Conflict Week 5: Marital Conflict

Sermon Transcript


Everyone knows conflict is part of life. There are some who tell stories of strength in relationships, marriages, churches and businesses because of conflict. But, the vast majority of stories seem to have another ending. Most people would love to hear a magic cure for conflict, but we all know that doesn't exist. Conflict even abounds throughout the pages of Scripture within people, between people, within groups and between groups. Sometimes it was handled in a godly fashion, but more often than not, it wasn't.

What if we could resolve conflict better? What if we could grow from it? What if we could learn from it? Maybe, just maybe, that starts now.

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Well, good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re in a series called “Conflict.” Most of you all who are regular attenders know that at the beginning of every message I do in the middle of a series, I try to bring everybody back up to speed. We see every week in every service there’s at least a few first-time visitors here at Grace. We want to make sure that you feel comfortable if this is your first time. And the last thing that you want to do is push yourself to actually come to church at a new church and then to walk in and be in the middle of a series and have no idea what’s going on. So, I want to put you at ease and make sure that you know I’m going to sort of give a summary here of what we’ve been doing.

For those of you all who like to travel during the summer and maybe you’ve missed a week or two, it’s always good to get that summary and then those of us who have been here for every single one, sometimes it’s just nice to know what we are doing again and all of that stuff. So, that’s why I do that.

But, what we’ve been doing is talking about conflict. And I think that whether you’re someone that’s not even sure with what you want to do with God or if God exists or who Jesus is or someone that’s been walking with God for 40 or 50 years, I think everybody would agree and everybody would readily intuit the fact that if we could have better tools in our toolbox to deal with conflict, we would like that. I mean, nobody would turn that down because conflict’s a part of our lives. And it comes in every way, shape or form. It comes in families. It comes at work. It comes at different places. We all know that and I think if we could be equipped with some better tools, we would all agree that that is something we would like to have.

So, that’s what we’ve been doing over the past several weeks is dealing with this area of conflict and trying to look at what does the Bible say about that and how can we apply that to our lives. And now we’re in that portion of the series where we’re dealing with “what.” Like, “What do I do in certain situations? What do I do in this particular thing?” We sort of boil it down and really get real and raw with this particular, practical stuff on conflict.

Here’s what I was planning on doing. What I was planning on doing is taking this week and I’ve got some questions in – I’d asked for some questions to come in about some things you’re dealing with – and then I could deal with it in a real world way. As I started getting some questions in and as I started working on the material, I realized I can’t put all of this together in a message. I don’t even know that I can put it all together in two.

So, what I’m going to do is this – and we’re going to sort of expand the series a little bit longer than I had originally planned. This week, I’m going to deal with marital conflict. As I started putting together the material, I’m like, I’m going to do the church a disservice if I don’t spend some time on this particular issue. The next week – which is next week – I’m going to deal with those real hot-button things.

What do you do when you’re with your friends and you get into that doctrinal, theological disagreement? How do you handle conflict? What do you do when political things come about? How do we handle that? That’s a hot-button in today’s world. What do you do at work when things are not going on?

I felt like I can’t spend 10 minutes on that and do you service. So, I’m going to do a whole message on issue-based conflict and then I’m going to end the series on what I call “unhealthy” areas of conflict. What do you do with a brother or sister that you haven’t talked to for seven years? What do you do with an estranged relationship? What do you do where there’s massive, massive abuse or things like that? What do you do with that stuff? And we’re going to talk about that.

So, I’m going to try to get as practical as I can possibly be. Here’s what I would ask of you. The first thing I would ask of you is this: Realize that I’m trying to create a dialogue here in our church. I’m trying to get us to talk about issues that maybe we don’t ever talk about in church. Or, if we do, it’s sort of like just getting preached at and you’re told “this is what you’ve got to do” and you never really get to think through this.

I want to let you in on something: The things that I’m telling you I think are great advice. I think it’s a good place to start. I think it’s a diving board. You jump off the diving board and then, from there, you’re going to have to sort of go home, you’re going to have to get with God, you’re going to have to get with your loved one. You’re going to have to get with friends, families or small groups and talk through some of these issues. Because, I think – and I’ll be honest. As I was putting together this material, I was like, “You know what? If I would’ve gotten this at 20 years old, what a difference this would have made in my life.”

And I’m hoping that you will walk out of here today and next week and the week after going, “Man, I got some real serious stuff here to walk out with.”

