A couple of days ago I wrote a short article called Her Good or Mine. The purpose of the article was simple: to ask whether I really try to help my wife seek after godliness or whether instead I try to help her seek after my own selfish goals. Do I try to help her become ever more conformed to the image of Christ or do I selfishly try to help her become conformed to some standard I have set. I must not have made this point very clear because a few people used the article to accuse me of being a domineering husband who scolds my wife like a naughty child.
Now I’m certainly not the husband I could be and am not the husband I’d like to be, but I don’t treat my wife like a child (and checked with her to make sure I’m not blinded to my own faults in this way). However, I do take sin seriously not only in my own life but in the life of those who are near to me. I seek to help my wife grow in godliness and sometimes this can only be done by occasional loving confrontation–I confront her with evidence of sin in her life and, if necessary, seek to show her why this is sin and why she should address it. I try hard not to play the role of the Holy Spirit, the one who convicts us of sin, but only the one who makes her aware of a sin and potentially its outworkings and effects on those of us who are closest to her. I agree with those who said that it is the role of God to bring about change. I agree entirely. Yet I also know that God often uses people as the agent of change or, at the very least, to be the one who makes another person aware of a sin.
I’ve often heard C.J. Mahaney share a story about being in a restaurant and spotting a well-dressed businessman heading out of the store. He was wearing a suit and tie and was dressed to make the big sale. But he walked into the business world with a big splotch of cream cheese on the side of his face. C.J. uses this as a metaphor for sin in a person’s life, showing that sometimes a certain sin may be apparent to everyone but the person who commits it. And from there he teaches on the need for inviting and pursuing correction. It is not enough to desire to be corrected when there is sin in your life. Sometimes you need to deliberately seek correction.
After I read some of the comments about my first article both on this site and on other sites, I spoke to Aileen and said, “You do know that it is always open season on my life, right?” And what I mean by that is that I am always open to her coming to me to confront me with sin. Again, this is not shouting, screaming, accusing, vindictive confrontation, but loving, compassionate, biblical confrontation that seeks to draw the other person closer to Christ. I want to reaffirm to her that if there is sin in my life, she is uniquely placed to see it before anyone else and I want her to address it before anyone else. I would far rather have her address my sin than to head out into life with a big old chunk of cream cheese hanging from my beard. I know that she feels the same. My close friends will attest that I also seek correction from them. They know me well and I want them to make me aware of sin they see in my life. I try not to be only reactive when it comes to sin, but to invite correction. And I don’t think anyone has taught me more about this than Mahaney. In his books and blogs and sermons and sessions at conferences I’ve often been challenged with his understanding of the need and value of this kind of correction. And in my own life I’ve seen its value.
And this is what I was discussing the other day. I was simply suggesting that I have had to be careful when addressing sin in the life of my wife that I am addressing sin from God’s perspective and not from my own–that I am addressing behavior that offends God and not just me.
Let me end with some valuable advice I’ve heard C.J. dispense a few times. Gentlemen: set aside two or three hours when you can be alone with your wife and free from interruption (if you are not married, do the same with a close friend or your pastor and ask questions that will probe deeply into your behavior). Then ask her two very specific questions. Where do I need to grow in serving and leading you? Where do I need to grow in serving and leading the children? And without anger or defensiveness, allow her to speak to you about your sin and about your life. Invite correction, pursue correction, and let the Spirit convict you of sin, knowing that He will provide the power to overcome it.