This chapter is about better understanding the nature of sin and learning how to respond to it.
The nature of sin is war. Sin creates war—war with God, war with others, and war within yourself. (46)
War with others – like, say, your spouse (James 4:1-2)
The cause of our marriage battles, friends, is neither our marriage nor our spouse. It’s the sin in our hearts—entirely, totally, exclusively, without exception. (51)
Our real opponent is not on the opposite side of the bed, but within our hearts. (58)
(Reminder: Dave Harvey did a number of short videos summarizing the contents of the chapters. This video covers chapters 2-4.)
Summary of the chapter:
The cause of our marriage battles, friends, is neither our marriage nor our spouse. It’s the sin in our hearts—entirely, totally, exclusively, without exception. (50-51)
G.K. Chesterton once responded to a newspaper article inviting readers all over the globe to answer the age-old question, “What’s wrong with the world?" His reply was brief and to the point, “I am.” What’s the greatest problem in my marriage? I am. (52)
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Gal. 5:13-17)
There it is. The sides in this war are not male versus female, husband versus wife, or controller versus enabler. It is a clash of desires—desires of the flesh against desires of the Spirit. It is trench warfare for supremacy of the human heart. (48)
The battle begins within.
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. (Matt. 15:18-20)
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. (James 4:1-2)
Our real opponent is not on the opposite side of the bed, but within our hearts. Our enemy is the desires of our flesh that oppose the desires of the Spirit. This is the fiercest and only true enemy of our marriage. (58)
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (Rom. 7:21-23)
Let’s say I’m driving home from a full day at work, looking forward to dinner on the table, a big smooch from my wife, and serenity in my house. My comforts are rarely a threat to the law of sin. However, suppose [something happens to threaten that serenity]…
I know the right thing to do. I understand my responsibility to lead my family. I comprehend the gravity of the situation. I even grasp the wisdom of addressing things as soon as possible. But the law of sin engages at the point of decision. It wants me to do anything except the right thing. So it sets forth a much more appealing plan: Cast a deep, “Oh, the burdens of leadership” sigh toward my wife, bark out some general rebuke to whichever child is closest, and retreat to the internet for an update on anything happening outside my home.” (54)
This is how it works (trust me, I know). Here I sit, just a plain old’ loveable bundle of neutrality and noble-heartedness, minding my own business, when my wife says or does something from which, from my unassailable vantage point, clearly crosses a line. Acting swiftly and efficiently as a judge and jury of one, I evaluate her behavior as obviously sinful. Hers is a transgression that demands my just but resolute response. In order to deal swiftly with any violation of my emotional air space or risk a breach of my personal security, I must expose her sin plainly and condemn it openly. If this creates a negative impact on my wife—the clear aggressor in my mind—well, a “stern” response from me is the unfortunate but necessary to maintain the peace. In fact, I’m simply engaged in an act of leadership; perhaps she’ll learn a lesson for the future.
Yes, it feels right, doesn’t it—it seems so clear. But it’s just my sinful flesh doing what it does best: making war against the Spirit and, in this case, against Kimm as well.
Kimm tells me that she can feel a similar soul skirmish when her desires collide with my legitimate leadership. Ladies, can you relate? Should your husband suggest drawing a warm bath with fragrant bubbles for you, marriage is suddenly bliss, just short of Eden. But what happens when that same leadership interferes with your plans? Do the words, “Dear, could you…” become fingernails on the chalkboard of your agenda for the day?
For a busy wife with a full life, the unexpected input or leadership of a husband can seem like an ambush on her priorities. …if my request threatens to restructure her day or week…Suddenly my “Honey, would you…” becomes a suggestion grenade that sets off a battle within her. She doesn’t want a Spirit/flesh battle at that moment, but she gets it. (49-50)
(apart from normal italics, all emphasis is mine)Usually we are experts at finding the law of sin at work in our spouses, but not so sharp at noticing its activity in us. (54)
A few questions to ponder and discuss with your spouse (from the WSSID Study Guide):
- What is one way you see the ‘law of sin’ at work in my life? (yes, ask your spouse to answer this one for you – and don’t get defensive or attack them when they answer it!)
- What are some common things that generate conflict in our marriage? How do they compare to what James 4:1-3 says about the cause of conflict?