By: Pastor Scott Brodd
Adapted from his message When Sinners Collide
Let’s suppose that, all of a sudden, I got the urge to start fighting in the UFC, where almost anything goes. I think I could handle myself pretty well, though my wife would say otherwise! Now, what do you think would happen if I were to immediately sign up for a fight and jump in the ring? No prior training, no strategy, just cold turkey fighting... I would probably fail miserably. I wouldn’t know how to spar, how to escape, how to pin, or even how to land a good punch. But all of this could be remedied if I had gone into the fight with the proper training. I can only have success in the ring when I’ve taken the time to train myself outside of the ring. In the same way, we can only have success in our fights with our spouses when we've taken the time to train ourselves before stepping into the ring.
Now for many of you, you’re thinking, “yea lets train so I can win the fight; I want to come out on top.” Let me stop you there; there is a huge difference between fighting in a boxing match and fighting with your spouse. In a boxing match, you aim to win the fight; in your marriage, you aim to win your spouse. Did you catch that?
I’ll explain that a bit more in a few minutes, but to preface all of this, of course we want to do everything we can to avoid entering into the fighting ring as best we can. We ought to kill our own sin, destroy any temptations that raise their heads... we do everything we can to keep the peace.
1 Cor. 1:10 - “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment."
However, because each of us have the potential for war lurking in us because we have sin still dwelling in our bodies, we must know what we’re doing when we find ourselves standing in the fighting ring with our spouse. Therefore, we have to think rightly about our fights before we can know how to handle ourselves during the fight. So, when there are unmet expectations, or conflict, we must first have...
There are three that I think we all need to keep in mind.
The first perspective we all need to have when we're in the ring is...
1) I Am A Sinner
Because I am a sinner, that means that 99% of the conflicts in our marriage have more than one guilty party involved... both of us are in sin, and my sin creates conflict. Having this perspective will foster humility in our hearts. In fact, humility is the key to fighting well in your marriage. Imagine if this verse defined the perspective you had when you entered into a conflict?
Phil. 2:3 – “...in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
In fact, what is the opposite of humility? Pride! Why is it that we always want to win a fight, why I can’t ever be wrong? Pride! Francis Chan says in his book You and Me Forever says, “Arguments escalate when we want to be right more than we want to be Christ.” [i] What does God say about pride?
James 4:6 - “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Chan goes on to say, “God actively fights against the proud person. The pride required to win your argument and defeat your ‘enemy’ provides you with a new opponent: God.” [ii] Therefore, in the heat of any argument or conflict, we must be asking ourselves regularly, “Am I acting like Jesus... am I being humble?” [iii] I am the problem in my marriage, so I must focus on killing my sin, being humble, showing grace, and owning up. The first right perspective to have is that I am a sinner.
The second right perspective stems from the foundational passage on marriage.
2) You Are One
This really has a profound impact on fights in a marriage relationship. Gen. 2:24 confirms that a husband and wife become one flesh when they are fused together in the marital relationship. Therefore, they are one body.
Eph. 5:28-29 – “husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it”
So, when you enter into conflict with your spouse, you must stop and consider... "I am fighting against myself!" When you yell and scream, accuse and mock your spouse, you are yelling, screaming, accusing, and mocking yourself! One author said, “Defeating my wife with my harsh or insensitive words is as senseless as standing in front of a mirror and arguing with myself. Refusing to nourish my wife by providing for her is more foolish than not feeding myself. Failing to wash her in the word of God is more repulsive than overlooking my own hygiene.”[iv] Before you step into the ring with your spouse, be sure to remember that you’re fighting against yourself, and that will help you fight well.
Thirdly, we must have one more right perspective in our fights with our spouse.
3) Fight to Win
Anytime we enter into the conflict, I want to encourage each of you to keep this goal in mind:
Do not win the fight, fight to win.
In any fight, the common understanding that success in the ring is a defeat of your opponent, a conquering of your enemy. That is why Christ has redefined what success is in conflict. As I said before with boxing, the aim of a boxing match is to win the fight, the aim of fighting through marital conflict is to win your spouse. So, you must ask yourself, are you fighting to win the argument or the person? Are you fighting to restore the relationship or leave your spouse in ruins so you can have victory? To win your spouse means there is restoration in the relationship, and so you fight as best you can to win them back. Men, fight to win your wife... women, fight to win your man.
How do you know if you’ve won your spouse rather than the argument? First, you've won your spouse if there is a peace in the relationship. Peace is a lack of tension, a lack of conflict. When two countries are at peace, they are free to trade, free to interact, free to exchange thoughts resources. If you and your spouse can smoothly interact, there is peace. Secondly, you know you’ve won your spouse if there is safety in the relationship. In talking with Glenn Davis about our marriages, he stated that our wives must feel safe after any conflict, safe to approach you, safe to embrace you, safe, even, to make a mistake again. If your spouse is walking on eggshells around you so they aren’t pounced on when they make a mistake, you haven’t won them.
So, when we step into the ring, we’ve got to enter with these right perspectives:
[i] Francis Chan, You and Me Forever, eBook.
[iii] Paraphrased from Ibid.
[iv] Unknown author.