember in this passage of scripture, our example is Jesus. Jesus at the end of chapter two is submitting his life for the benefit of others, and Jesus then takes the form of a service. Scripture tells us, Philippians 2, He lowers Himself, we see this at the upper room at the end of His life. He’s washing the feet of His disciples, that’s the lowest form of a servant and his household. Though He has the greatest authority in the world. Though He is the most worthy human being to ever exist. Yet He takes this position of serving.
Sometimes in culture, we confuse position with personhood. And position and personhood aren’t the same thing. Like, when you go into a workforce, there’s all sorts of positions within the workforce. And sometimes you might be the boss, and sometimes you might be under the boss, but position is not the same thing as personhood because everyone within a company is important. That’s why they hire those positions. And so when we talk about taking the form of a servant, it doesn’t take away from, and Jesus as an example, the personhood of who Jesus is, but rather because of the power of His position, He uses that power to leverage, to serve others for the benefit of what God has called them to be. Position doesn’t take away from personhood.
In fact, I would even say it takes a powerful person who understands their identity in order to leverage that position to serve people in a Godly way. Like when you’re in a place in life where you feel needy, like you want people to pour into you, you don’t look to pour into others. But when you’re in a place where you’re filled up and you see the gifts that God has given you, you want to unleash those for the benefit of others. When you feel strong, then you get, when you feel weak, then you take. And someone is describing the idea of being a woman in a marital relationship is to see that position and the power that God has given you to influence. You think about the conflict that starts in this passage of scripture where a husband is in conflict into the word of God, and it’s affecting relationship, and the power of the wife towards the heart of her husband to see a difference made in him. Position and personhood are not the same.
And it’s not taking this idea of inferiority to us. In fact, if I just painted a different idea for us, when you read in scripture, Exodus 3, it’s the story of the burning bush. Then you can imagine maybe how the story unfolds where God talks to Moses in this burning bush, but before Moses goes to this bush, he sees this bush off in the distance and it’s on fire and he thinks, “Well, you know, just give it a few minutes it’ll be gone.” But as he notices as time creeps on, this bush is not going out. And so Moses is intrigued to it, goes to the bush and when he’s at the bush, God speaks to him.
And when you turn to the book of Acts 2, this burning bush speaking to God, Acts 2, the day of Pentecost, what appears above the people? Flaming tongues. Fire. I think for us that becomes an illustration of believers between what the Old Testament was to what the New Testament is now where the Holy Spirit comes before Moses, God speaks to him. And now in the New Testament, the Spirit comes in a flaming fire. And the Bible tells us, now the Spirit of God dwells in his people. What if in the heart of every believer today is a burning bush? God’s done something in you to make a difference in this world. That exceptional thing where God comes and speaks to Moses, that power, that fire rests in the hearts of God’s people.
1st Peter 3, Peter wants us to understand how we leverage that power in the Lord to speak to the hearts of people around us. It’s not by nagging. And Proverbs says, it’s better for a man to live out of the home than with a nagging wife. It’s a constant dripping. Rather in serving. How did Jesus reach your heart? Laying down Himself. Giving all that He has to love you in your sin. It’s servant hood.
You see in the story that Sarah calls Abraham, Lord, and if you consider the passage of scripture, I think what it’s saying in Genesis 18 where Sarah calls Abraham, lord, Abraham comes home last minute and he’s got a bunch of guests. And Sarah, in that moment, could complain, she could argue, but rather what she does is she serves her husband in that need, and from serving her husband those guests promise Sarah that she’s going to have a child. And what they see is she surrenders and though that moment may not be ideal, you don’t want dinner guests at the last minute, you don’t want to worry about taking care of things, preparing all kinds of food. I mean, I can imagine all the extra work that involves in those days. But what does she do? Okay, husband, I love you. And this is what you think is important and I will serve you. And so she serves. She becomes an example.
What I was kind of tell you, your words of encouragement and respect build up your husband. He deals with criticism, internal and external. If your husband’s like most man, he’s haunted with feelings of inadequacy, of failure, of struggle, of insecurity, of his masculinity, his strengths in life, and apart from God’s words over him, your words carry the next powerful voice in his life. Pay attention to the words that wound him and the words that heal him. Because God’s got you in a place in that position of service to speak life into that heart and see him become all that God has called them to be, even in conflict, and should I say, especially in conflict. Words of life. Emasculating your husband, it’s one of the worst things you can do.
I think with young boys, I try to view this with him. But I think with men in general, especially even as a father if you think about your kids or your sons, in the heart of every man is a warrior. And forgive me that illustration sounds a little cheesy, but in the heart of every man is a warrior. And when you come against that warrior to emasculate him, it will rise two things up within him, fight or fly. And if he fights, he’s going to call his tears and he’s going to look like a jerk. And if he flies, he’s going to be coward and spineless. And those are the only two Godly options that a man can pursue. But when you rise up against the nag and pursue and put down, that’s what you provoke within his life. God made a man for strength. There’s a difference between men and women.
