Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. – Ephesians 4:32
1 Peter 3:8-12
8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.
9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.
10 For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies.”
11 “Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.”
12 “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”
In the 1970’s, a crisis flared up in American marriages. They were ending in divorce, separation, or deteriorating into dysfunctional bitterness at unprecedented rates. Social scientists began studying marriages in earnest. John Gottman was one of those researchers. He has continued his research for more than four decades.
In 1986, he and his colleague Robert Levenson set up a “Love Lab” at the University of Washington. They recruited newlyweds and observed them interacting, measuring heart rate, blood flow, and perspiration which measured their psychological activity. Six years later, they followed up with the couples if they were still together. They quickly divided them into two major groups: Masters and Disasters.
The Disasters were continually in fight-or-flight mode. They were aggressive and prepared to attack and be attacked.
The Masters on the other hand were calm and connected together. They demonstrated warm and affectionate behavior even when they disagreed. What made the difference? The Masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made them both more emotionally and physically comfortable.
Delving deeper, he observed that the couples would make requests for connection. Gottman called them “bids.” They were looking to each other for signs of interest or support. Once a bid was made, their partner responded by either turning toward or turning away. These responses could be statistically measured. It turned out that the Disasters had “turn-toward bids” 33% of the time while the Masters had “turn-toward bids” 87% of the time. The Masters were meeting their partner’s needs 9 out of 10 times.
Qualitatively speaking, it gets down to what the couples bring to the relationship. They can either bring, enhance, and reinforce kindness and generosity or contempt, criticism, and hostility (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/happily-ever-after/372573/).
21st century America is characterized by divorce, separation, or simply two people living under the same roof in perpetual dysfunctional bitterness and strife.
The Father’s answer to this tragic human dilemma lived out in time is very similar to the answer He provided for the eternal dilemma of sin, death and separation from Him. He designed a way to resurrect people who were dead in their sins and give them the gift of eternal life. He bonded with of us who are His children and established eternal intimacy and affection. He placed us at His right hand in Christ Jesus. We are forever turned-toward Him. Through redemption and transformation, it has already begun and will never end.
1 Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.
2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil – the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.
3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much,
5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)
6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.
7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
REFLECT & PRAY
Master or Disaster, choose wisely. Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your lives. From this day on I will bless you. – Haggai 2:19
Father coach me in the skill of practicing kindness of trust and intimacy with You and my indispensable companion on planet Earth.
Genesis 2:18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him.”
The Father designed Adam and Eve to be partners, complements to one another. The Hebrew word translated companion or helper is ‘ezer. The Father Himself is frequently designated a helper to each of His children. He is the one who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, the one who meets our needs.
‘Ezer connotes an “indispensable companion.” The woman would supply what the man was lacking in the design of creation and logically it would follow that the man would supply what she was lacking, although that is not explicitly stated here (ESV notes).
Paul encourages us as children of the King to find our way back to the Father’s original intent and design for marriage. It all begins and is reinforced by abundant kindness, forgiveness, and tenderheartedness.
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
The Greek term translated kindness is chrestos. Chrestos comes from the Greek verb chraomai which means to furnish what is needed. Profitable, fit, good for any use. A healthy marriage is characterized by each partner providing what is needed for the good of the other. Kindness has the sense of being gently pleasant, soft and mild; not harsh, stern or severe.
To live in kindness, abundant kindness, in the most important of all human relationships, marriage, is a decision each child of the King can make and reinforce repeatedly.
This is the skill in which the Masters of marriage became black belts. Anyone can do it. It comes down to choice, determination, and practice. As we learn and grow in this skill, we demonstrate for all to see the abundant grace of the Father God both now and for all time (Ephesians 2:7).