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Pulling Together In A World Tearing Apart

Miles Apart In The Same House

Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer | October 4, 1992

Selected highlights from this sermon

Today’s families are breaking down. Communication is in decline. In order to correct this, we must look back in time—all the way to the Garden of Eden—in order to understand why there are so many barriers to communication in the home. Then we can look to the cross of Jesus Christ for the remedy: communication and reconciliation can take place through Him.

So, what do you think the American family is going to look like in the next century? According to Time Magazine it will be inter-racial, bisexual, divided by divorce, multiplied by remarriage. The concept of illegitimate children will vanish because the nuclear family will have vanished. In fact, the nuclear family was so popular during the fifties will be thought of as having been abnormal.

There will probably be serial monogamy, that is, one partner at a time, but several partners during a lifetime. You may get married and write into the contract you are marrying this person for your college years. Then you have a career, and during that period of time you are married to someone else, then you decide to divorce that individual and retire with someone that is compatible finally.

Children will have to divide their affection and their loyalty between stepmothers, birth mothers, biological fathers, stepparents, and ex-stepparents. Schools will have to have 24-hour support structures for childcare, sanctuary for abused children. Maybe, and Huxley you remember presented this in The Brave New World, there will actually be baby hatcheries staffed by nurses who will do the rearing for people, and then everybody will be free, and everybody will be equal and live in uninterrupted happiness and bliss. That’s exactly what’s going to take place, and if Time Magazine is anywhere near correct, I’m glad I’m living in this century and not in the next one, because the emotional distress that is going to take place is going to be absolutely devastating and unbelievable. The reason is because God put it in the heart of every little boy that has been born, and every little girl that has ever been born, to have two parents who love the child, but who also love each other, to give it security, stability, and a sense of identity. Already today in the world we have all of these things we call dysfunctional families. 

I’m beginning this series. Really it is on human relationships, and not the family per se. This morning I’m going to be referring to married couples quite a bit, but actually this series will apply to singles and teenagers, because it’s going to have more to do with those human relationships and the disruptive things are tearing the fabric of our emotional being apart. That’s why the title for the entire series is “Pulling Together in A World That Is Tearing Apart.” Today I speak on the topic, “Miles Apart in the Same House,” basically a message on communication or the lack of it in our homes and in our own lives.

Why is communication so important? Well, there are several reasons. First of all, because communication is necessary to solve problems. You see, communication can be defined as giving messages, both verbally and non-verbally that are understood and received. Communication solves problems because we need to communicate in this world. Some people are better communicators than others.

On the way down to church this morning I was trying to think of that statement. I hope I have it correctly. “I know that you think you understand what I said, but what you heard is not what I meant.” Well, sometimes we do get into those problems of communication. 

There was someone who was writing a biography of a very important person and this individual’s grandfather died in the electric chair at the Sing Sing Prison because of a crime that had been committed. The author wanted to put it in the biography, but you don’t want to just say it up front to ruin the person’s reputation. So that story was included in the biography, but it was written like this. “This person’s grandfather occupied the chair of applied electricity in one of America’s best-known institutions. He was attached to his position and literally died in the harness.” Well, that’s one possible way of saying it. Communication.

Or did you hear about the child who came home and said to her mother, “Mommy, my teacher said that if I am ever absent again from Sunday school, she’s going to throw me into the furnace.” Her mother couldn’t believe that the child had actually heard correctly, but the child insisted that’s what the teacher said, so the teacher was asked, and what the teacher said was, “If you’re absent one more time I’m going to have to drop you from the register.” 

Well, communication. Communication is important. But there’s a second reason why communication is important, not only to solve problems, but  because of the need for harmonious relationships, particularly within the family. We have to have the same kinds of goals, the same kind of vision, the shared values, the similar beliefs. And all of that becomes important to the communication process.

But there’s a third reason why I speak about communication today and it is the most important, and communication is absolutely necessary for love. It is impossible to love deeply unless you communicate deeply. Unless there is a sharing of who you are with someone, real communication has not occurred, and real love is impossible because it is impossible to love a stranger. Real genuine love knows the good, the bad and the ugly about the other person but still loves them unconditionally just as they are, with the recognition that improvements may have to be made, of course, not necessarily loving everything they do. But there is a sense in which that person is received and accepted and loved no matter what lies beneath the surface. That is genuine, true, lasting, unconditional love. 

