Sunday, August 26, 2012


1. The Ideal

A person who is under authority submits to the will of the leader. Unity in thought, purpose, and effort is achieved only as one leads out and the other submits to the leading. Together, as one, they work in cooperation doing what is now the will of both. There is no conflict, no occasion for criticism. This is the God-designed ideal in which husbands and wives are meant to relate within marriage (I Corinthians 11:3).

The natural advantages of this ideal can be viewed functioning in the world through such examples as the coordinated actions of the human body responding to the will of the brain, soldiers complying with their regimental leader in battle, and so forth. The principle is a tactic of order, and in direct opposition to chaos.

2. The Reality

From universal personal experience, we know that criticism can make the critical person seem unsafe to the recipient. It can be so distressing that it often makes it hard to perform at our best around the critic thereafter. And how much more so when that person is someone whose view of us is so vitally important to our existence, like our husbands!

During courtship, most people instinctively understand that unconditional love is the Holy Grail that all are seeking in a mate. (Never mind that unconditional love can only be found in Christ). We instinctively know better than to threaten the relationship with criticism during this period. Unfortunately, after marriage, the growing familiarity causes our inherent differences to become glaringly obvious. As the infatuation wears off, the verbal observation of these differences (i.e., “faults”) appears to constitute an immediate threat to the bond of attachment that we so desperately desire to preserve with our mate.

For this reason, the earliest period of a marriage - that time between the cooling of the “crush” and the building of real love through an investment of self - is when many marriages fail. Unless either mate’s criticism is delivered with considerable tact and restraint (probably much more the exception than the rule), most spouses experience painful feelings of withdrawn love, validation, and support. For wives in particular, the negative emotions of a prickled pride and the more subtle fear of abandonment make it very difficult for them to listen objectively to their husband’s remarks, calmly appraise them, and respond with all the strength of an “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher.

In addition, as sinfully self-centered humans, criticism, even well-intentioned criticism, is usually understood to be a direct assault on the ego, so it’s only normal to react far more emotionally than rationally. The unconditional love, which we all thought we would be receiving when we married, is now seemingly withdrawn, and thus our ability to return to an affectionate state has been undermined. For these reasons, criticism triggers an emotional sorrow akin to the loss of something particularly treasured, as in a death, so naturally it results in a painful grief.

Our self-love much prefers praise, which is often taken to be an expression of love; but all-in-all, neither praise nor criticism are genuine signs of love as it is defined in the embroidery on a pillow I once saw: “Love (luhv) (noun) A profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person; an ineffable feeling of warn personal attachment.” Service, loyalty, respect, nurture, and sharing are all markers of real love; praise and criticism are not.

It is important to note that a critical husband doesn’t usually engage his wife with malice aforethought. It is likely that his behavior, offensive as it may be, represents little more than his single-minded striving to get his own wants and needs met, thus, leaving him oblivious to its possible impact on their spouse. If a wife is honest though, she must confess that she is often like this, too. A selfish will is the hallmark of all humanity’s sin nature, so she can’t “throw any rocks around in her own glass house” - -

3. The Wife:

In truth, unless a woman marries herself, this little “death” of unconditional love is inevitable. All a godly wife can do in the face of her husband’s criticism is to battle the tendency toward bitterness, counter any reciprocal critical thoughts about him, and try to accept his “help” at face value. The Lord wants us to gain more than just an intuitive understanding of the value of humility and the danger of pride. Therefore, it may be that through our mate’s criticism, we may actually be viewing Him at work perfecting us. As I say this, I am reminded of my pastor’s extremely apt “rock polisher” metaphor for marriage, wherein the couple are the crude stones to be polished into gems, the added sandy grit represents the annoyances common to life, and the lubricating water is the Holy Spirit. All the parts mix and abraise each other in a polishing process that ultimately produces glowing jewels instead of rough rocks.

With this in mind as a metaphor for the process of spiritual growth, ask the Lord to help you take your eyes off the offense of the criticism and focus on the real markers of your husband's love, such as his provision for you, his enjoyment of your company, the fact that he considers your input seriously, etc. These are the true signposts of love.

4. The Husband:

As for the critical husband, he should know that the love he shows his wife needs to include a respect for her that understands that, as his wife, she is not him, nor an extension of him, or even some product that he ultimately needs to produce in conformation with himself. In a loving relationship, both mates need to understand that they are and will remain unique individuals, and they must learn how to mesh their desires with each other. A husband should be very circumspect in his criticism because those little “wins” will set back his wife’s affection for him and, therefore, her attachment to him - - something he dearly needs, too, because marriage is for a lifetime.

A man must also understand that experience is always the best teacher and that his wife will learn just as much from her mistakes, as he does from his.

5. The Couple:

If either mate seeks any modification that will assist in improved personal development, the other mate should embrace it without pride. It’s a win-win for the partnership because of the growth and the strengthened commitment that comes through cooperation and taking each other’s counsel gracefully.

It should also be noted that between Christian spouses, both husband and wife would do well to forever release the need to defend themselves. In their persons, God has created two bright and beautiful people. No defense is necessary because mere words cannot subtract from the truth of the goodness He has vested in each of His people.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Exodus 20:4 “You shall make for yourself no idol in the likeness of anything in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters under the earth.”

• Visual representations of the Godhead prevent us from worshiping the true God according to His own revelation of Himself, but instead, offer a god of human devising.

The Lord has pointedly forbidden His people to make physical representations of Himself. Why do you think this might be?