That’s my hope and my prayer. I can assure you that it is my fundamental nature to walk in here every weekend and do something that equips you as a church to be able to live a victorious life in Christ so that when you leave here you have something better than when you came in.

So, this week what we’re dealing with is marriage and relationship conflict. What happens when conflict hits our marriages or our relationships? And I say relationships because some of you may be in a dating relationship or some of you may be planning on getting married. Let me say at the outset: As soon as you talk about marriage, as soon as you talk about relationships, there’s at least somebody in the church that goes, “I’m not planning on getting married, so I’m going to just tune out right now.”

Don’t do that. Because, the things that I’m going to talk about today will also be good in interpersonal relationships. Every single one of them won’t deal with it because we’re talking about marriage stuff, but listen in. And secondly – and this is so important. Please, please. I don’t care what’s going on in your life. Hear me on this. Whenever you talk about this situation, there’s at least one person in a church that has been divorced. And, all of a sudden, they start going, “Oh, man,” and all of the stuff starts sort of drudging up.

Listen. I want to put you at ease. Don’t let that garbage get into your head. Don’t do that. Don’t let the enemy get into your head or anything like that. Listen. We love you and God has forgiven you and we can move on and all of that stuff. So, please, please, please don’t let this be a guilt-ridden sermon because you had a divorce and now, all of a sudden, you’re going, “I wish I would’ve done it this way or I wish I would’ve know that.”

Please don’t do that. That’s not the intention here of anything that I’m doing. My intention here is to help and not to hurt anybody.

So, I think we all would agree that, from time to time, conflict hits our marriages. Right? Would you agree with that? Like a couple sitting around a table at breakfast. The lady’s eating some cereal. She looks at her husband and says, “Do you know what next week is?”

He’s like most men going, “Ooo. I’ve got to figure out here what’s next week.”

She goes, “It’s my birthday.”

He goes, “I was just getting ready to say that.”

You know? So, she says, “My birthday,” and he’s like, “Alright.”

She goes, “I’m going to tell you what I want.”

He says, “Okay. Great.”

She goes, “It’s going to be shiny.”

He’s like, “Okay.”

“And it’s going to go from 0-170 in less than 3 seconds.”

He’s like, “Alright.”

So, the next week comes around and he presents his wife her birthday present. A weight scale. Thus conflict began. Right? The rumble is great. I love it. But, conflict arises in our marriages and we know it. We know that it arises. And this list is not exhaustive, but I think it’ll give us a great place to start this morning. Finances. I’m sure nobody’s ever had a little area of concern around the house on finances. Maybe you wanted to buy something and they didn’t think it was a good buy. Or maybe you spend more than they do. It sometimes can create conflict.

The past. That’s a good one. The past comes up and we like to fight about those things. Can I just make a point here? I hope that you’ll receive this. If you are married to someone that did something in their past before they met you, you fell in love with that person because of the experiences that they had had in their life. Stop beating them up with the past. Stop it.

Family. That’s an area of some conflict. You know, you tell everybody when you marry them that they’re supposed to leave and cleave, right? Okay? But, you know good and well when you marry somebody that you marry a family. Can I get an amen on that one? You know that. And then what happens is somebody in the marriage spends a lot of time with the family and the other person doesn’t like your Uncle Joe. So – and no offense if your name’s Joe. I’m not picking on Joes, it’s just a point. But, we get to fight on that.

Listening and feeling appreciated. You see that a lot as a pastor when you counsel people. Somebody will feel like, “I’m doing a lot towards the marriage. I’m really trying. I’m doing all this stuff and I just don’t feel like he listens to me.”

Or he doesn’t feel appreciated or “she doesn’t listen to me. I don’t feel appreciated by her,” and all that stuff.

Parenting styles. That’s a big one these days, right? You know? Are you going to put them in time-out? Do you believe in spanking? Do you water board? I have six kids. I’m just kidding. I’m just playing. You guys, come on.

Desires. Dreams. Spirituality. What’s it look like to be involved? Too much church? Too little church? All that stuff. These are areas that we get in conflict around the house and I think we all know that. So, what do we do? What do we do when those conflicts arise? How do we handle that? Are there some steps that we could do that would enhance our ability instead of getting worse? Maybe we could see some transformation in our conflicts? Sure.

What I’d like to ask you to do – and I’m asking you this humbly. I’m not asking you this in a way that you have to do it. But, this would be a really good time, if you have a journal or you like to write notes on your phone or you like to copy stuff down or you like to use the back of the bulletin on the notes thing or whatever, to start writing some things down. Because, I’m hoping you will take this out of here with you and you will talk with your husband or wife or you’ll talk to the person that you’re dating with or you’ll talk to God about these things. Because, I really want to help you in this area of conflict.