But the problem is there is very little true communication in our homes, and it’s not possible to have a happy marriage certainly without communication. And if you were brought up in a home where there was very poor and bad communication, you have felt the effects. There are some people who say, “I’m not going to communicate except, of course, on a superficial level.” And so, the talk becomes very, very mundane because there is no real sharing of who that person is. And so, what people do is they build structures. They put down the foundation. They build walls. They close up the ceiling of their lives, and then they put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door of their heart. Like one woman says, “I’m married to the great stone face. All he does is sit there and read the newspaper, and he simply will not communicate.”

But the problem is you cannot love under those conditions, and that’s why there are so many frustrated women because women desire communication, oftentimes much more than men do, and they desire to communicate. And it can work the other way around as well, but unless there is a breaking of those walls that have been so carefully dug, there can be no real genuine fulfillment and love.

Well, where did all these problems get started anyway? Why can’t we communicate? Let’s take our Bibles and find out where the whole mess began. Genesis, chapter 3. I am always amazed at how many things all began in Genesis, chapter 3. 

You know Adam and Eve were in the garden, and they decided they would disobey God, and we will be commenting on that again next time in the message. “But the eyes of them…” Genesis 3:7 says they were opened. This is after, now, they chose to eat of the fruit of the tree God said they should not eat from, so sin entered into the world. And sin entered into the world has come now upon all individuals, the Bible says. Every single person has been tainted by sin.

But notice it says “the eyes of them were opened and they knew they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”

What is the first barrier we notice that sin brings to the human family that is going to block communication? The first barrier is shame. It was not merely their physical nakedness they suddenly became so aware of, but along with that there was also an emotional and spiritual nakedness because now they were beginning to feel the guilt of their sin and so they sewed fig leaves together, and they began to hide from each other, and then of course, they wanted to hide from God.

They had been talking to God in the cool of the day, now God comes along and wants to communicate, and Adam and Eve are nowhere to be found. They are hiding behind fig leaves, behind some trees in the garden, doing all they possibly can to stay out of sight. The awesome, unbelievable power of shame.

Now, where does this shame come from in people’s lives today? Some of it comes from their families. If you were brought up in a family where you were slapped and hit and beaten, or where any expression of sexuality was immediately frowned upon, and you were made to feel guilty and shameful, you will grow up with shame. Those of you to whom I am speaking, and you know exactly what it is I am saying if it applies to you, you went to school, you went to college, and you felt as if everyone who saw you could see the shame within. You wanted to run and hide because to you it seemed as if everyone was peering beneath a glass surface, and they could see it all.

Parenthetically I am amazed at the foolishness of some parents, and how all expressions of sexuality, and all normal sexual development among children is not simply accepted with joy and with the recognition that’s the way God created us, granted and with a sense of shame, and a sense of guilt, and a sense of hiding. But many of you were reared that way, probably shame your parents inherited from their parents, and it can be debilitating and incredibly destructive.

But there’s another kind of shame, and that is shame people feel. It’s not imposed upon them, but it is derived from their own experiences because they have done shameful things. You know, there are many people who have a very, very sordid past, and they want to keep that past hidden, and that’s understandable. There may be some people who may be doing some very shameful things in the present. They may be committing adultery. They may be secretly addicted to pornography. They may be involved in some kind of bizarre activities, possibly financial improprieties, all kinds of things, and as a result, you see, one of the things that shame does is it absolutely fears exposure. There are some people whose lives are like that proverbial iceberg. You see only a little bit of it, and if you saw what was beneath the surface, you simply would not believe it. Just think of the disclosures we find in our newspapers, sometimes of prominent people, and discover what they’ve been up to, and we’re shocked. We’re shocked.

Now, how do people respond to shame? Well, they become very defensive. Any attempt to pry beneath the surface of their lives, any attempt is immediately cut off, and that lid is slammed down, and now instead of simply being buttoned down, it is nailed down, and if it is a metal lid, it is welded down, because nobody  is going to find out who they really are. 

And if they are not defensive, they will also resort to manipulation, like the person who whines, “No, you don’t really trust me, asking me those questions, do you? You don’t trust me.” Now just think that through. What that person is saying is, “You ought to feel guilty for even asking these questions.” You see, it’s your fault. It’s not mine. It’s a protective device.

