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We’ve likely all asked ourselves at some point “what should I do when my spouse is mean?” Talk about a tough question. To follow Jesus, our response to conflict requires us to act thoughtfully rather than emotionally. It’s easy to forget that loving people can be a challenge.
[It’s important to note that we are never to excuse consistent patterns of mistreatment. Emotional and physical abuse go beyond having rough moments or spats with your spouse. If you’re in physical danger or in an emotionally abusive relationship, I’d encourage you to seek help right away. Whether you confide in loved ones, your church family, or help from professionals, God loves and sees the real you. You can always come to Him for strength to seek help.] Our instincts will tell us to respond to our spouses in retaliation, reciprocate the meanness, feel superior, or even complain publicly. But that’s not what the Bible says marriage is about. Our worldly responses to conflict are born out of selfishness - but thankfully we’ve been shown a better way. Let’s dive into how to respect your spouse Biblically. In the rough moments, keep in mind 2 Timothy 3:16 - that all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, correcting and training in righteousness.
"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." - Colossians 3:13
What does forgiveness look like in the heat of the moment? It looks a lot like grace. Give your spouse grace in the moment. It is much easier said than done, but it's what the Bible says about forgiveness. Giving grace in difficult situations could be as simple as holding your tongue.
Have you heard the saying that “hurt people hurt people?” When your spouse is acting mean, it’s often due to something he or she is dealing with internally. Communication is the key to love and forgive like Jesus, and the Christ-like response may be to say nothing at the time. We all need space to cool off sometimes. We tend to realize/regret after the fact when we’ve been rude, but it’s still not easy for many people to apologize verbally. Our Lord forgives us even when we don’t outrightly tell Him we’re sorry. He commands us to forgive in the same way.
"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor." - Ecclesiastes 4:9
You honor and respect your spouse when you respond to conflict with loving and gentle language. Marriage is designed to reflect God’s love. Submission has a negative connotation in today’s society, but God commands both husbands and wives to submit to one another. This basically just means unwavering honor and respect for your spouse.
We become more like Jesus when we reflect His character. We also help our spouses when they see Christ reflected in us. The two of you are one flesh who learn from one another to ultimately glorify the Lord through your relationship.
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” - Ephesians 3:17-18
No matter what happens, you should lift your spouse up to the Lord in prayer. What does that look like? When you struggle to pray, just talk to God about what’s going on as you would a friend.
- Father, You love [spouse’s name] more than I ever could.- Only You know the real reasons why we’re mean.- Please surround [spouse’s name] with peace and reminders of Your love.- When we talk about what was said or done, please be there.- Help me respond with love and compassion.- Help us better understand each other so that our marriage brings You glory.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 are some of the most well-known in the Bible. Sometimes famous quotes are said so often that their true meaning gets lost. If you’ve ever wondered about the inspiration behind Paul’s famous words, a pro tip is to replace love with Jesus and read them again. Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. He does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud. Jesus does not dishonor others, He is not self-seeking, He is not easily angered. Jesus keeps no record of wrongs.
We honor Jesus by reflecting Him in our relationships. Use 1 Corinthians 13 as words of affirmation in challenging times with your spouse. Put your name in the place of Jesus, tell yourself these things, and ask God to help you love like His Son.
- I am patient and kind.- I do not envy or boast.- I am not proud nor do I dishonor others.- I am not self-seeking.- I am not easily angered.- I keep no record of wrongs.
Our response to turmoil does not look like the rest of the world when we choose grace. When we embrace forgiveness, we create opportunities to help people meet, know, and follow Jesus.
Husband and father of three, former entrepreneur, current Digital Strategies Director at Sun Valley. Techie, starts most days at the gym, loves EDM/Christian/Rock//Metal, and enjoys a good drink as long as it’s low-carb.