So, “What do I do? What do I do, Chip? We’re fighting about all this stuff at the house.”

Well, the first thing that we need to do is decide up front who comes first. This is huge. Who does come first? In today’s world, you hear it all the time. I’m going to eat first. You hear it all the time in the world. You can’t love anybody until you learn to love yourself. You’ve got to take care of self first, which is exactly not what Jesus said. Jesus said, “Seek me first and the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then I’ll take care of all the things that you need,” which is really different because that’s not the way we view the world.

So, who comes first? Do you? Does your spouse? Do your kids? You see that a lot of time, don’t you, around the house? Kids come first and then people are mad because they feel like that’s a misplaced place? Can I tell you something? You’re called to be a parent to your kids, not your kid’s friend. It’s going to get real and raw in here real quick. It’s like, “Man. Okay.”

Who comes first? Your job?

“Honey, my job’s first and everything else comes second. If we didn’t have the job I have, we wouldn’t have the money coming in.”

It doesn’t matter. Who comes first? Can I tell you as a pastor, can I tell you as a Christian, can I tell you the person that has to come first in your relationship in your life is God? It’s Jesus. Marriage and relationships will not be all they can be without first being committed to Christ. Which means He’s first. Not me. Not anybody else. God first. And if God is first, then the question we have to ask ourselves if we’re in a marriage or we’re going to think about getting marriage is we have to ask, “Has God said anything to me as a woman, as a wife,” or, “Has God said anything to me as a man, as a husband that I’m supposed to do?”

“Is there something He’s telling me that I should do? Because, if He’s first, then what He says that I should be doing is what I should, in fact, be doing.”

And He does. He says to women and He says to men some very important things when it comes to conflict. But, unfortunately, as soon as we hear them, we immediately, usually – as a general rule – don’t like what He has to say. Which means He’s really not first and we need to think about that. Or we like to focus on what the other person is supposed to do. Men like to say, “Honey, do you see what this says here that you’re supposed to do? Honey, you see that?”

Or women, “Excuse me. Do you see what God has said you’re supposed to do?”

It wasn’t written to you. It was written to them. Here’s what God says to women. If you’re a wife or you want to be a wife, here’s what the Word of God says: Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord. Most people in church – especially if you’re a woman in America today – are like, “That’s just not right. I’m not doing that.”

Okay. Well, hold on, now. It’s in the Bible. By you saying, “I’m not going to do it,” you’re already saying right now that God’s not first. You’ve already said that. Now, let me explain this to you. This does not mean that everything your husband tells you to do you have to do. This does not mean when your husband tells you to do something that’s absolutely unbiblical that you go do it. It’s not anything to do with that. It has to do with honoring and respecting your husband. I’ve counseled hundreds of people. Can I tell you how many times I’ve broken up the couple and talked to just the guy and the guy looked at me and said, “Man, my wife just doesn’t respect me anymore. She just doesn’t value what I have to say. It’s eroded so bad that there’s no more respect.”

God knew. God knew what that person needed. That’s why I said, women, the first thing you need to do, this is your role – we don’t like to hear the word “role.” But, let me explain to you how this works. Role is not a bad thing. Let’s talk about basketball. I love basketball. The deal is you cannot put a 7-foot person who should be playing center as a point guard bringing the ball down the court. They normally can’t dribble. Do you ever notice guys that are really big and can just reach up and stuff the ball, they just can’t be doing all the dribbling stuff? They’re just sort of big and they’re a little bit clumsy? But, man, when they’re down underneath the rim, they can put that thing in.

Well, you don’t want to put a 6’2 point guard under the rim. It doesn’t work. Good teams know their roles. It doesn’t mean anybody’s any better. It just means that they have a role. And, for the team to succeed, the role needs to be followed. God says, “Hey, for women: This is your role. For men: You’re to love your wives and don’t be bitter towards them.”

Or, as the ESV says, “Don’t be harsh with them.”

Can I tell you how many times I’ve counseled husbands and wives – hundreds of times – and pulled the wife aside and the wife says, “I just wish my husband would love me. I just wish he would cherish me. I wish he wouldn’t get so harsh towards me when we fight.”

God knew that. He knew what you need before you even were born. So, when we start off here, we say, “Okay. We’re going to have conflict in our marriage. We’re going to fight about finances and families. We’re going to fight. This is something we’re going to do. We’re going to have conflict. What do I do, Chip?”

