“My Situation Is Complex, Beyond Love and Respect”
What should we say to the person who dismisses the Love and Respect approach to relationships by declaring their situation is too complex and the message is too simple?
First, seek to agree with the reality of difficult times. The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:1-5,
“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.”
Situations can be evil like a man who sexually abuses children. The devastation to the parents and children exceeded vocabulary to describe these “difficult times.” The stress on the marriages neared unbearable.
Situations arise that entail betrayal. There is no pixie dust to sprinkle over the problem and instantaneously solve the heartbreak.
Circumstances surface wherein a spouse struggles with the enslavement of an addiction. For example, alcoholism is no small matter. Living with a drunk brings “difficult times.” The innocent party watches the alcoholic destroy relationship after relationship.
Recently, a man died because his kidneys gave out. Over the years, the wife battled with him every which way to get help, but he refused.
But this brings us to the key question: do these difficult or complex situations make the message of Love and Respect too simplistic?
Simply put, no.
When dealing with abuses, affairs and addictions, love and respect alone do not cure everything.
No one argues that an addict only needs love and respect. An alcoholic needs serious rehabilitation and detoxification so the liver can recover. Although there may be resolution to the addiction, there will be no reconciliation of hearts if one treats the alcoholic with hostility and contempt. The drunk is now sober, but he has lost hope for the marriage.
No human being responds positively to hostility and contempt.
To move forward with healing of the marriage, one cannot have a cavalier attitude that Love and Respect falls into the camp of a kindergarten curriculum which no longer applies to the sophisticated graduate student.
Love and respect are like food and water, and the absence of both will kill the marriage.
For a person to dismiss this message as though the complexity of the issues demand something more cultivated proves s/he has missed the vital elements that nourish marriages during the difficult times.
Let me add, Ephesians 5:33 is God’s command to love and respect that every married believer must obey. This is not mere opinion or an option left to the whims of the individual.
God does not see love and respect as simplistic.
Ephesians 5:33 is the summary statement to the greatest treatise on marriage in the New Testament. This is no small revelation from Abba Father, but rather the pinnacle of His divine disclosure to the married on how to do marriage His way. His way does not lack sophistication.
But what does it mean to apply Love and Respect to the abuser, adulterer or addicted? It may mean one calls the police, tells the elders of the church or admits a spouse to a treatment center.
Love and respect must be tough.
And confrontation is vital. To ignore wicked sins is to be complicit. However, when someone confronts you with a spirit of hostility and contempt, do you respond to what they say? Do you believe they are following Christ? Or do you pull back and avoid that person? That which they say might be true, but does not their hatred and rudeness close you off to anything they might speak? Do you lose all interest in them talking to you about God?
Bottom line, how can one love God and treat his addicted spouse with hate? How can one reverence God and disdainfully confront the adulterer?
This is not solely about the sinful spouse, but our imitation of Christ and pleasing our Heavenly Father.
Does this mean the principles of Love and Respect, when applied, will positively affect the abuser, adulterer and addicted?
Such people can rebel for a lifetime. We cannot control the outcomes in these folks. But we can control our actions and reactions to them.
The Love and Respect message is applied to please God and meet with His final answer, “Well done good and faithful spouse who loved and respected no matter how complex and difficult your marriage became because of your spouse’s sinful choices. When you lovingly and respectfully confront your spouse, even though they did not listen to you, you touched My heart. Your refusal to become a hateful and contemptuous person moved Me to reward you throughout eternity for your trust and obedience to Ephesians 5:33, and for your love and reverence for Me.”
That is anything but simplistic. That is deeply eternal.