Hi, this is Pastor Ken, thanks for joining me once again for the Monday Marriage Message where together we search God’s instructions to experience highly successful marriages. Last time I concluded our series on the Order and Structure of a God Shaped Marriage. Today I want to begin looking at the prescriptions for both a God Shaped Husband and a God Shaped Wife.

In our most recent series the focus was on the order of authority within a marriage as laid out in God’s word. As a part of that study of 1 Corinthians 11:3, I did speak briefly to the actions of a godly husband and wife, as they pertained specifically to maintaining the God-ordained marital order and structure. Now I would like to delve deeper into the scriptural prescriptions for a God Shaped Husband and a God Shaped Wife.

One might ask why I keep using these terms for a husband and wife, and that is a reasonable question. First and foremost, I do so because as I have said many times before, the primary purpose of marriage as stated by God Himself is to reflect His character. Genesis 1:26 tells us that God chose to create mankind in His image and His likeness. Verse 27 tells us that in so doing He created both a man and a woman. In the very next chapter in Genesis 2:22-24 we learn that God created that first man and woman in a one flesh or married condition. Furthermore, He said that going forward He would join future men and women in marriage to recreate what He had accomplished with Adam and Eve. Following that understanding, it becomes abundantly clear that a marriage is intended to reflect God, therefore the participants of that marriage, the husband and wife need to be…God Shaped ones.

Second it is important to understand that if we were not called to live up to a standard as a husband or a wife, then each would need to determine for themselves how to do that best. A third grader can see the value and logic in having a standard for such an important undertaking, yet most married people can’t see that the bulk of their marital difficulties arise from trying to define for themselves if they are a ‘good’ husband or wife. Most people are not overtly evil, and the vast majority of us believe ourselves to be ‘good’ people. Therefore, most of us act as a husband or wife in good faith, thinking we are doing the best we can given our circumstances. Interestingly enough, I have noticed as a marriage counselor that most husbands and wives I encounter in my office do not believe that their spouse is doing the best they could.

Why do we find ourselves in marriages where we believe we are doing the best we can, but our spouse isn’t putting in the same effort? Why do our spouses agree completely with that assessment except that they think the tables are turned in the other direction? The answer is simple. We have attempted to dispose of the standard. We each are defining for ourselves what a husband should look like and how he should act. We rely completely on our own understanding to decide if a woman is being a good wife or not. These determinations are made based on a myriad of information. Our families of origin and the marriages we each watched growing up…that by the way were having many of the same difficulties we are struggling with. We also draw on our life experience and our own set of core beliefs to help us know how to interact as spouses. Among the most dangerous sources of information of how our spouse should be treating us is the alter-universe of comparison. Movies, books, songs, checkout line magazines…and don’t even get me started on social media…all of it designed by the enemy of marriage to cause us to think our spouse is mistreating us, and they are probably never going to live up to being what we and they know they should be.

Scripture identified the problem we run into when we each want to develop our own standard. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:12 They use themselves to measure themselves, and they judge themselves by what they themselves are. This shows that they know nothing. Without a standard everything becomes acceptable…except when it no longer is. When that happens we want to find and dust off the one true standard, but because we have not been following its prescriptions ourselves it often gets misapplied. I couldn’t count the number of times I have had someone sit in my office and ask me to endorse their view (often a one-sided one) of what scripture says their spouse is doing wrong. The standard is crucial for success. As I said a few moments a go, most third graders can identify its importance. But, who gets to set the standard? The obvious answer is that God does. But, why? God isn’t even married after all. God is the author of the institution. He is the Creator of marriage and therefore is reasonably the only One capable or worthy to set the standard. Marriage is primarily intended to reflect Him, who better to enlighten us about how He acts, and therefore how we must act when imitating Him. There is simply no one better.

Psalm 19:7-11 say this of God’s instructions to us… The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.