Well, the first thing you’ve got to do is figure out who’s first. God’s first. And if God’s first, that means that we have some responsibilities that we’re supposed to do. And if we did what we were supposed to do, what we would find is that our conflict would be an area of transformation rather than an area of confrontation. But, what we do is, because we don’t put God first and we decide to put ourselves first or something else first, we end up getting into these conflicts and making a mistake. The first thing that we’ve got to do is figure out who’s first.

The second thing that we need to do is we need to pick the right time. Anybody ever had conflict in your house and you just flew off the handle? I’m probably the only one. I’m the only one here in Lakewood Ranch that’s ever done that. I get it. Old sinner Chip, the pastor. He’s from Kentucky. God bless him. Pray for him. All of that stuff.

But, the reality is I think most of us have had those moments where we didn’t pick the right time. When you’ve got conflict – if it’s finances, children or whatever it is – pick the right time. The Greeks had two great words. They had “chronos” and “kairos.”

And “chronos,” we got our word “chronometer” from that. If you like watches, chronometer is one that keeps really good time. That’s time. So is kairos. It’s time. But, this word is like the right time. Like, it was time for Jesus to go to Jerusalem. It was time. Sometimes, in our marriages, it’s time that we deal with what needs to be dealt with, but it’s not time to deal with what we need to deal with.

Let me give you some examples because you’re going to go, “Okay. You’re right. This is true.”

Let me give you some examples of when it’s not the right time. When someone’s tired it’s not a good time. It just doesn’t work. If they’re really tired and you want to fight about something, it’s not going to go very well. When they’re hungry, watch the Snickers commercials. You don’t do “hangry” when it’s conflict time. You know? It just doesn’t work. When they’re stressed out, when they come home and go, “I’ve had the worst day of all.”

“Great. Let’s talk about parenting styles right now.”

It’s not going to work. And we laugh, but we all do it. Making dinner. You know? I mean, I make one dish about once a week. Crab Alfredo. Except for like the fake crab. My kids don’t know the difference anyway. So, I cook that up and make the Alfredo. And Mindy’s like, “I ain’t coming in the kitchen and getting even around you,” because I’m focused, I’m OCD. I’m so bad it’s CDO. I have to alphabetize it, you know? I’ve got all this stuff going on and I’m doing all this cooking.

She’s like, “I ain’t getting in there.”

It would be the wrong time to come in and go, “Hey, let’s talk about what’s going on.”

It just wouldn’t be a good time. Catching up on work? Relaxing? Timing. It’s huge. Let me give you an even better way to deal with some conflict. When you have something you really need to talk about and it’s serious, maybe you need to plan when you talk about that. Like, a time where it’s a good time. Can I give you another word of advice? Go do it at the UTC Mall on the couch. Do you know why? Because, you won’t act like you act in your bedroom on that couch at UTC Mall.

I’m preaching. Listen to what the writer of Proverbs says. It’s huge.

“Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.”

Man, that is so true. Is it the right time? You say, “I want to help my marriage, Chip. When we’ve got conflict going on, what do I do?”

Well, you’ve got to figure out who’s first. You’ve got to figure out is it the right time. What’s the third thing? Avoid, at all costs, what I’m calling “verbal deal-breakers.”

Oftentimes, when I’m counseling husbands and wives, I’ll say to them when they’re talking to each other, “Whoa, hold on. It’s not what you just said that was bad. It’s the way you said it. See, death and life are in the power of the tongue. And, along the way, we pick up these words that are bombs. They’re just bombs when there’s conflict and we’ve got to avoid them. Let me give you some of them: 

Always. If you’re on the receiving end of an “always,” your blood pressure goes up massively. When your spouse says, “You always,” you’re like, “I don’t always.”

Never. You never. That’s not a good word. It’s a verbal deal-breaker. It’s not going to help conflict. It’s going to create issues.

Comparisons. “You’re reminding me of your mom.”

That’s like you’re just done. You might as well just go to UTC Mall at that point, you know what I’m talking about? Or, “My ex didn’t do it that way.”

That’s not going to work. But, we do it. The past. Man, we like to drag that one up, don’t we? Can you imagine? I want you to think for a second. Think about the time you wear your spouse out with the past. What we do is we do it when we’re starting to lose on the conflict or we feel like we’re losing, that’s when we pull these things out of our back pocket and go, “Bam!”

It makes you feel good for about a minute and then you realize, “Wow, man. I have created a really bad deal here.”

