Have you had conflicts, arguments, or disagreements in your marriage? If the answer is “no,” I think you may be fooling yourself. Either that or you haven’t lived together very long.
Living with another person in any situation is not easy. This is especially true in marriage–the closest of human relationships. Husbands and wives have different personalities, different preferences, and different backgrounds, just to name a few differences.
Sometimes the things we do or say can bring conflict and strife between us, even when they’re totally innocent and appropriate. When our spouse gets upset with us, we may be left wondering: “What did I do wrong?” I’m sure we’ve all experienced that a time or two.
But, of course, we all want peace–not conflict–in our marriage. Fortunately, like with everything else we face in life, God’s Word has some wise instruction on this. Don’t you love how God knows everything and provides His wisdom to us through His Word?
In Philippians 2:1-4, He provides a seemingly simple–yet difficult to follow–solution to the problem of our differences and the conflicts they bring. It reads: “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
God has made us all different. In fact, in His Word He tells us He has purposely made us different so that we can use those differences to serve Him and others.
We read about one way we are different in Romans 12:4-6: “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”
God also tells us why He gives people different gifts. We read about this in Ephesians 4:12-13: “…to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
These passages refer to the church, but the same principle is true in marriage. We are made uniquely so that we can help each other and also minister to others together.
God tells us in Philippians 2, that He brings our differences together in marriage so that we can use them to grow and minister. We can love, comfort, and show tenderness and compassion to each other and to others around us. We can be and do all He desires for us, not in spite of, but because of our differences.
In order for this to be true, we must first give ourselves to Jesus as our Savior and Lord. Paul begins Philippians 2:1 by writing that all he is about to teach is based on us being “united with Christ.” If you have never given your life to Christ, you can discover how to do that here: Meet Jesus.
When we give our lives to Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes and lives within us. Paul also refers to this in Philippians 2:1 when he writes that we have “common sharing in the Spirit.” While we are different in many ways, the Holy Spirit living in each of us allows us to be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”
The Holy Spirit also brings fruit that allows us to serve together in spite of our differences (see Galatians 5:13-16, 22-25). He gives us gifts that we can use to serve God (see 1 Corinthians 12:1-7). And He empowers us to use our abilities in service to Him. We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” We can be sure the Holy Spirit will help us do that.
We see an example of how we can differ and still be one in serving God together from the early church. When Christianity was being birthed in the first century, we read in the Bible that there was a dispute over what people could and couldn’t eat. Some from a Jewish background thought they should follow the Old Testament dietary laws. Others, especially from Gentile backgrounds, believed the freedom they now had in Christ allowed them to eat anything.
This latter group were criticizing those who still followed the Old Testament Law. God has a word for both groups through Paul. We read in Romans 14:13-15: “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.”
He speaks in a similar way about believers in Corinth who thought it was wrong to eat meat that had been offered to idols. His conclusion is found in 1 Corinthians 8:13: “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.”
These are examples of what Paul writes in Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Why do we do this? Paul answers that in Philippians 2:5: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” Jesus’ mindset is selflessness.
In a world that’s focused on individual freedoms, what a powerful message that is. If we live like this–with a selfless attitude–what a powerful message our marriage will be to those around us. And what a mighty witness for Christ!
If we live with a selfless, Christ-like attitude, how much better will our marriages become?
Much of the conflict in our lives arises out of asserting our individual rights. We feel entitled to have things our way. It stems from self-centeredness.
However, according to God, there is something more important than the things we think that we’re entitled to. That thing is preserving peace in our relationships. He says in Romans 14:17-19: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. 19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (bold mine).
How many times do we disrupt the peace, when we can instead keep the peace and at the same time build up and encourage our spouse? We have the opportunity through the things we choose to say and do—or choose not to say and do–to build our spouses up and help them grow in their walk with Christ.
What a privilege to be God’s instruments by sacrificing our entitlements so we can serve Him and our spouse like that. This is a sure recipe for peace.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
♦ Read this week’s teaching together. How did God speak to you through it?
♦ Discuss how you are different from each other–your different personalities, different preferences, etc. What are your different spiritual gifts? Discuss how though there are differences, you are like-minded. How does this help your marriage?
♦ Examine how your differences complement each other. Talk about how God uses them individually and together to serve Him.
♦ Discuss how your love for God and each other allows your differences to enhance your relationship and ability to serve Him.
♦ Close your time together in prayer. Ask Him to bring peace and joy to your marriage as you serve Him together.
Until next week, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash, (CC0), cropped/text added.