Series: Improving Companionship In Your Marriage #2
As we look at improving our companionship in our marriages, we’ll come across several topics. We’ve looked at understanding one another’s needs. In the next lesson, we’ll look at conflict.
Another important topic—perhaps one of the most important—for companionship is the topic of communication. Couples must communicate in order to be companions. The better the communication, the better the companionship. Let’s look and see what the Bible can teach us about communication.
22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation [behaviors] the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
When a person is saved, they become a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). But that doesn’t mean that all our behaviors change instantly. We need to spend our lives constantly renewing our minds so that the old habits are replaced by the new ones.
Paul goes on to list areas where this should happen—notice how many of them have to do with our tongue—our communication.
25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil.
28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (Ephesians 4:22–29)
Some of this we’ll come back to in the next lesson on conflict. For now, let’s just focus on three aspects of communication that we can see here.
1) BE OPEN AND TRUTHFUL WITH YOUR SPOUSE (4:25)
Ephesians 4:25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
Christians are to be known as truth-tellers. We should have reputations among one another and among our community that people can trust us to tell them the truth.
Why should we avoid lying and speak the truth with our “neighbour”? Because, it says here…“we are members one of another.”
Paul had earlier (cf. 4:15-16) described the church as a human body, with joints and parts that fit together. For a body to function at its best, the various parts mustn’t lie to one another. If the nerves in our hand don’t tell our brain that the surface is hot, we’ll burn our hands.
When Christians lie to one another, the body is hurt and the church cannot function properly. The fellowship of believers is built on trust, and trust is built on truth, and so lying breaks down our fellowship with one another.
A marriage is also like this. A man and woman who come together in marriage are described as one flesh—one body—
23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2:23–24)
If lying among Christians in a church is wrong because they are members of one another, how much more so is lying in a marriage wrong where the man and woman are one flesh!
Don’t let there be secrets in your marriage. Don’t let there be hidden websites and email accounts, secret bank accounts and credit cards. Make a commitment to tell each other everything.
Open And Truthful Key #1 — Accountability
One key to having have this openness and honesty in a marriage is accountability. A lot of people, including Christians, have a problem with that word, because they think it’s only for people who have done something wrong. They think that accountability implies a lack of trust.
In one church where Tami and I served, the leadership suggested that the offering be counted by more than one person—just to keep things above reproach. It had nothing to do with the treasurer at all, but he took it to mean that people were not trusting him. That was a total misunderstanding on his part.
It’s probably a good test of a person’s trust…if they get upset at the idea of accountability, then there’s probably something that they’re hiding. An honest person will have nothing to hide, especially from his or her spouse.
Accountability is a protector and promoter of trust. As human beings, we are all susceptible to temptation. We can all fall. Therefore we should welcome accountability to help us in our Christian walk.
Accountability builds trust. It says that we trust one another to hold each other accountable. Do you trust your spouse enough to hold you accountable?
In today’s world, one thing that this means is that we’ll have access to each other’s email and text messages. Tami and I have our email accounts automatically forward to one another. There are no secret passwords between us…either of us can pick up our phones and log in with no problem. I know that there will be nothing on any of my devices that I would be embarrassed if she (or, really, anyone) saw.
Accountability does not mean that we’ll have interrogation sessions each evening after supper. But it does mean that we’ll talk about our day and try to keep our spouse up-to-date.
Open And Truthful Key #2 — Safe Sharing
Another key to being open and truthful with one another is to have safe sharing. Strive to make it as comfortable and safe as possible to share truth with one another. If one spouse flies off the handle or gets very depressed every time a difficult thing is mentioned—“Honey, our finances are really poor,” for instance—that creates a huge temptation to not share at all.
Have you ever avoided sharing something something with your spouse that needed shared because you were afraid that they would get mad or depressed?
Work on making it safe for you to share with your spouse anything. Make an agreement between one another that, especially when one calls for a safe environment to share something, that you commit to listen carefully.
Those calls for a safe environment could be something like “Honey, I have some bad news…” or “There’s something I’m struggling with…” That should be an indicator for the other spouse to take a breath and listen carefully.
If you have a problem with listening when your spouse shares with you, you can make that a constant matter of prayer, asking God to help you. You can also memorize and meditate on a verse like:
19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: (James 1:19)
Be open and truthful with your spouse by being accountable and by having safe sharing.
2) USE WORDS TO BUILD UP YOUR SPOUSE (4:29)
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
Make a commitment to use “edifying” (oikodomē) words with your spouse. The word, “Edify” is a building word…we might talk about an “edifice,” meaning a large building. In its verb form, “to edify” means to build someone up, to encourage them.
One Greek lexicon defines the Greek word as, “to increase the potential of someone or something” (Louw-Nida). Think about that: when is the last time we said something to our spouses that would increase their potential as a Christian or as wife or husband or a father or mother?
What are some ways that we could edify—build up—our spouse?
1) Try to compliment more than you criticize—a lot more than you criticize! Ten times more, twenty times more—you get the idea.
This is difficult because in the daily grind of life, we get used to the good things that we do for one another. Complimenting doesn’t seem necessary to us. We need to be purposeful in remembering to do this.
I’ve added a reminder to my daily prayer list to help me both to remember and to ask God to help me to remember!
2) Encourage more communication with three simple words (also which I’ve added to my prayer list as a reminder): “Tell me more.” Think of these three words as being as important as “I love you.”
Even if the conversation is just about the day-to-day humdrum, it signals to the other person that you care about what they know, what they experienced—in short, that you care about them.