The past. Let me ask you a question. How about when you went to God and you pray and say, “Hey, God. It’s me again.”

“Yeah. Remember that thing you did last week?”

“I understand. But, God, I just want to tell You I love You.”

“Yeah. But, do you remember the thing?”

See, if God treated us that way – but yet, we’ll treat people that way. How about “you?”

“You,” usually, is followed by “always,” and “you,” is usually followed by “never.” But, you, you, you, you. And then we have these harsh words. You pick up a word every once in a while. There’s like a word. Maybe a cuss word or some word that you have that you know is just the word. And you pick that word out when you feel like you just need to drop the bomb in the middle of the conflict. And it doesn’t work. We need to avoid these verbal deal-breakers.

The writer of Proverbs says, “A hot-tempered person stirs up strife.”

Someone that just can’t keep their mouth shut and that’s just hot-tempered. Don’t do that. But, it’s the slow person that calms a dispute. Sometimes we just need to step back and not use our mouths as opportunity for death in a relationship, but for life.

Now, this one here is a marriage saver. If you’re not married, you need to write this down. If you’re married, you need to really think through this. I’ve had so many people come up to me after both services and go, “I’ve never heard anything like that. That changed my life.”

In fact, some of you are just going to rededicate your life right now. You’re going to be like, “God, I’m ready to rededicate my life right here.”

I’m serious. It’s going to be that good. So, here’s the thing. Look up here. Fourth: Learn the priceless value of whether it’s a problem or a difference. Let me explain, because this is huge. This is a marriage changer for people. Does it threaten your safety? Does it threaten your health? Is it an unfair burden? Does it mess up the children? Does it create a financial crisis? That is a problem. Problems need to be worked on quickly and resolved. Because, problems will destroy a marriage. So, you’ve got to know what a problem is.

The writer of Proverbs says – and this is so true – “The prudent sees danger and hides himself...”

In other words, he does something about it. He sees that there’s danger coming and he makes sure he’s not going to be in the way.

“But the naive proceed and pay the penalty.”

When we don’t deal with problems in our marriage, we’re going to be in trouble. And a problem is a problem. However, a problem’s not a difference. A difference is what attracted you to the person you’re married to. You’re like, “Man, I was really a quiet person. But, man, they were really loud and had all these friends. Man, it was so exciting to get out there and get out of my shell and do stuff with them.”

Then you’re like, “He or she was quiet and here I was, this loud person, but it was so nice every once in a while to get one on one and talk and have these great conversations and all of this stuff.”

Or, “I was a morning person and they were an evening person. It was so cool to stay out late because I never stayed out late.”

“Man, I loved her so much I’d get up early in the morning because I wanted to do it.”

And then, all of a sudden, we get married and those differences that attracted us to the person that we married become repulsive and you have a difference. Do you know what you do with differences? You learn to accept. What we want to do is change our mate. It doesn’t work. God designed marriage to be a place where we learn to accept and love our mates for who they are. You married them. You said, “For better or for worse.”

You didn’t mean that, did you? Did you mean it for richer or for poorer? Did you mean it for in sickness or in health? Did you mean that? Because, if you meant that, then the thing that got you excited about that person to begin with, which was opposite of you, now becomes a difference. And what we want to do is we want to change them and we want to fight about it and we want to get mad about it.

I can’t tell you how many marriages break up in America over differences, and it’s a shame that that should be happening in the Church of God where the power of the Holy Spirit is here to give us victory in our lives. Differences need to be solved by accepting. Listen to what Paul says to the church here at Rome.

He says, “May the God who gives you perseverance and encouragement grant you to be the same mind to one another, according to Jesus Christ, so that with one accord you may, with one voice, glorify God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Listen: “Therefore, accept one another just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.”

Sometimes we need to learn the difference between a problem and a difference. Differences are areas where we need to work together, we need to pray together, we need to compromise. Differences are not areas to blow up and to get all excited about. Problems are. Differences need to be accepted. It’ll help you in your marriage.

Fifth: Refuse to be without a mentor. This is something – I don’t know why we’re like this. But, if you notice, most people who live in America, they don’t want anybody involved in anything that they’re doing at all. We want to go secret. You’ll see a husband and wife that’ll be fighting, but you don’t know they’re fighting. They come in, “Oh, praise the Lord, brother. How are you doing? Oh, great.”

And they’re all smiling and everything. Then, all of a sudden, they come to you and say, “Yeah. We got a divorce last week.”

