Thursday, June 03, 2010

Imputed Righteousness and a Joyful Marriage

What would it be like if you lost the ability to filter your thoughts before they came out of your mouth? Anyone who knows me may wonder if I suffer from this at times because I choose to say what is on my mind…even if it is uncomfortable or unpopular. Those closest to me would tell you that when there’s an elephant in the room – it’s almost like I can’t not talk about it. And that is true enough.

Seriously though, what would it be like if that ability to filter our thoughts was lost and we said whatever flew into our brain? I was watching an episode of House this weekend where just such a thing was going on. The guy in the story was systematically driving his coworkers, family, and even his doctors away because he couldn’t filter the vile, mean, perverse thoughts he had. He couldn’t even sugar-coat what he was saying to make it seem better.

At one point near the end of the show, the man’s wife was in the room with him (she was a wreck after hearing scattered bits of his thoughts for the past few days) and was just asking him all of the questions that she could in order to hear all of the unfiltered and hurtful things that he would say. Her response to this was that she was hurt and felt betrayed. My response was to yell at the TV, frustrated with the woman because if the marriage was going to be ruined, it would be because of what he said and because she wouldn’t be patient and understand that even she has thoughts that would be hurtful to him.

The very next day after having watched this show, I began reading John Piper’s Counted Righteous in Christ which is one of the required books for my systematic theology class this summer. In the first few pages Dr. Piper made a very profound application of the doctrine of Christ’s imputed righteousness.
What makes marriage almost impossible at times is that both partners feel so self-justified in their expectations that are not being fulfilled. There is a horrible emotional dead-end street in the words, “But it’s just plain wrong for you to act that way,” followed by, “that’s your perfectionistic perspective,” or “Do you think everything you do is right?,” or hopeless, resigned silence. The cycle of self-justified self-pity and anger seems unbreakable.

But what if one or both of the partners becomes overwhelmed with the truth of justification by faith alone, and with the particular truth that in Christ Jesus God credits me, for Christ’s sake, as fulfilling all his expectations? What would happen if this doctrine so mastered our souls that we began to bend it from the vertical to the horizontal? What if we applied it to our marriages?

In our own imperfect efforts in this regard, there have been breakthroughs that seemed at times impossible. It is possible, for Christ’s sake, to simply say, “I will no longer think merely in terms of whether my expectations are met in practice. I will, for Christ’s sake, regard my wife (or husband) the way God regards me – complete and accepted in Christ – and to be helped and blessed and nurtured and cherished, even if in practice there are shortcomings.” I know my own wife treats me this way. And surely this is part of what Paul was calling for when he said that we should forgive “one another…as God in Christ forgave you; (Eph 3:32, ESV). I believe there is more healing for marriage in the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness than many of us have even begun to discover. (John Piper, Counted Righteous in Christ: Should We Abandon the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness? P.27-28)

If you think that the person you love the most doesn’t have to filter out crazy random thoughts about…well, anything, you’re wrong. From anger to lust and more, all people have to filter their thoughts. The presence of horrible thoughts that come into your mind are not necessarily indicative of the person you are, it’s what you do with them (or how you get rid of them) that is more revealing. But as Dr. Piper brings out, even when your loved one speaks or acts in a way that is unfulfilling or hurtful, having a view of your own position in Christ before the Father will help you to love the other person in-spite of their practical shortcomings.

I echo Dr. Piper’s sentiment in that I am sure my wife treats me in this way and I hope she would say the same about me. I am very certain that even though I wouldn’t have put my finger on this doctrine as what contributes to my healthy and joyful marriage, I believe that it makes absolute sense.

We dare not abandon the doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria.

1 comment:

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