Do We Ever Set Ourselves up for Criticism, then Cry “Persecution”?

29 Jul

(This entry was written the day after Father’s Day, 2012, with my thoughts following our pastor’s sermon of the previous day.  How many other bloggers often start writing after they hear teaching by a great man of God?):

Ephesians 4:29-32 (read the whole chapter for context):  “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.  And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” 

Yesterday was Father’s Day and our pastor boldly ventured to go where few pastors go. He took the verses that teach the principles found in Ephesians 4:29-32 and applied them within the family and not just to relationships within a local body of believers.  That was a bold move.  We all know it is fairly easy to be edifying to others for a few hours on Sunday and Wednesday.  Consistently living in an edifying way within our families is quite another thing.  

Although we can all learn from this topic, Pastor directed his remarks to fathers.  At the risk of scaring off my male readers within the first three days of starting this blog, I am going to go with his topic, although teaching on corrupt communications within the home can certainly be applied to wives and children, too.

Nearly fifty-four years on this planet, thirty of them in a fundamentalist denomination, have taught me that husbands and fathers, even Christian husbands and fathers,  have been living down to Western society’s lowered expectations of them for quite some time.  The first youth pastor my son had used to say that Christianity is tumbling down a slope of immorality about thirty years behind mainstream America.  I believe he was right!

So, looking back at our verses, if corrupt communication is wrong within a local body of believers, then it is wrong within a family, correct?  And these verses define “corrupt communication,” don’t they?  They show us that it is words designed to convey bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, and evil speaking, rather than grace. 

Does that not bring us up short as Christians seeking to follow the Lord?  All of us, not just males?

Short pause for a caveat to be inserted:  I wish I did not have to address this.  It is important to get this on the record, however.  Although my topic is verbal communication, I can’t leave the subject of physical actions unaddressed.  Ever since Dr. Jim Berg wrote “Changed into His Image” in 1999, we have at least one fundamentalist voice on the record to say that it is never right for a Christian counselor to send a wife or child back into a home where physical violence has erupted.  We also have the secular law now holding all counselors accountable in this situation.  It is a situation where they cannot hide behind the separation of church and state.  And it is sad that it took so many decades for Christians to separate themselves out from the rest of society and take a stand against physical violence in the home.  We know that this is not just an issue in some Christian homes; it is and has been a facet of all strata of society all along.  But Christians should never have become known as those who advised wives and children who were being physically abused to “go back home and submit in a godly way until your abuser realizes that the Lord wants him to change.”  We should have been helping the victims of physical violence all along.  I just need to get that on the record before I get back to the subject of corrupt communication. 

Let’s narrow the topic down to communication between a husband and a wife.  Because I have informally counseled women for decades, I will narrow it down even more to communication from a husband to a wife that appears to be disparaging.  There are many ways that this can occur or be perceived, some more serious than others:

1)    Outright verbal abuse in which anger is expressed by name-calling and other attempts to shred the dignity and self-worth of the hearer/wife

2)    Not listening to the wife when she speaks, especially when accompanied by lots of attention to friends when they speak

3)    Listening to the wife when she speaks, but mocking her input later on

4)    Listening to the wife when she speaks, but defensively contradicting everything she says

5)    Any other subtle ways in which a man conveys to his wife that he thinks he already knows everything and doesn’t need her input

Since God teaches us throughout Scripture that a married couple is meant to be a team, with complementary strengths and weaknesses, it is obvious that any married man who claims he is complete in himself and doesn’t need his wife’s input is working against God’s design for his life and his own best interests.  If he does that publicly, he sets himself up for criticism or even ridicule.  And that leads to a very pointed question.  Can we set ourselves up for criticism by not living according to God’s design, then claim we are being persecuted when someone points that out?

We protest when television shows portray men as strutting bantam roosters who act like immature children around their wives and offspring.  We protest when those wives and children are portrayed as much wiser than the man of the house.  But . . . have Christian men perhaps given some legitimacy to this portrayal by the way they have lived within their marriages?  If there is a grain of truth to the way television portrays people, especially as Christian believers, can we call that persecution?  We often do call it that.

I cling to my pastor’s wisdom in challenging all of us, husbands and wives alike, to live out God’s command to get rid of the corrupt communication within our homes.  If men will work on this, rather than just leaving it to their wives to learn to submit in a godly way to any old impulsive words they choose to use, they will see the end of the Hollywood stereotype of the foolish husband.   They will find that wives are eager to follow the leadership of husbands who listen to them and communicate with them in grace-filled ways.

God calls all of us to grace-filled living.  Husbands, wives, and children alike can all do better at getting rid of the corrupt communication within our homes.  Let us edify those closest to us!


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