You’re like, “What? What went on?”

“Well, we’ve been fighting for six months.”

“Well, nobody knew about it.”

“Well, we didn’t want to tell anybody.”

No, listen. This is not the way Christianity works. Christianity doesn’t work as lone rangers. And can I tell you something? Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. Right? Okay. The Lord’s prayer is not “my Father which art in heaven,” it’s “our Father.”

1 Corinthians 12:13-14 says we need each other. We need each other. You can’t have a body that’s just a toe. You also have to have ears, hands and all that other stuff. And some of you are armpits. I know. But, it doesn’t make a difference. The reality is we need all of it. We need all of it. Whatever you do, if you are an armpit, don’t use that Tom’s natural deodorant. It doesn’t work. It’s like, “Buddy, go back to the lab. That stuff’s terrible.”

Anyway. Somebody’s like, “Oh, you need to get that stuff that doesn’t have aluminum in it.”

Yeah. The only thing it runs off is my wife. Not odors. Anyways, refuse to be without a mentor. Listen to me for a second. This is so important and huge. You cannot do life alone. I love it. I’m a professor and people are like, “I’m self-educated.”

Really? Tell me about that process.

“Well, I read books and I studied videos.”

Well, you didn’t do it by yourself. You had somebody that taught you.

“Well, no. I did it on my own.”

No. You didn’t do it on your own. You read a book that somebody else wrote. You had somebody else in your life.

They go, “Oh, yeah. Okay. Yeah. I wasn’t really think about that. That’s right.”

I mean, you do not do life alone. Your marriages and my marriage will not be all that God wants it to be if we don’t have people in our lives that we can talk to about our problems. Listen to what the Word of God says:

“Where there is no guidance, people fall.”

Okay. So, if you don’t get any guidance in your marriage and you just try to hold up at your house and make it happen, I’m here to tell you that where there is no guidance, you’re going to fall. But, an in an abundance of counselors, there’s victory.

Does anybody not want victory? Of course we do. But, we need each other. We need people in our lives. Without consultation, plans are frustrating. But, with many counselors, they succeed. Do you know why we do supper clubs? Do you know why we do small groups? Do you know why we do that? We do that so that you can find people that you can relate to and have relationships with because we all need to be connected with people. You need people in your life.

I have mentors in my life I talk to every day. I have stuff that I could make decisions as a pastor of what we’re going to do as a church. I’ll call them.

“What do you think about this? What do you think about that?”

My sermons? I preach it to Tom and Dan almost every weekend. Every week.

“Come in here and listen to this. Does this make sense?”

You say, “Well, why would you do such a thing?”

Because I care about what I’m doing and I know I can’t do it on my own. I need people. My family needs people. Look at how important my mom and dad were to my kids. Huge. And yet, we’ll get in a marriage relationship and go, “I’m going to do it on my own.”

It’s like, “How’s it working, man?”

“Well, we just got divorced.”

“That’s a good one. That really worked well.”

No, no. We need people in our lives. And here’s the situation: Sometimes it’s the rhythm of grace. We humble ourselves and God will lift us up. We humble ourselves and God will lift us up. Maybe we’ve got some mentors in our lives that we really trust and we go, “Hey, we’re struggling in our marriage here. Can you help us out?”

And they’re going to say, “Yeah. Let me give you some ideas and some advice,” and you go back and pray about it and you’ve got somebody on your side. Then, all of a sudden, you realize, “Hey, you know what? My marriage is sort of working.”

Maybe, just maybe, allow yourself to go under somebody so that maybe you can come out on top. Cannot do it by yourself.

Number six: “What do I do when I’ve got problems? What do I do?”

Well, sometimes we need healthy boundaries for our protection. And this is something we don’t talk about in church. We just don’t do it. I had somebody say, “I’ve been at church for 30 years. I’ve never heard anything about healthy boundaries.”

Let me tell you about healthy boundaries. Paul has a marital problem in his church in Corinth. You can read it in 1 Corinthians 5. He’s got a guy that’s having sexual relations with his step mom. Is Paul loving? Absolutely. Is Paul a grace-filled guy? Absolutely. Does Paul think you work your way into heaven? Nope. All by grace. What does he say? Well, he writes to him and he says, “I told y’all what to do when I wrote before and you didn’t do it. What I told you to do was this: The one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.”

You go, “Wow, man. They’re going to kick him out of church?”

Paul said, “Yeah. Kick him out of church.”

