Letters to the Family of God
by Joe Franzone | July 20, 2023 | Pastor's Blog
July 20, 2023
Brothers and sisters do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.
Whether the stone hits the pitcher
Or the pitcher hits the stone
It's going to be bad for the pitcher.
A Little Gossip—From the
Broadway play, Man of La Mancha
Here we have the final letter giving you a little peek into some of the premarital counseling my daughter and her fiancé are receiving.
You may recall I have the privilege of officiating their soon-coming marriage, and this is the fourth of three other letters to help prepare them (If you are interested, here are links to the first, second, and third letters.)
Fight! Fight! Fight!
Arguments in marriage are the worst. In a Christian marriage, they often center around secondary issues which the Bible doesn’t specifically address and are not tied directly to the Gospel.
In other words, a married couple will rarely argue about the primary issues, such as the incarnation or resurrection of Christ. Arguments about justification and atonement in a marriage aren’t at all common. It is more often something where opinions can vary, presumptions don’t match, and the tone of talk is perceived differently.
It's not that secondary issues are unimportant. It simply means there can and will be gray areas (see Romans 14:14) that may demand nuance, patience, tact, humility, giving up our rights, self-sacrifice, and even silence.
Some may be uncomfortable with gray areas since Christianity is centered on Christ, and Christ is the embodiment of truth. Therefore, we believe there is such a thing as objective truth. But gray areas? What may be true for one is not for the other. Let me try and help us with that.
Believe it or not, atheist Austin Cline (M.A., Princeton University) gave a helpful definition of objective truth.
The idea of truth as objective is simply that no matter what we believe to be the case, some things will always be true and other things will always be false. Our (personal) beliefs, whatever they are, have no bearing on the facts of the world around us. That which is true is always true — even if we stop believing it and even if we stop existing at all. And if true, they are true for everyone, always.
Subjective Truth Claim
However, subjective truth claims are different than objective truth. Subjective truth claims are preferences that don’t universally apply. For example, Strawberry is the best flavor of ice cream. Or Green is the prettiest color of all. Those claims are true only to the person who says them. They are not universally true.
Here is another example. George Washington was the first President of the United States of America; this is an objective truth. George Washington was the best President we have ever had, is a subjective truth claim.
Again, since subjective truth claims are preferences that don’t universally apply, they are not usually worth arguing over, especially in marriage. Therefore, this is foundational. The more we frame our lives in objective truth, the more likelihood of harmony in the home, forgiveness in the home, security, diversity, freedom, and meaningful sound growth for husband and wife as people made in God’s image.
However, if one spouse must constantly hold full command over the other in conversations of various topics, seeking to have the final word or decision. No matter the cost. The marriage will struggle. Struggle to be made into the image of Christ but find it easier to be fashioned into the image of the spouse who must have command.
As you consider these things, believing your rights on all matters—secondary, as first and best, is not the way of Christ. No matter how good our arguments are.
Yes, the liberty is there for husband and wife to converse on secondary matters. It's one more place where they can learn more deeply about each other. However, there is all the difference in the world when one goes for the win in the talk or wants to grow in their understanding of the person God brought them to.
And this is one reason why slander, as James writes, is so awful in human relationships, especially in marriage.
Slander is the uninterrupted, intentional sharing of damaging information about another person. It causes at least three harms. It harms the speaker, the listener, and the one spoken about.
Slander is a type of unchecked and unchallenged gossip. It builds walls and paints pictures of those slandered as less than the truth.
The slanderer is the one who takes information, subjective or objective, and stands over it as a lawgiver and judge. The idea here is of one laying down the law. Who is qualified to do such a thing except God? And in a sense, God did lay down the law, but He laid it on His Son, so that we lawbreakers may be free from its justifiable punishment.
How bad is slander? The Greek word for devil literally means slander.
Consequently, there is no real love in evil except self-love. Real love, the Bible affirms, innately desires permanence. Real love, then, is sacrificial—the giving up of our rights. It’s one of the pillars of the Gospel, the Son of man loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20) It is in giving up that we find the fullest life in our relationships.
Our Only Hope
And so, we end where we began in the very first letter. Each of us has gone our own way, as Isaiah writes. (Isaiah 53:6) Breaking one of God’s commands is breaking them all, is what James writes. (James 2:10) We come into this world as natural-born sinners.
Therefore, I plead with you to leave this letter in deep humility and thankfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ.
We are all guilty. We all need a Savior. A lifelong battle with indwelling sin is to be expected. But Jesus will help us grow.
Therefore, the only hope in marriage is also the world’s only hope—Jesus Christ. He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness…He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:7-8)
The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.
Tim Keller—The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God
Let's end with a hymn.
My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who bore my pain;
Who plumbed the depths of my disgrace
And gave me life again;
Who crushed my curse of sinfulness
And clothed me in His light
And wrote His law of righteousness
With power upon my heart.
My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who walks beside;
Who floods my weaknesses with strength
And causes fears to fly;
Whose every promise is enough
For every step I take,
Sustaining me with arms of love
And crowning me with grace.
Verses One and Two—My Heart
Is Filled with Thankfulness
With all my love in the Lord Jesus Christ.