Guys, God made you strong. You’re going to see Peter use this example in just a moment. And what you do with that strength matters. Now, men and women are strong, but I think our strengths are in different ways. By and large physically, guys, we tend to be a little physically more strong than women in general. You also smell worse and grow hair in weird places, but there’s difference. And using your opportunity to speak life, and it’s hard to see that warrior spirit to be used for good rather than to provoke within him something negative is important.
I like to think of it like this, I heard this illustration once where, you take a woman and you put her before a mirror and she starts nitpicking everything that she wants to fix with her body and she becomes conscious about that. Like, she’ll see a great hair, she’ll pull out her hair, whatever. She sees a new wrinkle, like she fixates on that one thing that she doesn’t like and like, it becomes to the idea for her. But you put a guy in front of the mirror, doesn’t matter, six pack could be gone, starting to wear out a little bit, but he looks in that mirror he’s like, “I think, behind that one pack, I think I see that six pack.” He walks out the mirror he thinks, Atlas had just grace through. Doesn’t think, I think…
My wife, she tells a story once in a while about women’s retreat, every time we have women’s retreat, she brings this back up. But I got through the weekend, all our kids survived, it was a wonderful thing. I remember I brought him through church and like, “Yes, we crossed the finish line successfully. “Here comes Atlas and as Atlas [inaudible 00:28:39].” And then she comes in and she tells a story she’s like she’s looking for the kids and she can’t even see the kids. She’s like, they come in the door and she sees some children come in she’s like, “Oh, those aren’t my kids,” because dad did not do a good job at preparing them at all. Like, I come in the door like I’m successful. Listen, she sees like these are ragtag street urchins. “What did you do to my kids?” It’s like, it doesn’t take much to encourage a guy. They can see the strength in everything, Atlas, even though he hasn’t lifted a weight in 20 years. But your place to speak in them is significant.
Understand the midst of conflict what you do in those moments. It’s important in how you provoke, and what you provoke. In verse seven He then moves on to husbands He says, “Husbands, the same way live with your wives in an understanding way as with someone weaker since she is a woman. And show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life so your prayers will not be hindered.” Now, what does that mean?
Like if you read this today, in our culture today it says with someone weaker since she is a woman, like she’s weaker since she is a woman, what is this passage talking about? Well, what Peter is getting us to acknowledge is that there is a difference. In fact, the term husband and wife shows a difference, and how you move in the midst of conflict as a husband is important. “Husbands in an understanding way, live with your wives as someone who’s weaker.” What what Peter is acknowledging here in the uniqueness of women isn’t that women are weaker in the sense of inferiority, but rather he’s using a term to describe the elegance of who a woman is.
What he’s saying is, look here brute, you come like a China and a China shop, but she is that elegant beautiful vase to be admired within the home. I mean, there are regular things within your house that you just use on daily basis you don’t care much for you know they’re going to wear out, but then when you come into a home, like when a home has something valuable you want to display, you put it on a pedestal so when people come in they can recognize the beauty of what it is. You honor it. You respect it. When Peter describes the idea of a wife here, he’s saying, look, don’t treat her like one of the dudes. She is an ornate beautiful design, a vase of beauty within your home. And then he goes on and says like this, since she is the woman.
When Peter uses this word, I think he’s intending to provoke us to the very beginning when this word was used in scripture. Remember, we talked about this last week. Adam is all alone and he goes through the Garden of Eden and he names all the animals and he gets to the end, and he’s alone. And he realizes all these animals in the kingdom have a pair, but where’s the one that relates to me? And then God creates woman. And Adam’s response, his first words to Eve is to sing over her, because she’s a gift. And so when you consider the thought of how scripture begins to introduce the idea of woman to us, different than a cultural mentality might have today, it’s the beautiful gift of what she is that God recognizes the need within your life, and he delivers this woman to experience that oneness.
And so, in that understanding when you read this passage of scripture is saying, as this beautiful vase, remember, she is a gift given to you. Therefore, He describes how to respond, and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life so that your prayers will not be hindered. When we choose to not respond in conflict in a healthy way, both Ephesians and the book of Peter, 1st Peter, describe for us the result of this. Like, when conflict happens in our relationships, Peter focuses then at the end of this he’s saying, look, in Ephesians 5 for Paul and 1st Peter 3, look, that both of you are a gift to one another that you are to submit. That’s the word that’s used continuously throughout these books. Submit to one another for the benefit of each other, the well being of each other. When you refuse to do this, here’s what happens in 1st Peter 7, is your prayers will be hindered.