Finally, it is important to be a God-shaped Husband or a God Shaped Wife because it reminds us who we are responding to. In a marriage where we decide what is best and how we should act as a husband or a wife, we do so in response to one of two people. Us or them. What I mean by that is that If I choose to act toward my wife in a particular way because it is what I saw growing up and so I think it is the normal thing to do, I am responding to myself. This can have good or bad repercussions. When I was growing up, my view of a husband was being the one who had the final say. My father isn’t a chauvinistic pig…far from it, but in the final analysis what he said in our home was simply going to be the way it went. My childhood view of that helped me develop some core beliefs about marriage that are not altogether correct. When I was younger and a little less endowed with white hair I may or may not have encountered some marital difficulty as a result of that particular core belief. In those moments I was responding to myself, and my firm belief that I was acting within the bounds of my understanding of what a good husband was supposed to be.

More often yet, our actions are explained as re-actions. We say that we have acted in a particular manner because of the way our spouse acted toward us. After all, every action has an equal and opposite reaction…at least that’s what I learned in 3rd grade science. In all seriousness we often use the actions of another to excuse our own. “I know I shouldn’t get that way, but they are so selfish sometimes”! “I wouldn’t normally have said that, but you just made me so angry”. “I don’t like it when I can’t communicate with you peacefully, why do you have to be so argumentative all the time”? in each of these cases, and the hundreds of others that cause people to visit my office, those spouses are responding to one another. Sometimes most of their interactions have become a response to the other. As a young man I knew such a couple. The first thing they said to one another in the morning was in reaction to what one of them had said the day before. Their interactions were simply a perpetual response to one another and precious little of it was positive. When we determine what a good wife or husband should be and ours doesn’t live up to our standard, what choice do we have but to respond to them in a way that shows our displeasure with them?

All of that changes when we let God set the standard. When we decide we are going to be a God shaped Husband or a God shaped Wife, we will be interacting with our spouse but we will be doing so in response to God. If I am going to be a God Shaped Husband, then I have to look to God to know how to do that. When I consult Him through His written word and prayer, any positive action I take is one of obedience to Him. In those moments I am interacting with my wife but I am responding to the One who instructed me how to go about the interaction. Neither my wife or I wrote the bible, we did not invent marriage, so when we do what God says, it is in response to Him. A far better result occurs when I respond to God rather than myself or my wife.

In his book, Love and Respect, Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs says it this way “My response is my responsibility”. I like that. It is an empowering statement. I get to choose…will I respond to myself, and my idea of what a good husband would do? Or will I respond to my wife, will I act in reaction to whatever she has done to me? Will my responses to her simply be determined by the way she acts toward me? Or will I respond to God? Will I interact with my wife in the way He has instructed me to? The real question is…will I allow Him to be Lord, and take my correct position as His servant, and do exactly what He wants me to do?

Another understanding “My response is my responsibility” reveals is that I have to pay attention to what I am doing, not what someone else has done. I call this concept. “Eyes on your own paper”. I remember hearing a teacher or two admonish classrooms I was part of to keep our own eyes on our own papers. In other words, pay attention to what YOU are doing. Every time I have tried to inspect my wife’s actions to see how she could improve at being a wife…I fail to be a good husband. I have never maintained my ability to be a God Shaped Husband while telling her how she is currently failing at being a God Shaped Wife. Reflecting God is a full time endeavor and requires every bit of concentration we have. If I don’t keep my eyes firmly fixed on my own paper, I will fail bitterly in my attempts to be a God Shaped Husband.

Finally, “My response is my responsibility” keeps me mindful that no matter what is happening in my marriage, I have the ability and in fact the responsibility to make it 50% better. What I mean by that is this. No marriage is perfect, yours would be…but you and your spouse are in it. Mine would be…but my wife and I are in ours. We are all profoundly fallen people living in a profoundly fallen world and so we have a propensity to do profoundly fallen things. Every marriage is a struggle at times for one reason or another. Some experience deeper struggles, some experience longer lasting problems. Some of the struggles come from outside sources, some on further inspection we seemingly invite into the mix. Regardless of what the difficulties are, how big, long lasting, or how they got there, every spouse can choose to be a God shaped one. What about those situations where just one of you seems to know or even care that God has instructions for how your marriage is supposed to operate? If that is you…then be a God Shaped Husband, or a God Shaped Wife and through your obedience it will likely become at least 50% better. “My response is my responsibility”

Join me again next time as we begin to dive into God’s word and find the prescriptions for a God shaped Husband and a God Shaped Wife.

So now, accepting that your response is your responsibility, and that in your marriage you need to respond to God…Go be awesome.