I get a lot of husbands and wives asking me how to change their spouse. How do you make them go from a refuser to a generous spouse? After all, I managed it, so what’s the trick? The truth is, I didn’t manage it. There isn’t a hammer big enough to pound a spouse into being generous. It doesn’t work that way.
Now, there are some places on the web that tell you there is. It involves a combination of manipulation and fear, and you know what? It gets you what you think you want: sex. But, you don’t really want sex. You want intimacy. You want a generous spouse. Ultimately, manipulation and fear doesn’t get you that. What it gets you is a spouse who is playing a part because their afraid of what will happen. That’s not real generosity, and it’s not real love.
Unfortunately, sometimes people think it is, because they believe that God operates this way. This is one of those instances where bad doctrine can lead to bad marriage advice. Christians who believe that God burns people forever in hell often end up believing that it’s okay to use fear, it’s okay to tell your spouse “do this or else I’ll divorce you”, in order to be loved the way you want. After all, if God sends people to hell for eternity just because we don’t choose to love Him, isn’t that the same thing? Yeah, it is. This is why the world wants no part of God, because we’re created a false image of Him. Christianity has created a God who uses fear and manipulation to get people to “love” Him.
Then we turn around and do the same things to our spouses. After all, marriage is a reflection of how God deals with His people.
But, does God really operate that way? No, He doesn’t. The Bible is quite clear that hell-fire is temporary (Hebrews 2:14, Revelation 21:8, Ezekiel 28:18-19). In fact, there isn’t really much of a punishment for not loving God. You get an easier life, and less persecution. Rather, instead of punishment for not loving God, God offers intimacy with Him if you do. In fact, He offers it for eternity. The only way to gain immortality is through Jesus Christ (John 3:16), though many Christians would have you believe that you can gain immortality in hell, so that you can suffer forever.
But that’s our human desire for revenge, to see others punished. We want to see them in pain, hurting and suffering for eternity. After all, that’s what makes our following God worthwhile, isn’t it? That we don’t have to deal with that?
Are we any better than refusing spouses that have been bullied into sexually fulfilling out husband or wife if we believe that about God? Usually when I share this with people, one of the questions they ask is: “well, what’s to make people follow God then?” and the answer is: nothing. You can’t make people believe. You can’t force devotion. You cannot coerce love.
Instead, God invites to an intimate relationship, just as we should invite our spouses into one. We should create a safe space, where they are loved and cherished. We should offer to them unending intimacy, no matter how often they make mistakes, let us down, or hurt us, we just want to be with them. That is the model is see of God in the Bible. Not this heavy handed approach to “love”.
Because just as God wants us to really love Him, for who He is, we want our spouse to love us, for who we are. God doesn’t want cowed Christians, and we don’t want cowed spouses.
But, if we invite them and they accept…well, then a refuser can become generous, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Through love, not fear. God willing, we stop refusing God and learn to become generous towards Him in the same way.