It is a typical scene in countless households in our day. After dinner time, the kids have wandered off to their rooms, and Mom is staring down a sink-load of dishes while Dad snuggles into his easy chair, remote control in hand. Mom isn’t just tired of washing the dishes every night. She’s tired of nobody seeming to notice. She’s tired of nobody offering to do it for her. So she decides to broach the subject with her husband.
“Do you think you could wash the dishes this time?” she calls sweetly from the living room door.
Dad tries not to look too inconvenienced by the request. “Um, sure,” he replies. “I’ll do it in the morning before I head out. I just want to relax tonight.”
Mom sighs. “I want to relax tonight too. But I won’t be able to relax until the dishes are done. I don’t like to leave them overnight.”
“I know. I’ll do them. You don’t have to worry about that. I’ll just do them in the morning.”
“I would like you to do them tonight, please.”
They are at an impasse. But it’s not really about the schedule or divvying up of household chores. It’s about honor, really. And appreciation. This man’s wife isn’t really all that concerned that he wash the dishes; she wants him to want to wash the dishes, to be the kind of person who looks after her and knows what would serve her rather than first thinking of himself.
And of course, both husband and wife want the other to think this way. But how do we get there?
Life in the Spirit Isn’t Just ‘Doing’ Differently, but ‘Being’ Different
You have likely discovered in your own life, whether you’re married or single, whether you have kids or not, that nagging doesn’t really work. The best nagging can accomplish is reluctant behavior modification. But what we really want is not for people to begrudgingly do certain tasks, but be the kind of people who don’t have to be asked, right? If nagging worked, it wouldn’t be called nagging!
Behavior modification versus heart change is exactly the kind of dynamic at play in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, especially when he gets to the bit on the fruit of the Spirit in chapter 5. In this session, we’re going to see his teaching on grace, works and personal transformation to obedience in the light of the gospel. There’s no nagging in sight!
What does that dish-burdened wife really want to see in her husband? Not dutiful acceptance of burdensome chores. No, what she really wants to see is a man living according to the reality that he is not a single man deciding at any given moment when to act married, but that he is “one flesh” with his wife, that he is united to her in covenant, and that he should therefore act according to that reality. To want to wash the dishes is what would honor and cherish his wife, and therefore to want to wash the dishes is how a husband acts like a husband.
It is a spiritual principle for all of life that doing flows from being.
That is, we always behave according to who or what we think we are at any given moment. You can’t get away from this concept in the pages of Scripture. Biblically speaking, this means that when we are embracing our identity in Christ, the power of Christ enables us to live accordingly. This means that the power of our obedience and the source of our holiness is not our own efforts, but the effort of the Spirit applying to our lives the finished work of Christ. It’s God who works in you to will and to work (Phil. 2:12-13). Your good works were ordained beforehand (Eph. 2:10). The same gospel that empowers our conversion empowers our sanctification (Titus 2:11-12, 1 Cor. 15:1-2, Rom. 8:30). It is Jesus who both authors our faith and perfects it (Heb. 12:2). It is God alone who is faithful both to start the work in us and to complete it (Phil. 1:6).