Ephesians 4_25-27      Containing Conjugal Conflict

Rev. David Holwick   W                                Family Concerns #5

First Baptist Church

Ledgewood, New Jersey

July 27, 2008

Ephesians 4:25-27


  I. Are you a happy or unhappy family?

      A. The conventional wisdom is wrong.

         More than a century ago, Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy wrote,

            "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is

               unhappy in its own way."

         The words have become immortalized, and the unhappy story of

            "Anna Karenina" (kah REN neen ah) is considered one of

               the greatest novels ever written.

         But psychologists and sociologists are starting to question

            the observation.

         John Gottman, a psychology professor at the Univ. of Washington

            in Seattle, says, "I think Tolstoy was totally wrong.

         Unhappy families are really similar to one another - there's

            much more variability among happy families."

         Gottman and others are trying to understand why as many as one

            in two marriages end in divorce and why so many couples

               seem to fall out of love and break apart.

         Some of the most revealing answers, it turns out, come from

            the couples who stay together.

         Conventional wisdom holds that conflicts in a relationship

            slowly erode the bonds that hold partners together.

         But couples who are happy in the long term turn out to have

            plenty of conflicts, too.

         Fights and disagreements are apparently intrinsic to all


         But couples who stay together over the long haul don't let the

            fighting contaminate other parts of the relationship.


      B. The Bible has great advice on fighting.

          1) You may be thinking, "Christians can't fight!"

              a) In reality, we fight all the time.

              b) Even the apostles had drag-out fights.

                  1> Paul separated from Barnabas over Mark.

                  2> Peter was chewed out by Paul for compromising.

          2) Christians fight, but we don't fight like the world.

              a) Our goal should always be reconciliation and peace.

              b) We take a stand for truth, but we do it in a loving way.

                  1> (or at least we are supposed to)

              c) We should never lose sight of the feelings of the other


                  1> Especially if they are in our family.

II. What is your conflict style?

      A. The marriage formula.

         John Gottman, the guy from the University of Washington, did

            a 20-year study involving more than 600 married couples.

         He carefully plotted how a husband and wife interact and then

            reduced those observations to a formula.

         By giving points to body language, harshness or gentleness of

            words, and emotional intensity, each couple is plotted on

               a graph.

         From the graph, researchers can tell which marriages will

            succeed and which are headed for the rocks.

         Gottman said that how couples resolve differences is a key

            factor in whether their marriage will last.

         He said his team found that there basically are three types of

            stable marriages.

      B. Three types of stable marriages.

          1) Conflict avoiders.

             The first is a husband and wife who routinely avoids


             When a difference of opinion arises, "they will never


             They will listen to the other, but will not try to


             Such marriages, which he calls the "avoiders," may be

                unemotional and distant, but they endure.

          2) Volatile arguers.

             These are "like two lawyers in a courtroom."

                They can argue at the drop of a hat.

                   They are the Bickersons.

             Such marriages tend to last even though there are frequent

                 and impassioned arguments.

          3) Validators.

             The third type of stable marriage Gottman calls the

                "validating" couple.

             They listen to each other, respect the other's opinion

                and only occasionally argue.

             "They pick the issues they fight about," he says.

      C. Blends have the toughest time.

         Trouble in marriages comes when the couples are a mix of

            personalities that do not mesh in resolving conflicts.

         For instance, a husband who is a volatile arguer married to a

            wife who is an "avoider", or one who flees from disagreement,

               may be headed for a divorce.

         There's little hope for a marriage where the wife is an avoider

            of argument and the husband thrives on heated discussion.

         But if she can be taught to respond to his verbal attack while

            he learns to tone down his volatility, then they might find

               a happy middle ground of marriage.


III. Family conflict is nothing new.

      A. It begins in Genesis, with Cain fighting Abel.

          1) A life is taken, and a family disintegrates.

      B. The Book of Proverbs gives gives some snapshots of disgruntled


          1) The disgruntled ones are always women (it was written by men).

      C. Jesus says a primary reason for conflict is our tendency to

            look at the faults of others instead of our own.

         Matthew 7:1-5 --

         "Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

          For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and

             with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

          Why do you look at the speak of sawdust in your brother's eye

             and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"

IV. Advice in Ephesians 4.

      A. Reject deception.

          1) Speak truthfully to each other.

          2) A web of lies only entangles YOU.

      B. Put limits on your anger.

          1) You cannot ban all emotion or passion.

              a) Paul assumes everyone gets angry.

          2) But you can restrict it so there is no permanent damage.

              a) By sundown, have the argument resolved.

              b) Unresolved anger leads to spiritual danger.

                  1> Your marriage may not be the only casualty.

                  2> Satan gets a foothold in you if you let anger have

                        its way.

      C. Aim for the edification of the other person.                4:29

          1) Edification means to build someone up.

              a) Sort of like our new building that is going up.

          2) Your words and intent should be helpful.

              a) You should keep the other person's needs in view.

              b) You want them to gain from this.

              c) This is true in any conversation, but especially in an


                  1> Think in terms of "win-win" rather than "win-lose."

      D. Fight fair.

          1) Get rid of the malice and harsh feelings.               4:31

              a) Some people think intensity shows sincerity.

              b) Most of the time it only increases the volume.

          2) Practical advice on "don't"s:

              a) Don't be sarcastic.

              b) Don't criticize, condemn or compare.

              c) Don't use name calling, or derogatory remarks.

          3) Focus on the real issue and try to reach resolution.

  V. Reconciliation is better than agreement.

      A. Not every argument can be settled.

          1) Even if people don't see eye-to-eye, they can be at peace.

          2) Our relationships are more important than any issue that

                may divide us.

      B. Reconciliation often involves forgiveness.

         Dietrich Bonhoffer was a German pastor during World War II.

         To a young couple who had been married a brief time he wrote

            this advice:

         "Live together in forgiveness for without it no human

            relationship, least of all a marriage, can survive.

          Accept each other as you are and forgive each other every

            day from the bottom of your hearts."

         This advice is made more powerful by the fact that he wrote

            it from a Nazi prison, where just a few years later he died.

         Forgiveness is not easy.

            It is an ability that comes from God.


      C. Families aren't the only relationships that need reconciliation.

          1) The Bible says all of us need to be reconciled to God.

          2) Even if we don't realize it, we are arguing with him.

          3) Jesus is the only one who can bring us together again.

              a) Turn to him for forgiveness and healing.



#20322  "Researcher Has Formula To Predict Marriage Outcomes," by Paul

           Recer, The Associated Press/America Online, February 13, 2004.

#22565  "Sorry, Tolstoy, Happy Couples Aren't All Alike," by Shankar

           Vedantam, Washington Post, http://www.jsonline.com,

           February 17, 2002.

#30752  "The Ability To Forgive Comes From God," by Dr. Michael T. Powers;

           State Street United Methodist Church; Bowling Green, Kentucky;

           Kerux Sermon #19364, "Handling Conflict At Home,"

           January 14, 2001.

These and 30,000 others are part of the Kerux database that can be

downloaded, absolutely free, at http://www.holwick.com/database.html


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