Why? Because, he’s in sin and he’s not doing anything to repent. And if we just keep doing the same old thing, we’re going to get the same old thing. So, maybe what we need to do is do like Jesus said. Jesus said, “Hey, if they’re doing this stuff, they’re tax collectors and sinners. If they won’t listen to you and they won’t listen to a couple of other people and they won’t listen to the church, maybe we need to create a healthy boundary.”

Now, is the boundary there to keep the guy from being in the church? No. Is the boundary there to punish him? No. The boundary is there because Paul says, “Maybe he’ll be out in the world going, ‘Man, what I’m doing is really dumb. Maybe I need to figure out how to get this thing back right so I can go back.’”

And sometimes we don’t understand how to create healthy boundaries. Let me tell you something: Being a person of love and forgiveness does not imply that you accept abuse. We’ve had women, all the time, that they tell them to go back home and just suck it up and pray about it. I was 22 years old. The first church job I’d ever had. I don’t know why in the world they decided – I was an associate pastor – let’s take the 22-year-old guy and let him do marriage counseling. I was as lost as a ball in high weeds. I mean, it’s like, “What?”

The first person I got came in with a bruise on her eye and said, “My husband’s hitting me.”

Man, you talk about like a real moment. I was like, “Man, I don’t even know what to tell you to do.”

I went and asked somebody on staff. They’re like, “You know, tell her to go pray about it.”

I’m like, “Pray about it? Man, we need to do something about it.”

Let me just be honest here. When there’s abuse, you need to get out from it. You need to create boundaries. You say, “Chip’s telling everybody to go get a divorce.”

That’s not what I said. What I said it sometimes healthy boundaries need to be created so that we don’t get beat up. Listen: If you’re being persecuted for your Christianity, you go all the way to death. That’s biblical. But, when you have abuse in a relationship and people are beating you up and verbally abusing you and doing all of that stuff, you need to create a boundary. Otherwise, it’s not healthy.

Love says this isn’t right. Love says let’s put a boundary up. The boundary is not there forever. The boundary can come down when things get right. But, the boundary is there to save people from things that they don’t need to be taking on the chin. And if you’re in an abusive relationship, please here me because this is huge, okay?

So, I asked people to send in stuff. Here’s what I got: One person wants a divorce. The other doesn’t. There’s been unfaithfulness and verbal abuse. What do we do? My spouse looks at pornography on a regular basis and I don’t like it. What do I do? These are real questions. These are real, real issues of conflict. So, from this point forward, we’ve got a few minutes here, I’m going to give you some real, real, real answers. Maybe some things you’ve never heard before. Maybe some things you can’t even believe a pastor would say. But, I’m going to be as real as I can be. So, if you want to know what this portion of the sermon is, this is PC’s, down home, tell it like it is section. That’s what this is right here. Listen to me, please, and lean in. If you’re watching via the internet and mobile app, please, please, please pay attention here. This is huge.

Look up here. If your spouse is coming to you in honesty and humility and asking you to make a change in an obvious area of sin, you have a covenantal responsibility to change. I’m going to tell you something here as a pastor. I am tired of the marriages in church looking no better than marriages in the world. I am tired of people being so selfish who put their hands up in worship and say, “I love God,” who will not bow the knee to God and put Him first and start doing the things that God has asked us to do. Listen: I believe, as your pastor, 2 Corinthians 5:17. That when someone is in Christ, the old has passed away and the new has come. They are a new creation. I believe Paul in Ephesians 3 when he says, “God can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think according to the power that lives within you and me.”

It’s time for you and me, if we’re in marriages or we want to get married, to say, “You know what? I’m going to put God first and I’m not going to walk around living like the world and I’m not going to make it all about me. I’m going to treat my marriage the way it needs to be treated and I’m going to do the right thing because I’m not going to continue to live in the way that we’re continuing to live because God has better for you and me.”

You can tell I’m a little excited about this, right? Like, this is honest here. We, as a church, want to go tell everybody in the world what a marriage should be and our marriages don’t look any different than the people in the world. Come on. Fix it in the house of God first. Fix it here first. Then people will want what we have. We’ve got a big finger. “Let me tell you what a marriage is supposed to be. Let me tell you.”

We can’t even get it right here. Divorce rates are the same in the church as they are in the world. If your spouse comes to you and says, “Listen, you’re in sin. You’re cheating on me. You’re doing this stuff that’s wrong,” you need to get on your face and you need to say, “God, I believe You can change the life of a human being. God, I need You to change me now.”

