Do Two Wrongs Make a Right?
When I was a child, it was not unusual for my siblings and I to get into arguments (I’m sure that’s surprising). Usually one of us would go to our mother complaining about what the other one did. Mother’s question often was: “what did you do?” To which we would often reply: “She hit me ﬁrst.” I’m sure you are familiar with the scenario.
It occurred to me that our modus operandi has changed only a little since we have grown up and gotten married. Spouses tend to respond in kind to one another. What one does, the other does back. And Christian couples are not exempt. Left to ourselves, unaided by the Holy Spirit, we do unto the other as he or she has done unto us.
My mother used to say to us: “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” It’s a simple truth. As the recent commercial says: “It’s not complicated.” But we tend to complicate it, don’t we? We act as though one’s wrong to us can be corrected by a wrong in return, and we are no more apt to practice this misguided philosophy of relationships than in our marriages.
Jacob and Sophia had been married ten years. Both were committed Christians when they were wed. They had high hopes for a successful Christian marriage and were committed to making it happen. They served The Lord and sought to encourage others in their walk with Christ.
But Jacob had scars from difﬁcult relationships in his early years, and the unresolved resentment caused him to respond in ways that made it difﬁcult for Sophia to fulﬁll her responsibilities as a Christian spouse. She knew what her responsibilities were, but it did not seem to matter what she did. Jacob was angry and hurtful and impossible to please, and it seemed that would never change. In spite of her love for Christ and Jacob, she often wondered,”Why bother”. There are a number of Christian husbands and wives in similar situations. There are some who have given up entirely. What is a spouse to do in such a situation?
Remember, you cannot change your spouse or anyone else for that matter. Even your obedience to The Lord will not guarantee his or her spiritual transformation. Neither can you make your spouse happy. If that is your goal or something you are clinging to as a possibility to ﬁx the problem, you will likely be disappointed. It is my hope that the following thoughts will be helpful, though not an exhaustive list of easy answers.
Another thing you cannot do is respond correctly in your own strength. No amount of human willpower will work for you. Like many others, you will fail and sometimes alternate between blame and guilt.
These observations are not meant to leave you without hope or cause depression. Our weakness and sinfulness are meant to drive us to the cross and to the throne of God. When we are sinful, we ﬂee to Christ. When we are weak, we rely on God’s grace for strength. When we are at the point of despair we remember that we are not to be weary in doing good. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
So where does our responsibility lie? We are responsible to keep Christ at the center and to ﬁnd our all in Him. “My soul, wait only upon God, for my expectation is from Him.” As you cannot make your spouse happy, neither should you look to your spouse for your ultimate happiness. Yes, marital bliss and happiness are good things and should be part of a Christian marriage. But often what should be does not happen, and it never happens perfectly this side of heaven.
So, love your spouse with the love of Christ. Show the forgiveness that God has shown you in Christ, and learn in your marriage(no matter how happy or ﬂawed) to take up your cross and follow Christ. Fulﬁll your role by God’s grace, and trust Him to do in you and your spouse that which will bring Him the most glory. And remember, “Two wrongs do not make a right”.
In the love of Christ,
Note: Jacob and Sophia are ﬁctitious characters used only as an illustration.