Chapter 5 of The Excellent Wife focuses on receiving and giving a biblical reproof to one’s spouse. The thing to keep in mind is the purpose of giving the rebuke — sanctification and the glory of God.
Motive matters. Delivering a rebuke to my husband so that I can “get something off my chest,” under the guise of doing it for his sanctification is wrong. Delivering a rebuke in a way that puts me above my husband is wrong. I know that many women are more “spiritual” than their husbands. In some cases, this is an area of family life in which we are tempted to rule. We cannot take advantage of mutual sanctification in such a way that we place ourselves above our husbands.
With those things in mind, I wondered for much of the weekend how I can deliver a biblical rebuke for my husband without falling into temptation myself. Not only that, but with work to do and four children vying for his attention in the evenings, the ideal situation for this kind of talk does not often present itself.
An idea came to me this morning as I was waiting for my legs to catch up with my brain. Write a letter. I am much better with pen and paper (and revision) than I am with attempting to verbalize what I’m thinking in the moment. I thought of a few benefits of writing a letter of rebuke rather than waiting for time to talk.
1. It is of utmost importance to keep in mind our own sinful state and God’s grace to us before we attempt to point out the sin of another. Peace doesn’t mention it in chapter 5, but Jesus’ commands regarding judgment is worth keeping in mind.
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
If I take the time to write a letter, I can also take time to put myself before God and His word, then I will see how I do not measure up to His holiness. I will revisit Jesus on the cross, bearing my sin. I will see, once again, His grace freely given to me. I will see my great debt canceled. Only then will my heart be ready to go to my husband with a biblical reproof.
2. Taking the time to write a letter will provide ample time to plead for my husband in prayer. I will have the opportunity to consider the gravity of sin and God’s grace. A repentant heart is a gift from God. I have a responsibility to pray for my husband’s heart. God longs to be gracious to His children! All I have to do is ask.
3. Taking the time to write a letter will give me time to remember that I am not going to my husband as a judge. Rather, I go to him as a fellow sinner. One who struggles with sin just as he does. One who is taking part in the grace of God with him. I do not send him to deal with his sin, like I can send my children to their rooms to think about why they are in trouble. My husband and I can go to the cross together. We can glory in God’s salvation and atonement for us together.
4. Taking the time to write a letter will require me to use scripture. I am not the Holy Spirit. Yes, God can use me, but I do not come with the same authority as His Spirit and word. If I take the time to write out scripture to show my husband his error, then I will not be in the way. God’s Spirit can work directly through His word.
5. Taking the time to write a letter filled with God’s word will remind me that, ultimately, I am not the one with any rights to be offended. I am a sinner, too. Who am I to require a certain standard of living? Did I create my husband? Did my son die for his redemption? My feelings may be hurt and he may have wronged me, but God is the only one who has “rights” to demand. This may help ready my heart to forgive as I consider that I am not sinless. As God has forgiven me, I can forgive my husband. Freely. Writing it out will help me remember that.
6. My husband can read a letter in a few minutes. If we start talking, then the discussion could take all night. I may not communicate well, which could cause him to feel defensive before we ever get to the good part of forgiveness and reconciliation. He can take in my concern and love, pertinent scriptures, encouragement to repent, and my prayer for him without interruption. Why drag it out?
7. A letter can still serve a purpose long after its initial use. Are we not still reading Paul’s letters to the churches? John Newton’s letters to a convert? Jonathan Edwards’ letters? Amy Carmichael’s letters? Karl and I still have our letters to one another written over a decade ago. I even keep my sweet emails from him. I have cards from Sunday School teachers who took the time to write that they were praying for me, that they could see evidence of God’s grace in my life. Those cards and letters are precious to me. I’m not sentimental; they serve as important reminders and encouragements. A letter of loving reproof and pleading for repentance would be a precious letter indeed.
8. Writing a letter can serve to help us keep our emotions under control. A friend of mine emailed to let me know that she took the time to write a letter to her prospective husband after he hurt her feelings and they needed to make things right. She wrote that having everything written out before hand helped her to not get overly emotional when she finally sat down to read the letter to him. Sometimes when we ladies get emotional, we forget the important things we needed to say. Having a letter (or script, if you will) can help us stay focused even if we can’t stop our tears.
Can you think of others?