Then, of course, dishonesty flows very naturally because if you’ve been living a lie, to tell one is no big deal. So, what people do is they maintain secrecy because if there is anything about shame and its incredible power is it absolutely loathes exposure. And so, Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. They were going along in life finding places to hide. And that’s a barrier to communication. 

Second, not merely shame but it says in Genesis 3:9–10 now, “Then the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” By the way, that’s not because God was a little puzzled and said, “You know, Adam and Eve are playing Hide and Seek, and I can’t seem to find them.” No, no, no. God was saying, “I want you to tell Me where you are.” You know, don’t ever think you can run from God. God can even find you in Chicago. I mean God’s got a network like you wouldn’t believe. Just give it up. Give it up.

“And the Lord God called to him and said, ‘Where are you?’ And he said, “I heard the sound of thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid myself.” If the first emotion is shame, the second is fear. Well, what is he fearing. Is he fearing God? I mean he and God were talking together. They were taking walks in the cool of the day. What’s the fear? Does he fear his wife? What is the problem, Adam? Tell us.

What is Adam fearing? He’s fearing rejection. You see, now he feels guilty and knows he has violated the laws and the commands of a very holy God, he is thinking God is going to look him in the eye and say, “Adam, you are going to be banished from My presence forever. Get out of here.” That’s what he feared. And you know, there are many people who don’t communicate because of fear of rejection, like a man who told me, “If my wife really knew who I was, she could never love me.” And so, there’s a part of him that remains hidden, and his wife will never really love him because it’s hard to love a stranger.

Then there are couples who make it difficult for themselves, like the man who called me from Canada several years ago. He told me… He said, “You know I committed adultery last week,” and he said, “I am simply awash with shame and regret and guilt.” But he said, “My wife always told me, ‘If you ever commit adultery, I want you to know I will never, never forgive you, and you might just as well recognize the fact if you do that our marriage is over.’” Now how does that man try to go to his wife and be reconciled after such devastation? You see, she probably said it because she thought this would keep him from adultery. She maybe said it because that’s the way she felt—judgmental, perfectionistic. And I’m not in any way trying to minimize the awful effects of adultery. Don’t misunderstand. But I’m simply saying that— How do you take two people and try to get them to communicate when certain rules have been set up by which they say, “Unless you meet my expectations, there will be no communication?” How do you bring a couple like that together?

You know, if you feel rejected, all you can do is to retreat into the silence of your shame and your grief and your anger, and you can live in that terrible, terrible private world. That’s all you can do, or if you really feel rejected, what you can do is what many people do, and that is make it impossible for other people to accept them. You’ve met rejected people, and so have I. And what they have done to us is they have made demands of us nobody could ever possibly keep because what they are trying to do is to prove nobody will love them, everybody will reject them. The minute somebody shows them love, they will begin to make demands that will inevitably lead to failure, as is absolutely necessary in the mind of a rejected person. That’s why rejected people sometimes in marriages are so incredibly hard to live with because they are making demands of their partner that no partner could possibly meet. They are out to prove nobody really loves them, and they will make it as hard on you as they possibly can to prove their point.

Some of you are struggling with homosexuality and you’ve kept that hidden because you say, “You know, if I expose that, think of the rejection that I would receive.” I understand what you are saying, but I also want you to know there is no such thing as real feeling until you share with at least one other human being, who can be a part of the solution, who you really are because there is no prison  as terrible as that prison called secrecy, that says, “There’s a part of my life out here that I will not share.” Like that man I told you about several years ago at a conference… It was raining outside, and he said, “I want to take a walk with you.” And so, we walked together, and he said, “You don’t know who I am. You’re from another city. You’re leaving town tomorrow.” But he said, “I spend $400 a month on pornography. Help me.”

See, there is no prison in Illinois or in any other part of the world that is as wretched, is as debilitating as that prison that says, “I will keep my life to myself and not share my need.”

Now, what do Adam and Eve do once God lifts the cover? Well, the first thing, of course, most people do is lie. But how are you going to lie to God. It’s not worth it because He knows it. He knows the truth, so this is what happens. 

