Is the current state of your marriage (or divorce) marked by increasing love or escalating malice? Marital malice in all its forms is about the most destructive malice that there is. The Bible uses some startling, even vulgar language to warn us about this serious trait.
There are some truly horrendous images in the Bible—grotesque, turn-your-stomach, I-can’t-believe-it-really-says-that kind of passages. The Bible is honest, real, and at times, brutal.
One such passage in Isaiah describes Israel in one of its lowest points—a fallen people who are so blinded by their sin that they can’t be satisfied even after the most desperate of measures: “On the right they will devour, but still be hungry; on the left they will eat, but not be satisfied. Each will feed on the flesh of his own offspring.” (9:20)
Here’s how gross this is and what is really going on: they are so at war with each other that they devour their neighbor on the left and the right, but aren’t satisfied, so they turn on their own children: “Manasseh will feed on Ephraim, and Ephraim on Manasseh; together they will turn against Judah.” (v. 21)
Change the language just a bit and be startled: “Husband will turn on his wife, wife will turn on her husband, but neither will be satisfied with the conflict. They will then turn on their offspring and destroy their children’s lives as well.”
When malice is unleashed in a marriage, we are fools if we think we can contain it in a specific war with each other. Our kids will be casualties. Most of us have seen fathers and mothers use their children as weapons against each other. They not only attacked and successfully destroyed their kids’ home in their war with each other, but they then used the kids as weapons to attack the newhomes. Why?
Malice is never satisfied, only stoked.
Relishing hatred, anger, bitterness, and resentment is like feeding an addiction more than satisfying a hunger. Every time you agree to mull over your hatred, it’s like taking another hit. You keep going until you all but devour each other.
Your spouse, or your former spouse, must never be seen as an enemy. Even if they try to turn you into an enemy find refuge in Jesus’ admonition to love your enemy and to pray for those who persecute you. You can’t satisfy hatred. Revenge never brings joy. If you harbor bitterness and resentment there will never be a time when you say to yourself, “Enough.” You’ll always go too far.
If you would have peace, if you would have joy, if you would know love, you would have to view malice itself rather than any person as your enemy. We have to avoid playing a game that is always fatal, that serves no one, that will eventually destroy everything we hold dear. Devouring each other won’t bring satisfaction; all it will do is set us up to devour someone else (beginning with our children) until the only one left, is us.
If you or someone you know is in this destructive cycle, ask yourself (or them) a few questions:
When will enough be enough?
If I get what I want will that really make things better for me, or is it really more about making him/her pay?
Will his/her increased misery really increase my happiness? And if so, isn’t that a sad commentary about me?
Do I really think it’s possible to hurt my spouse without my kids getting caught by the ricochet?
Do I want to make my happiness dependent on someone else’s downfall?
Is my response/attitude indicative of someone who has received grace and mercy from God?