Stresses in Relationships

“Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God.” Psalm 56:12

Some non-Christians are honest enough these days not to have their wedding in a church. They do not believe, as David did, that God exists and that they are accountable to Him for the vows they make. However, this will not remove their accountability before God. Some non-Christian couples choose a church wedding in which vows are made to a God in whom they do not believe.

The sad thing is that all too often Christians do not accept responsibility for the vows they have made. We may make many vows and promises throughout our lives but how we manage them will reveal our character. Beginning with our relationship to God in Jesus Christ, relationships are the most important things in life.

When (not ‘if’) stress comes into a relationship the character of each person in that relationship will be tested and revealed. Like a rolling giant ice-berg that which is beneath the surface will be exposed. This is something we work hard to avoid but that God works to achieve.

The ungodly may renege on their vows in order to seek respite from that stress. When a Christian does the same it is still an ungodly act, perhaps more so, because they have, in Christ, the resources to not only work through the problem but come out with an even stronger relationship.

When strife in a relationship appears it is not God’s intention that we break the relationship. Instead it is so that we can mend the underlying but previously hidden problem. This is true in all relationships be it marital, parental, family, business and in the church. We cannot mend a relationship when we don’t see the problem or we don’t want to see the problem.

It is one of the gracious actions of God that He intervenes to expose our relational difficulties because then He can begin to correct our thinking and ways. He will go to great lengths to achieve this, if necessary, but we will need to work with Him if He is to have any measure of success.

In this way crises reveal our character – what we are made of. Character is developed by making moral choices. In the case of relationships it is never morally right to run away from a relationship because of a problem. The problem will always go with us to other relationships.

The Bible shows us the way to put things right and God is always willing and able to cleanse us and renew us in our minds. Wrong thinking produces wrong behaviour which in turn produces problems in relationships. God is working in us to correct our relational problems but we must work with Him. He will not change us against our will.

The most vital and important relationship is our relationship to Jesus Christ. All other relationships have their origin and foundation in that one.

No Debate

“Your nakedness shall be uncovered, yes, your shame will be seen; I will take vengeance, and I will not arbitrate with a man.” Isaiah 47:3

It appears that many people think that God is much like our legal system that can be moved to give puny sentences, even for fairly serious criminal offences, or even be given what amounts to a non-sentence – a “good behaviour” bond.

After being found guilty of a crime lawyers do their best to get their client off the hook so far as penalty is concerned. They may claim it is someone else’s fault or the result of unexpected circumstances. They may try and shift the blame to society, to parents, to friends or just being with the wrong crowd; anything in an attempt to reduce their client’s responsibility. An appeal that it is “out of character” is always false. We all act according to our character. An offender may come to court with an outward appeal that is unrecognisable to their friends. A new suite, neat hair and groomed in all outward appearance including body attitude and facial expression; anything that gives an appearance of righteousness is appropriated.

Anyone who thinks that God can be fooled by this hypocrisy will be bitterly disappointed. The unforgiven sinner who appears before Him will be wholly exposed as to his guilt as one naked before God. There will be no hiding behind the excuses that one may use in an earthly court and no one will be cleared by blaming the devil. He did not make them do it.

Isaiah 47:4 reminds us that God is holy and is therefore unable to allow sin in His presence. This is the basis of God’s judgment. He is holy, He is sinless and totally without corruption.

Anyone who thinks they will be able to debate or argue with God with regard to entrance into His kingdom is grievously mistaken. He says that He “will not arbitrate with a man.” Each person will have to accept responsibility for their own choices and actions. They will not be able to shift blame and they will be held accountable.

But there is good news! Christ Jesus died for our sin! Paul writes, “The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). We cannot gain eternal life or entrance into heaven by attempting to mitigate our culpability or reduce the penalty for sin. God will not arbitrate. However, we may gain eternal life and heaven as a gift but that gift is bound up in Jesus Christ. John writes, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe on His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (1:12, 13). Later John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

If we try and debate with God about our sin He will not hear or participate. He knows all there is to know and He judges with perfect justice. However if we agree with His judgment of our sin and the due penalty He pleads with us to ask Him to forgive us our sin as a gift; the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.