Like, look, when you respond in relational conflict, it’s important to know that your relationship to your spouse or really to anyone is not disconnected from your relationship with God. You don’t treat these as two exclusive things. They’re interconnected with one another. And so how you choose to respond in those moments becomes important because it directly affects your walk with God. Husbands, she’s a gift. In the midst of conflict, she’s a gift. In the midst of conflict, Jesus gave His life to help you become all that He’s called you to be. And now you’re in the position. She’s a gift. It will affect your walk with God. Think about how you respond. It’s interconnected because God’s about relationships. And if you love God, you love what God loves. And what God loves people, and as people the most important relationship is to your spouse. You can’t control how they respond, but you can control how you respond. Honor the Lord in that relationship because she is a gift.
And honoring the Lord in that relationship you also honor her. In fact, Ephesians says it like this, instead of just focusing on relationship with God, he says it like this, “Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Wives be subject to your own husband’s as to the Lord. Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” So you see there’s submission. And he goes on he says in Ephesians 5:28, “So husbands also ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself for no one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church because we are members of his body.”
So when you negatively respond to your spouse, not only are you affecting your spouse, you’re really affecting you. Two become one flesh. How you respond in those moments matters, because it affects your relationship with God, it affects your spouse, and ultimately, it affects you. Doing harm to them is doing harm to you. So how do we respond in conflict? I think that the end of 1st Peter 3 gives us one word. I just gave us this word this morning and made it the key focus of what we’re about in conflict. I think this makes the difference in the world. It’s not to say, look, if you do this one word that all your conflicts are going to go away. But it is to say if you do this word, it will help you in every conflict that comes your way. In fact, it sets a precedent to tackle all the conflicts your future holds.
And here’s what it says, “Husband’s in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding why.” Remember it starts in verse one. “Likewise, wives do this, submit,” because Jesus is your example. And he submitted. And now it’s saying in verse seven, husbands, same thing. Same thing here. Submit. When we think about relationships, I believe in what’s called federal headship, which means at the end of the day, God does hold someone responsible and I think he looks to the husband. Ephesians 5:23-25, it talks about just as Christ is the head of church so the husband is the head of the wife. This is what this means.
In a company, everyone has a responsibility. By the end of the day if the company goes awry, the boss is on the line here. And we see in the book of Genesis when husband and wife in the beginning, Eve eats the apple, then Adam eats the apple, then God comes in the garden. He’s like, “Eve, what did you do?” And she’s like, “The serpent tricked me.” He’s like, “Adam, what did you do?” He’s like, “My wife tricked me.” Everyone’s trying to blame someone else. And so God says, “Okay, look Adam, the husband is the head of the home just as Christ is the head of the church.” So if you want to know at the end of the day whose butts on the line, it’s yours. But it doesn’t necessitate that all of us are without responsibility. And so I believe in federal headship, but what’s expressed in the marital relationship throughout all of scripture starting in Ephesians 5:21, submit to one another.
And then it starts talking about the wife, wives submit, and then it starts talking about the husband, husbands submit. So there is this mutual submission to each other to help both of them become all that God has called you to be, and then in the midst of that submission it recognizes the gift that is, the wife. Why? “Husbands in the same way live with your wives in an understanding way,” there’s idea of submission, “as with someone weaker since she is a woman.” And then it says this, here’s your word, ready? “And show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life.” Show her honor.
1st Peter 3:1-6, it tells us what to do. Submit. But in verse seven now, it tells us why. Because your job is to honor. Your responsibility in that relationship is to honor. She’s a vase. She’s a gift. Wives the same thing. Honor. The goal isn’t just submit for the sake of submitting, that submission has a purpose, and that purpose is to honor. When we honor one another especially in conflict, it helps us rather than to go at each other, to walk with one another because you are for each other. The reasons why we strive to honor our spouse above the conflict or the problem is, you don’t need encouragement to make your frustrations a priority. We naturally do that as people. When things bug you, it’s just in your brain, you can’t get rid of it. All that you think about is trying to remove that conflict that exists. We naturally think about those things. However, honor and dishonor is where the relationship goes distant or close.
I mean, to look at your spouse and say, “Look, I don’t like this, this is hard. But I love you, I care for you. I want to honor you.” It doesn’t necessarily tell you how to solve the conflict, but it tells you the way to pursue this conflict together until you get the conflict solved. The last thing I’m going to do, I’m not going to make my priority just to produce results. The last thing I want to do in the midst of this conflict is dishonor you. Because if I lose you, I lose everything. Life is about relationship. Relationship with God, relationship with one another. I mean, you can go into conflict and you can win the battle, but when you don’t honor you lose their heart. Because all day long you can come in like a brute, this is what Peter is saying in this passage of scripture. Husbands, you come in and in your strength you can dominate, and yeah, you can get them to do what you want and lose her heart. She’s to be honored.
