What If…Love

I find that one’s spouse can sometimes be their greatest critic. They live together and are as familiar as possible, which recalls the adage, “Familiarity breeds contempt”. However, we are talking about those in the union of Holy Matrimony, where contempt should not be tolerated, especially from anything so innocuous as familiarity. One respected author and marriage counselor suggests that contempt is the final and fatal attitude that dooms marriage. I believe He may be right, in that, contempt severs communication, kills motivation, and is a barrier to all things uniting, such as love, forgiveness, and empathy. However, pulling back from the precipice of divorce, what about criticism and its cousin accusation? What about justice and righteousness and speaking the truth?

Scripture defines love, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8) Love seems to prohibit criticism, except a special sort that somehow encourages and builds up its subject. Isn’t most criticism within marriage the rendering of a deserved or demanded judgment, (at least from the critic’s perspective)? Is it right to ignore an offense or error committed by our spouse in our presence? We correct our children when they are impolite, rude, or certainly offensive to others, why should it be different for our spouse, we certainly love our children when we correct them? 

This example of children gets to the crux of the matter, but let us first address, “What if”. What if we follow the way of love and hold our tongue, from critical words, just because they are critical? What if we choose to be loyal to a fault to our spouse and keep silence, even though they were wrong, (in our judgment)? What if we pretend to be a disinterested party and keep our opinion (which is critical) to ourselves? What if we purposefully delay decisions calling for critical words until later in private or the next day? Consequently, would we be any less kind, loving or patient? Would it be a bad thing to be extremely loyal to one’s spouse? Even the law exempts one from testifying against their spouse, is this in recognition of a presumption in support of loyalty or marriage itself.

I believe respect is at issue when criticism becomes regular between spouses. We treat children with a different kind of respect than adults because they are immature and learning. To do otherwise is to disrespect and dishonor an adult. Some might suggest that respect is and must be earned, but that is only to deflect and excuse unkindness or pride. Yeshua, (Jesus’ Hebrew name) taught His disciples to love your enemies. In this light, is it right to show undeserved love and unmerited respect to your spouse, by simply withholding the hurtful, harmful venom of critical judgments. It may be that good would follow and I’m certain others would prefer such treatment over criticism. Yeshua gave this principle for prayer, fasting and giving – do it in secret. “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matt 6:4,6,18) Is this principle applicable to secretly withholding criticism (even when just) as a deliberate act of love? In the name of Yeshua lead us in paths of love.

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