Friday, February 11, 2011

A Match Made in Hell (But, They're Happy!)

At any given time, I'm watching my way through a TV show on our Roku. I am at once proud and ashamed to say that I've been watching Desperate Housewives lately. Like most TV shows, the first season starts off with a bit of insight and slowly devolves into plot-driven absurdity. Season 2 of Desperate Housewives contained an episode called That's Good, That's Bad (s2e9). In it, a nun tells Gabby, wife of Carlos, that she fuels Carlos's sin:

Sister Mary: "Carlos is a diamond in the rough, a flawed man to be sure, but someone who is desperately searching for something to believe in. To satisfy your materialism, he ended up breaking the law. To deal with your adultery, he resorted to assault."

Now, I in no way want to imply that each individual is not responsible for his/her own actions. But, I do want to talk about the place of sin within a marriage, or really Christian community at large.

I believe part of the Biblical teaching on marriage shows us that marriage is meant to sanctify us. Through the process of living with, partnering with, and trying to love another person every day for the rest of our lives, God wants us to become more like Him. This is not to say that singleness is not also a means of sanctification. They are both equally honoring to Him and full of sanctifying moments.

In friendships and marriage in particular, we begin to see each others' Glory Selves. (Mentioned previously here.) Here is a repeat of the explanation of the term:

I unashamedly steal this term from Tim Keller, from his old school, rock-your-world sermon series on marriage. (I'm sure he's probably used it somewhere else, too.) As Keller says, the Glory Self is the person we would be without sin, the person God intends for us to be alive in Christ. Through the power of Christ's resurrection, He lives in us and we are slowly being redeemed and our sin is dying away while our Glory Self is coming to the surface. Of course, this is not a smooth process, but the idea of the Christian life is one in which things grow, either good fruits or bad fruits. Either we grow in sin or we grow in life and truth, through Christ. As with all growth, there are seasons and this is not a steady process.

In marriages, as in all Christian community, I believe we should be helping each other along in the process of becoming our glory selves. But often, I feel as if sin in marriages can match up so well that we do not see each other's sin as sin nor call each other to repentance. Take Joe and Martha. Martha is prideful and must look good so that others will value her. Joe is insecure, so he wants the best looking wife in town and encourages Martha in her self-centered behavior. They have a happy marriage, but instead of living for God, they are living for themselves. 

What really gets me about sin within marriages is that it is often encouraged "for the sake of the marriage." If Joe is going to stop loving Martha based on her looks, she is expected to continue in her behavior to keep the marriage strong. Challenging each other to repent of real sin might cause an argument, and we wouldn't want that would we? So, we praise couples that look peaceful without knowing if the peace and harmony in their marriage is cheap peace or hard-won peace.

In encouraging people to put happiness and marital peace above repentance and holy sanctification, we are in fact undermining the purpose of marriage entirely. Marriages are not simply meant to benefit the partners, but also to benefit the world and glorify God. If a successful marriage is only judged by the happiness and "still-togetherness" of the partners, and not on the fruit of their relationship, then I think we've missed the boat. If a church existed simply for its own members but failed to serve the community and worship God, we would clearly say it was failing in its Biblical calling. Right? So why not in marriages?

On a large scale, we call this culture. Some cultures fail to see their communal sin. Americans, for instance, are largely gluttonous. We do not know the value of going without. We consume, consume, consume and have very little regard for what our consumption results in. Other cultures have other sins, and we as outsiders see them more clearly because our sins do not blind us to theirs.

But, in both cultural and marital sin, lasting change only happens from inside the community. An outsider can identify the sin, but nothing will change until the members within the community repent. I, for instance, can think of many marriages in which complementary sin exists, but as an outsider it is very difficult for me to speak into those marriages. This can only be done within the context of true, deep friendship, or, of course, by the Holy Spirit. He can bring the conviction smack-down on anyone He wants.

How do you see this in your marriage, family, group of friends, or church? What sins do you let slide because they are shared by those around you? How do we battle this in a realistic way? I would love thoughts on this as I still haven't fully "wrapped it up" in my mind.


  1. SUCH a good discussion! I feel like Matthew and I need to work on what our sin is, because I'm sure it is there. In fact, it seems possible that if we think we DON'T have some mutually enabling sin, we might be ignoring it, not free of it (if we haven't dealt with it yet). Thanks for posting this, and encouraging us to look hard at our marriages.

  2. WOW. So insightful and incisive. Bonus points for tying in Desperate Housewives. :) Thanks for giving us lots to think about this Valentine's weekend!


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