Wife, husband may bring guests home late and that might really frustrate you, but how do you win his heart? Honor. We make the conflict the issue to the detriment of relationship. But for God, God’s not interested in the result, He’s interested in the people, in the process. How did you get to the result? What was your pursuit? The reason we often lose in conflict is because when we get into conflict there is something about that I am frustrated with, I am angry about this, I need this to happen. And so in the rage because we want to push things through, because we are the center of the universe, we force everyone else away to get what we wantAd the result. Hearts are distant. Relationships are pushed apart because honor was lost. But when we honor each other because of covenantal relationship, what we’re saying is, this is more important than the result. The result is important, but the relationship God’s given you, that’s what he calls the gift.
So this idea of submission is for the purpose of honor. We go wrong in conflict when we react rather than respond. When we react, when we make it personal, when we make it personal we go for the person’s character, when we go for the person’s character, we tear them down and hurt people, end up hurting people. Here’s the reality in conflict. We don’t always solve everything the first time. Like you enter in a conflict and most likely you disagree over something and the first time you talk it out, you probably walk away still disagreeing with it, but when you honor each other through it, even though you might not resolve it in the first conversation, if you honor each other through it, you always leave the door open to continue the discussion moving forward. And not only do you leave the door open to continue the discussion moving forward, you set the pattern for how you’re going to address conflict in the future.
You see this is what happens in our lives when we get jaded when we get bitter. It’s easy in conflict to go there. You know what I’m saying? Like, you get into an argument with someone and all of a sudden you set a pattern and now every time you get in a discussion with them, it just immediately like throwing gasoline on the fire. Why? Because your priority you stop thinking about them, and your priority became just getting what you want. And so there becomes a need within the idea of covenantal relationship and honor just to retrain our hearts and our minds to help one another in that relationship, and [inaudible 00:43:36] we’re going to do a closing song, [inaudible 00:43:37] too long. But let me just say this real quick.
There’s two ways, if you think about, how can I honor, how can I help in conflict and relationship? There’s two ways that are I think, helpful. One is Emerson Eggerichs who did Love and Respect he calls it the crazy cycle. He plays it off of Ephesians 5, he says, “Wives are called to respect the husbands, husband’s called to love their wives. When a husband’s not respected he doesn’t love his wife. When a wife’s not loved she doesn’t respect her husband.” And it’s a crazy cycle. You’re in this argument with each other and it doesn’t stop because she’s not respecting, he’s not loving and so you just keep tearing each other down. And he says the way to end that, someone at some point has to become the bigger person and say you know what? I’m going to submit here and just say, “Look, wife, don’t say it like that. What you did or what you said, sounded disrespectful. Is there something I did that made you feel unloved?” Submit and honor.
“I felt disrespectful, is there something I did to make you feel unloved.” And you know what happens when you open that honor? You open up the conversation to work through the conflict. And the encouragement comes to continue to honor, but the same thing with the wife. Wife’s frustrated, she’s not feeling loved and she says, “Husband, that fell unloving. Is there something I did to make you feel disrespected.” The other thought is this just to be vulnerable. Rather than just say, you know, “When you do this and you do that,” don’t use the word you just say, “When this happens it makes me feel this way.” You become vulnerable to open up your heart where you are. Why? Because you’re not interested in just getting what you want, you’re exposing where you’re at to try to meet your spouse there. “Do you understand that when this happens, I feel this way. I know you care about me but when this happens I feel this way.” And when you expose what you feel, that vulnerability opens up the heart of conversation. Why? Because God’s interested in the way you honor.
Your honor. What you honor and value in life speaks volumes as to who you are. And when you think about living your life, you’re going to honor and serve something. When you walk out the store today, you’re going to honor and serve something because you’re created to worship. You will surrender your life to something, you will find your identity in something, you will honor and serve something. Why not honor and serve what God says matters? Why not look to those relationships that He calls us in to be that place where God calls us to be. The best way to speak to the heart of your spouse is honor. Especially in disagreement.
Honor is the language that permits you to open up to one another, to speak through difficult circumstances, to work through the conflict together rather than against one another. It’s what Jesus did to speak into our own hearts. When we have conflict we tend to get focused on the results. But God cares about the process, He cares about the people, and honors the way we move through that. God wants to see if you can honor your husband when he brings dinner guests home last minute, God wants to see if you honor your wife as a gift when things get hard in your relationship. God’s desire for you is to honor the beauty of what the gift of marriage is. In adversity, make sure to make honoring your spouse your covenantal goal. It’s not about just achieving results, it’s about honor. And in that honor, we tackle conflict together because that’s the way the gospel tackle conflict in our own lives that we can be reconciled with the Lord.