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Accept Your Spouse. Don’t Accept Your Spouse.

As Christians, we say we follow the Lord Jesus Christ. That means that we have followed his first command to repent and believe the gospel. We have been born again into a living hope. But following Christ does not end with salvation. That’s merely a beginning. We are to press on to maturity.

As we do that we discover a tension. We understand the high ethical teaching of our Savior and we understand our sinful nature. We realize that Jesus calls us to love him and how far short we fall of that. He also gives us his Spirit to love one another and even our enemies perfectly. Yet, we understand how far we fall short of that. Our salvation is now and not yet.
A Marriage Tension
Understanding this now and not yet tension applies to us individually and it applies to marriage. In a normal marriage, excluding unusual circumstances like abuse or abandonment, two individuals must lovingly live out that now and not yet reality.

How? I would suggest that couples are: to accept one another and not accept one another. 
Accepting One Another
On the one hand we are to accept each other (Romans 15:7). All of us are deeply flawed and trying to establish an intimate one-flesh relationship while still having the sinful nature is difficult. Home is a place where we are known and accepted, flaws and all. Our husband or wife should be our biggest fan and encourager. When life is discouraging, we put courage and strength back in each other. We forbear.

Forbearance means to put up with things that will never change this side of heaven. We realize that our spouse in on a journey to becoming like Christ even as we are. We realize that she’s not perfect but she’s perfect for me. 

Growing in patience and forbearance means we do not nitpick, become cynical, or become discouraged. Marriage is not meant to fulfill all our dreams. It is meant to point us to something better. It is meant to make us more like Christ.
But that is only one-half of the story. There is another aspect to keep in mind. 

Not Accepting One Another
We are not to accept each other. What do I mean by that? We also are to treat each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. That means we are to encourage, teach, exhort, and admonish each other. We are, to use Tim Keller’s words, helping each other become our future glory selves. We are partners in this growth to maturity. As iron sharpens iron so one person sharpens another. 
We see this play out even for the Christian whose spouse is not a Christian. One the one hand, she does not accept the status quo, loving him and seeking to win him over by her pure conduct (1 Pet 3:1). On the other hand, she cannot control him and must accept a decision to resist salvation or even leave (1 Cor 7:15).  
This is a tension godly Christians live with. Christian couples can err on the accepting and encouraging side. They are so supportive that they cannot discern between the Spirit and the flesh. Love for them is defined by all affirmation. The result? They affirm their spouse down a road of immaturity. And of course, the opposite is a more common problem. A spouse can so “help improve” her spouse as to become nitpicking, discouraging, or even overbearing. 
A Temptation?
A good question to ask is, “To which end of the spectrum am I tempted?” Am I all affirmation without any challenge? Do I think a loving wife or a servant husband is affirming all the time?

Or do I err on the side of critique and criticism? Do I see how far my spouse falls short and seek to take the role of the Holy Spirit to convict him or her? I can easily see the speck in his or her eye but cannot see the plank in my own (Matt 7:3-5).
A godly husband and a godly wife will accept one another and encourage one another even as they also help each other press on to their future glory-selves.