Quite obviously, our Creator is so unimaginably greater than His creation that any attempt to project a representation of Him will fall woefully short. He is just too fierce, too immense, too magnificent, too powerful, and so infinitely beyond every superlative conceivable, to be truthfully conveyed through images wrought by human hands. In short, God does not desire images to represent Him because, by the very limitations of their nature, they will convey misleading information, i.e., a lie, about Him.

In a maneuver parallel to the actions of Adam and Eve, the image-user is making a subtle attempt to level the differences between himself and his Creator.

Another solid reason behind the Second Commandment is the Lord’s penetrating understanding of the flesh's subtle intent to usurp lurking behind the use of images. His Word has revealed that the human heart is “deceptive above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9), and certainly the person to whom it lies most avidly is itself. This is surely the reason that many Christians are so blind to the sinful nature of their impulse to produce such images. Nevertheless, the intent is very similar in form and quality to humankind’s first rebellion against God.

By accepting the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve sought to acquire an enhanced knowledge that would enable them become on par with God (Gen. 3:5 “. . . you will become like God.”). They were willing to disobey Him in their attempt to elevate themselves to a standing commensurate with His. In the same way, the creation of a tangible representation of God can be viewed as humanity making another vain effort to level the differences between itself and God. Also, one can’t fail to notice the inappropriate role reversal, wherein man, made in God’s image, attempts to make God in his own image.

We excuse this practice as it appears in books, statues, paintings, and so forth, because it is more comfortable for us to have something of a tangible nature, something more common to our earthly experience, that we can identify as God. These representations feel justified to us because they seem to make Him more easily fathomed. Yet such representations are not only false, they are a subtle effort seeking to redress the power gap between creature and Creator. When viewed this way, it becomes easy to see why the Lord would call it sin and forbid the practice.

• What about depictions of Jesus and the Holy Spirit?

Let’s continue to expand our thinking about the Second Commandment by considering a few more questions. “Do you think the prohibition was meant apply to all the members of the Godhead?” and “Did God intend this ban to include images of His messianic incarnation?” Perhaps we should also follow these questions with, “Why would, or wouldn’t, it?”

As part of the Triune God, Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit are also far above all created beings. Their artistic representation as any created being would massively fail to display Their true reality. Yet despite the dishonor implicit in these images, we wink at the overt disobedience of the second commandment when it comes to creating, harboring, and often displaying supposed representations of Jesus, Who is God.

Concerning His incarnation, the Lord selected a time in which no image would be produced for posterity. Palestine was too impoverished for paintings and sculptures except among the very wealthy, and the man, Jesus, was a humble carpenter. Photography was non-existent. The little we know about Messiah’s appearance can be found in Isaiah 53:2b (“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.”), which tells us that Jesus had an ordinary appearance with nothing particularly attractive about Him physically. He was a man to be appreciated by the soul, not the eye.

Perhaps also contributing to His general purpose of physical anonymity of the Messiah, God chose to make His appearing at the navel of the earth, the land of Judea. Judea was historically an international crossroad, where all races and cultures seemed to transit, and where the full color-spectrum of human flesh could, and was, seen daily. God did this in wisdom so that all peoples could envision their Savior, Jesus, as someone with whom they could physically identify. It was His intention that there be no off-putting “Jesus” in a blond pageboy looking like “the white man’s god,” nor any “Samurai Jesus,” or “Black Jesus” to confound the sons of Japheth (the Europeans).

• Knowing man’s nature, God wanted to remove any barriers to the acceptance of His Son.

Representations of Christ have been the devil’s work from the beginning because it is his nature to deal in lies. It has always been his evil intention to alienate the hearts of people from the Savior, and what better way than to produce a substitute image that is both remote and two-dimensional? Even the use of an actor, a sinful human like all others, to portray the Christ is not appropriate. Through illustration alone, the evil one has enjoyed a season of particular success in the area of children’s Bibles and Bible stories because of the many opportunities they offer to trivialize Christ.

Within Christian children’s books, Jesus is depicted as a slightly feminine-looking man in strange clothing. At best, He is merely a storybook figure. At worst, as in The Comic Book Bible (“Updated and repackaged with a great new cover, The Comic Book Bible is filled with clever, comic-style illustrations” per Amazon), He’s competing for awe and attention among a pantheon of other available comic superheroes, many with noticeably cooler get-ups. These publications for children aren’t respectful, honoring, or holy in the way they diminish His glory, and they cause Him to appear as a subject of fiction, instead of the true God working in real history.

• Our children don’t receive the message that Jesus is Immanuel, “God With Us.”

Upon reaching young adulthood, children put away belief in Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, witches, and trolls. Should it surprise us how often our young people also put away, as fantasy, their belief in the Son of God? The diminished version of Him in popular print makes it easier to put Him aside and, ultimately, becomes a stumbling block to faith. Whenever there is a stone to stumble, one either falls, or turns away to avoid it.

I say these things not to condemn, but to point out that we need to think carefully; constantly questioning all that the common culture presses upon us. It is my desire to provoke deeper thinking and a more intentional application of the Word to real life. You may not come to the same conclusions I have drawn, but we will always have fellowship together in Him and respect each other’s relationship with the Holy Spirit.

I know, too, that the Hound of Heaven will find any He determines to seek, images or no. I only pose that through obedience to the Lord’s second commandment, we can render Him worship and prevent our lives from hindering those He would call.

Blessings to all of my dear readers throughout the world ~