Monday, April 16, 2012

On Sin

What is the nature of sin? This might seem an odd start to a marriage moment article, but bear with me.

Let’s start with relationships, because the Bible is, at the core of every story, about relationships; between people and God, and between people and other people. Relationships are never static. They are either growing and getting better, or are regressing and getting worse. Stagnation is not a healthy state for a relationship, so I consider that in the latter category of getting worse.

Our relationship with God is no different. We are either growing in this relationship and getting closer to God, or we are getting farther away from Him. It is interesting in regard to sin to consider a word often used in conjunction: repentance. We are called to repent from sin. This is often taken to mean to ask forgiveness, but looking at the Greek word we translate as repent, it means at its root “to turn around.” Constantly doing things and asking forgiveness is not repenting. Turning towards God, and consciously walking towards Him is. If repenting then, is turning around, turning to God, sin could be taken to mean turning from God.

Let’s take this one step farther. If God is love (1 John 4:8) then sin is nothing more than choosing not to love. Whether it be your self, a family member, a spouse, a neighbor, a complete stranger or even the world God has given us to live in, if we choose not to love, we sin. When we regret that, and choose to love instead, that is the very heart of repentance.

Now, apply that thought to your marriage. How often do you choose not to love? If you consider your choice not to love your spouse as “sin” would that change how you interact with your spouse? And not just the big things. I’m not just talking about hitting, or infidelity or lying. What if every snide comment, every sarcastic response, every cold shoulder, every angry shout were all seen as the sin they are... as choosing not to love?

Sometimes it is hard to love. As imperfect beings all of us on occasion choose not to, and then become unlovable ourselves - by human standards. Yet God loved us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8) and sent Christ to die for us, cleanse us and redeem us. In so doing he set the example, and provided the motivation to act as he did, to love as He loved. We do not love to get a reward; it is not our actions by which we are saved. We are to love as a joyous response to what has already been done for us. Choosing to love when it is not deserved brings us closer to God, and can also drastically improve our earthly relationships as well. Next time your toes get stepped on, your feelings get hurt or your heart gets broken, choose to love. Turn, and move towards God, and see if you don’t pull your whole marriage in the same direction.

Spring "Cleaning"

This will come as no surprise to anybody, but marriage is work. It's hard, it's never ending, but when the work is done, the time invested it is of inestimable worth. It also is probably not a surprise, but the articles I write contain no information that is actually new. I research the topic of marriage all the time, through interviews and radio broadcasts, movies, online articles and books. I take the ideas that really resonate with me, in terms of things I see, people I know, and things that are going on in my own life, and I write about them. I try and give a Biblical perspective or grounding of the idea if it has none, but none of it makes a difference unless some married couple out there reads what I write - and decides to get to work!

To that end, I challenge all you married couples - make a commitment to work together on your relationship this month. Watch a movie together, and discuss it afterward. Or read a marriage book together, and discuss each chapter, like a devotional. Here are some suggestions:

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
Sheet Music by Kevin Lehman
The Kosher Sutra (nope. not even kidding) by Shmuley Boteach
Sex God by Rob Bell
Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch

You don't have to take my suggestions; go to a bookstore - make a date of it! - and browse the "Love and Relationships" section and choose one together. feeling adventurous? Browse the "Sexuality" shelves...

With movies there is fodder for a good couples' discussion everywhere. From obvious places like Fireproof, and Not Easily Broken, and even in "kids" films like Up, and The Incredibles. The key, of course is TO TALK. Let whatever you do together be a jumping off point for a discussion about your marriage. Be open and honest with each other. Listen intently, without judgement or defense.

When you start, reassure each other that anything that is said is because you want to make your union stronger, your love for each other deeper, and resolve to make it so.