The Cancer of Self-Righteousness in Marriage

True humility is absolutely essential for a good Christian marriage. The husband should not think of himself as the judge, prosecutor, or jury over his wife, nor should the wife think of herself as those things. Husbands and wives should both fight against self-righteousness every day. I like how Dave Harvey discusses this topic:

“Self-righteousness is a sense of moral superiority that appoints us as prosecutor of other people’s sinfulness. We relate to others as if we are incapable of the sins they commit. Self-righteousness wages war against mercy.”

“It’s easy to celebrate the gift of marriage in the midst of a romantic, rosy-eyed honeymoon. But we are fallen folks and that becomes evident in marriage in stark ways. Mercy is most necessary when we encounter the brokenness or frailty of the person we married. It shines bright in particular experiences of life: The moment of sin and the moment of weakness followed by mercy and forgiveness.”

“How we respond when we think we’ve been sinned against can reveal self-righteousness. Perhaps the easiest and most common reaction is to assign ourselves as judge, prosecutor, court recorder, and jury. Not surprisingly, these tend to be pretty open-and-shut cases. We begin by mentally assigning a motive to the crime of our defendant-spouse. In a flash of mere moments we usher in the internal jury, present the case, and instantly get back a most unsurprising verdict: “Guilty!”

“The good news for self-righteous, judgmental people (all of us from time to time) is that mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13). When I grasp the mercy of God expressed to me, it opens my eyes to the bankruptcy of my own righteousness and sends me to the cross for the righteousness of Christ. I can then sympathize with my spouse’s weakness and rejoice in my own, for they reveal God’s strength (2 Corinthians 12:9)” (p. 91-92).

When the gospel is at the center of a marriage, neither the husband nor the wife plays the judge, prosecutor, or jury: they both are sinful, weak, broken, and in desperate need of God’s mercy. From that humble position, it becomes easier and easier for husbands and wives to show mercy and forgiveness to each other. They both say to each other (and act accordingly): “I’ve been forgiven much. I’ll forgive you much…70×7!”

The above quotes were taken from Dave Harvey, When Sinners Say I Do.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI

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