Genesis 3:11, “And God said, ‘who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’” Now the man could have answered in three simple words. “Yes, I did.” We’d have expected that from Adam, but you know, he didn’t. He said, and watch my hands now, “Lord, the woman whom thou gave me… Thou gave me! She took of the tree and then what was I supposed to do?”

I want you to notice first of all he blamed God. He said, “God, I wasn’t even awake when this woman was made, so You can’t blame me for her.” That’s number one. And number two, “It is she that took of the tree. It’s this weak-willed woman whom You created.”

Well, I want you to notice Adam blamed his wife even though there wasn’t a chance in the world he had married the wrong woman. [laughter] Did you notice that? This is everlasting proof, if proof is needed, the best of marriages have problems. This idea if you meet the right one, you’re going to go through life and be wonderful and happy, and never have any disagreements, well, all I can tell you is Rebecca’s marriage to me has not been nearly that boring. I want you to know also we are happier than I think we’ve ever been in our married life. It’s just great, but you know, we had some difficult years. There’s no such thing as everybody getting along so-so. But isn’t this interesting? Adam and Eve want to pass the buck. You know, Will Roger said, “There was the passing of the buffalo,” and then there was the passing of the buck. Well, notice this now.

God says, “Oh, okay, it’s the woman’s fault.” So, he says in Genesis 3:13, “The Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’” The woman said, “Well, I was tempted, and I ate.” Oh no, no, no. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” The man blamed the woman, the woman blamed the serpent, and the serpent didn’t have a leg to stand on.” [laughter

The whole blame game we know so much about today all began here, the failure to take responsibility for your reactions and for your actions. I want you to know today, no matter how much responsibility your parents may have had, and it may be considerable, ultimately there does come a time when we all must take responsibility for our own reactions. And when we begin to do that God begins to give us help.

Now, let me ask you something. What does God do in this situation? Does He say, “Well, you know you guys blew it? I put you together. You disobeyed me. That’s it. What you need to do is to wait 2000 years until they have talk shows, and then go on one of them and spill out your guts and try to get some help.” Well, I don’t object to talk shows where there is a lot of sharing. Some of that today is good because people are beginning to realize it is important to talk about dysfunctional past experiences, but you know, God goes way beyond that.

I want you to know today God never leaves people on their own and says, “You’ve messed it up. Now let me out of it. Do the best you can.” No, Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” This is the first prediction of the coming of Christ.

God says, “I’m going to put hostility between you, Serpent (who represents the devil), and the woman, and her seed is going to win a battle.” And the woman’s seed turns out to be Jesus Christ. Satan is going to do his best to conquer Christ, but all he will be able to do is to nip Christ’s heel, whereas Christ, the seed of the woman, is going to crush the serpent’s head in the dust. 

So, Christ is saying somebody is going to come who is the seed of the woman, who is going to put Satan in his place, and bring redemption to at least a part of humanity. Then, if that isn’t enough, it says in Genesis 3:21, “And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” What He said to them is, “You don’t need your fig leafs. What you need is some garments of skin.” And if these were garments of skin, obviously God must have killed some animals to make these clothes for Adam and Eve. Bible commentators for years have seen in this the prefigurement of the coming of Jesus Christ because animals were slain in the Old Testament, all pointing to the coming of a redeemer who would die on a cross. And then when Jesus died, He became the lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world.

Now listen to me carefully. God is saying, “I will cover your shame. I’ll cover your shame.” It says in the book of Revelation to the church at Laodicea, “The Lord said, ‘Come. Buy of me and I shall give to you white clothing so that the shame of your nakedness might not appear.”

Those of you who are living today in that prison of shame, God can cover you. “’Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, and though there are those ugly sores, I will send a snowfall and you will be covered so your shame will be put away.’” It says in Psalm 25, “They that wait for thee shall not be ashamed.” There’s a covering for your shame.

Also, because your shame is covered, that’s actually also the answer to your fear. Despite our need and despite our helplessness, we can come to God as we are, knowing there is a redeemer to cleanse us and to forgive us, and give us a standing before God that can never be earned but is ours through His matchless, wondrous grace. And when we do that, we begin to have the security to be able to communicate, because now we know we are accepted by God, we’re forgiven by God. We can let others know who we are and take that risk without fearing the rejection and without the pain of the shame overwhelming us so that can not only be loved by God, but feel loved because the guilt is gone, the shame is gone, the fear is gone, and now we can begin to love each other.