3) Another way to build up your spouse is to develop an interest in his or her’s favorite things to talk about. Even the most introverted person has things that they like to talk about. Find out what they are for your spouse, learn something about them, and then listen when they talk about those topics.
How does talking about what your spouse likes to talk about build him up? The Christian marriage counselor I mentioned in the last lesson, Willard Harley, tells about a woman ready to get a divorce because, as he says,
…she could no longer accept his silence. But in my office, alone with me, he and I had no problem talking to each other. When his wife joined us, he became stone quiet…
…In my brief conversation with him, I was able to discover several topics that brought him out. Once these subjects were introduced while his wife was with us in the room, he talked just as much as she did.
After she…started talking to him about his favorite topics, he was able to hold up his end of the conversation. Over time, the range of topics he could easily discuss broadened to include many that were of particular interest to her. (Willard F. Harley Jr., His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage [Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2011])
You see? The wife was able to help her husband to grow in his potential by becoming interested in what he liked to talk about. He became a better communicator to her.
3) BE A MINISTER OF GRACE TO YOUR SPOUSE (4:29)
Paul stated that our speech must be such “that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (see Colossians 4:6). What is that sort of speech like? How can our words give grace to our spouse?
1) Gracious Words Are Beneficial
The definition of “grace” (charis) is to have a beneficial or generous attitude toward someone else. Think of that in terms of salvation first. “God so loved the world [he had a beneficial and generous attitude toward us] that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16).
Just as God showed us grace by being beneficial and generous toward us in salvation, so when we speak words that minister grace to another person, such as our spouse, we should see to it that they will be words that benefit them and are generous to them.
Finding something to compliment is a good start to benefit your spouse. “Honey, that was the best meatloaf ever!” “Sweetie, the lawn looks great.”
Another way that our words can be graciously beneficial to our spouses is by not shutting them down when they’re talking:
- Don’t interrupt when they are speaking.
- Balance the conversation…if you are talking so much that they can’t, then be quiet and give them a chance.
- Don’t put down what they are saying. If you need to disagree, do it respectfully.
- Give them your undivided attention…don’t watch television or text when they are talking!
Gracious words are beneficial and…
2) Gracious Words Are Seasoning
In Colossians, Paul writes:
6 Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt… (Colossians 4:6)
Salt has many uses—it’s a preservative, for example—but here Paul is saying that our words should be seasoned with salt. We season food with salt to make it taste better. In the same way, we need to make sure that our words are seasoned so that they taste good—
24 Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, Sweet to the soul, and health to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24)
How do we season words to make them taste better? Much of it has to do with our attitude and our demeanor. Have you ever had a cashier at a store or a teller at the bank that just seemed to brighten your day with the way they talked? It wasn’t just the words they said. It was their smile, their facial expression, their body language, and their heart.
To season our words with grace, we need to think about what we say, how we say them, and the heart with which we speak.
For a married couple, that might involve holding hands or some other physical affection. It means that we smile when we talk with them.
It means that we think carefully how our words will impact them—after years of marriage you should know what kinds of words hurt and those that heal.
3) Gracious Words Are Undeserved
Grace, we like to say, is God giving us what we don’t deserve. The Greek word for “grace” and the word for “gift” are the same word (charis). Grace is a gift because it is undeserved…if it was deserved then it wouldn’t be a gift, it would be a wage.
What does this imply for the words that we speak?
As Christians, we need to banish the idea that our spouse might not deserve a kind word from us. It doesn’t matter if they deserve it or not…gracious words are for the undeserving.
Maybe your spouse came home grumpy and has pouted and groused the entire evening. That never happens, right? Gracious words could still be said even if your spouse doesn’t deserve them. It might just be the thing they need.
If we find gracious words hard to say to an undeserving spouse (and who doesn’t?) then we need to remind ourselves of some theology. Christ died for you when you did not deserve it. Christ gives you salvation when you trust in him—even though you don’t deserve it.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
The first step to salvation is understanding that you don’t deserve it. Only then can you reach and take the free gift of grace that Jesus offers you. Have you done so?
If you have, if you are a Christian, then you need to remember that Christ has given you salvation and forgiveness when you didn’t deserve it. He gave you undeserved grace, so show your gratitude to him by giving undeserved grace to others, especially your spouse.
Communication is essential in improving companionship in our marriages (or other relationships). If you aren’t communicating well, your companionship will suffer. Three areas of communication are important: truthfulness and openness, building one another up, and graciousness in our speech.
Marriage—and communication in marriage—is a greenhouse for becoming more like what Christ has created us to be as saved sinners. In Ephesians 4:22-24, we are reminded that we are to be putting off the old man—the old habits of the sinful nature—and putting on the new man.
That is not an easy thing to do, especially in terms of relationships. Some early Christians thought to avoid relationships altogether by living alone and avoiding people. But when you take away relationships like that, you don’t really grow.
Marriage is the most intimate relationship you can have on earth. Day in and day out, you will see the good side and bad side of another person, and they will see your good side and bad side. And your tongue will often be the thing that reveals the most of you.
Here’s what I’m saying: if we are married, we need to look at our marriage as the place—a greenhouse—where we are going to be able to grow the most to be like Christ.
When we improve our communication within our marriage, we will improve our companionship with our spouse. But at the same time, we will also improving our companionship with Christ!
Levi Durfey—LDM-Marriage-2-Mr. and Mrs. Talks-A-Lot-Improving Companionship In Your Marriage-20191020FBCAM-SERMON