And you need to get involved with some people or you need to get involved in something and see God change your life so that your marriage can be in the right place. But, listen, I’m real. I know this happens all the time. Wives go to their husbands and husbands go to their wives and say, “Would you please, please, please help me in this area? Please.”

And they say, “Nope. I’m going to do whatever I want to do.”

I’m going to tell you what you need to do. I’m going to help you out. The first thing you need to do is you need to establish some healthy boundaries. You need to establish boundaries. You need to say, “We’re not going to continue to do this dance that we’re doing here, because this dance isn’t working. 

And that may mean as little as getting someone else involved. It may mean as much as moving out. And you say, “Whoa. Man, the pastor said move out.”

I didn’t say divorce them. I said move out. Because, sometimes you’ve got to create a boundary. When you’re getting abused, you’re getting hit, you’re getting yelled at, you fear for yourself, you need to get out of that thing and you need to establish a boundary so that whoever it is that’s on the other side that’s offending can maybe come to their senses and get their life right so that your marriage can get restored.

The second thing is you need to stand your ground from entering in counseling. You say, “No, no. We’re not going to go hold up and try to handle this when you’re doing all this stuff and acting like this. No, no. We’re going to get people involved and we’re going to get pastors involved.”

It’s funny. Tom was like, “Man, the pastoral calendar is going to be filled for the next six months after this message.”

You know? And I hope so. We are here for you. We’re here for you. It’s what we want to do. We want to see this work. Stand your ground and wait for genuine repentance. Listen. If you’re the guy or girl that’s on the offending side, James says it very clear here. He says, “To the one who knows the right thing to do and doesn’t do it, it’s sin.”

If you know what you’re doing is wrong and you continue to do it, it’s sin and you’re not going to be in the right place with God and you’re not going to help your marriage.

Then, lastly, don’t settle for anything other than reconciliation and restoration. Because, God doesn’t want our marriages to look like the world. He wants our marriages to be places where God works. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to have conflict. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to have disagreements. But, we can do it in a different way and people can see us do it in a different way and people can want what we have. That’s because we’ve got to put God first. We’ve got to pick the right times. We can’t do the verbal stuff. We’ve got to do all the things that we just talked about.

So, what I want to do is this. I want to pray for our marriages here at Grace Community Church. If you’re married, you need to take the hand of your spouse right now. If you’re not married, you need to think, “Man, if I get married, I really need to be thinking about this. God, I need You to download this on me.”

I want to pray for you. Let’s bow our heads.

Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You right now in the mighty and strong name of Your Son Jesus. Lord, the marriages in the church are under attack. God, I’m praying right now in Jesus’ name that You would break bondage’s, Lord. That You would break addictions, Lord. That You would break selfishness, Lord. In the name of Jesus. And Lord, that marriages in this church would come into an agreement that they’re going to do the things that God has called them to do. They’re going to believe that You have the power by the Holy Spirit that lives within us to make differences in our marriages, Lord.

And I believe that there’s going to be a markedly different change in the marriages and relationships at Grace Community Church as they walk out of here today because they’re going to start looking to you first in ways they never have and they’re going to start coming together in ways that they never have and they’re going to protect that marriage and do the stuff that’s right, Lord, so that they can be a witness to the world about the power of God even in our marriages.

Lord, I pray for those that are struggling. God, I pray that You would lift their head right now in the name of Jesus. Lord, I pray for those that feel broken. Lord, I pray that they would know that there is a balm in Gilead. Lord, I pray in Jesus’ name that the power of God would come into our church and restore and renew and convict and burden us as husbands and wives to protect our marriages, Lord, for the glory of God.

And Lord, I pray for the future marriages that will come in this church. Lord, I pray that they would be thinking through all of these things so that they would protect that relationship so that, Lord, when they do come together, they’ll come together for Your glory in a way that is pleasing to You. So, Lord, I pray that as we leave here today that You would watch over us and protect us, that You would lead and guide us. I pray that You’d bring us back safely to next week when we can deal with some other areas of conflict. But, Lord, I pray that as we leave here today that You would just burden every single person in here in a way that’s loving and generous and in a way, Lord, that makes us all walk out of here going, “I need to really rethink some things in my areas of marriage in my relationship so that I can do all the things that God’s called me to do for Your glory, God. You’re first.”

And Lord, I pray that You would make that a reality here at Grace. Lord, a place where marriages can thrive and marriages can grow. We love You for it, Lord. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said “amen.” Give the Lord a big hand clap and tell Him you love Him.

John FlowerreeComment