It has been a couple of weeks since I last posted about this excellent book. In chapter 4 of Sacred Marriage, Thomas exhorts us to “have contempt for contempt” while emphasizing how critical respect and honor are to a godly marriage. How many times at work or in a social conversation have you heard a man or woman put down their spouse? There is the man whose wife sacrifices everything to run the household who speaks of her as just “laying around the house all day while I work my fingers to the bone.” Or the woman who says of her husband “all he ever does around here is eat, have gas and sleep.” Often these kinds of comments are met with laughter and remarks in kind.
Thomas notes that contempt is borne out of unmet expectations and unrighteous demands for one’s own “rights.” He challenges us in this chapter about respecting one another to move from contempt to gratitude. He notes that we have this problem of being wired for relationships as they would have existed before the introduction of sin into the world (before the Fall), and we are all quick to know and point out when someone isn’t living up to their end of things. However, we seem unwilling to admit or know when we ourselves also fall short. The end result is an elevated view of our own role in the relationship and a lack of respect for our partner’s role.
Thomas concludes with these paragraphs:
Contempt is born when we fixate on our spouse’s weaknesses. Every spouse [including me] has these sore points. If you want to find them, without a doubt you will. If you want to obsess about them, they’ll grow – but you won’t!
Jesus provides a remedy that is stunning it its simplicity yet foreboding in its difficulty. He tells us to take the plank out of our own eye before we try to remove the speck from our neighbor’s eye (see Matthew 7:3-5).
….[H]e’s urging us to adopt humble spirits. he wants us to cast off the contempt – to have contempt for the contempt – and learn the spiritual secret of respect.
Consider the type of people Jesus loved . . . Judas . . . the woman at the well (the sexual libertine) . . . Zacchaeus (the conniving financial cheat) . . . . Jesus, the only perfect human being to live on this earth, moved toward sinful people; he asks us to do the same, beginning with the one closest to us – our spouse.
Build contempt for contempt. Give honor to those who deserve it – beginning with your spouse.