There are some of you who are listening to this message who are single, and you’ve had some terrible experiences in your relationships. The minute someone has begun to love you, and there is a relationship that has been developed, you immediately back away because you fear letting someone know who you really are. And all of your relationships have to be kept at a distance. You cannot let someone into your world. I urge you today. Receive the cleansing of Christ. Receive the covering for your shame and let someone know who you really are.

There are some of you who are married, and your communication lines are incredibly frozen. Every month more hostility, more anger, more shame is stacked on the walls you have built around you. You have dug those foundations. Yes. You have put up the barricades. You have cemented your life in. You have folded your arms and you have said, “No one is ever going to get inside my world.” And that’s why your marriage is in such bad shape because no one can love you unless they know you.

Let me tell you a true story. The names are changed but the story is totally true. We’ll say the man’s name was Tim and the woman’s name was Ann. Both accepted Christ as Savior, brought up in a fine evangelical church, became Christians in their teenage years, and married, but became disillusioned with Christianity. Looked at the promises of Jesus. You know, “If you come to Me, you will never hunger. If you believe on Me, you will never thirst.” They were hungering, and they were thirsting, and they were looking at the promises, and they asked their friends, and they received sympathy, but no real help, so they decided to just drop out of church. Christianity does not work.

Ann began to watch soap operas. They became a part of her day there at home as she was bored with a husband that lacked excitement. And as she began to watch those soap operas, she realized there was a part of her life she thought had been missing. She was brought up in a fine Christian home. Why? There was a whole life out there in the world she had never experienced, a life of excitement, the life of the possibility of a new partner. And so, she had an affair.

Her husband would have left her, but pride kept him at home because they were known in the community, and he simply didn’t want to walk out on her, though she had this relationship.

When it seemed as if their marriage could not take a single strain would break it totally, Ann discovered she was pregnant. The problem was it was not a moment of rejoicing because she was unsure as to whether her husband was the father of the child. They decided to attend a meeting where some couples had gotten right with God. Some worldly couples had actually so yielded themselves to Christ that their lives were full of joy, and they were communicating. And as this couple shared their need— Get this now. The sharing of a need is so important because they had to break out of that wall of secrecy and anger and hostility and unforgiveness they were living in. As they broke out of that and they shared a need with these couples. They said, “We need prayer.” all the couples got on their knees and prayed for this couple that had that great need.

During the prayer Tim took his wife’s hand and squeezed it and said, “I forgive you.” And it was those words that suddenly took all of that hostility and guilt and shame and anger, and it penetrated those walls she had so carefully nurtured and built. That night when Tim and Ann got home, they did something they should have done early on in their marriage. They talked all night. Amid tears they shared their expectations. They shared what they liked about one another, what they didn’t like, all the disappointments that their marriage had brought. But in the midst of it they were communicating finally for the first time, really communicating. And they ended that long marathon talk in prayer.

Six years after that experience when their little daughter was six, I wrote up their story that occurred in a book I wrote many, many years ago. And they told me during that six-year period— First of all, the little girl was born to them did turn out to be their child. But secondly, they told me during that six-year period they could not remember having one serious argument of any kind. Why? Because they said Jesus Christ is really the best marriage counselor. Why? Because in the process of communication and in the process of allowing one another finally to enter each other’s world— The Bible says where two or three are gathered together for the purpose of reconciliation. That’s the context. Christ said, “I am there to make sure it happens.” You will never sense the presence of Christ more than when you honestly and openly communicate.

You say, “But wasn’t it painful?” Oh yes, believe it is painful. It’s as painful as slicing an ugly sore and getting the pus out so it can heal. That’s how painful it is, but without it, it can’t happen. 

Some of you in your marriage, you will never be healed unless you talk. No matter how much you cry, and tears are important, no matter the pain. Some of you are hiding from one another. You’re hiding from God, and I say to you today, “In the name of Christ, in God’s name, get found. Get found. You’re playing Hide and Seek. God knows where you are. It’s time that somebody else also knew exactly where you are because without communication, there cannot be love. God is willing to clothe your shame, set you free so that finally the great stone face can begin to talk.

Let’s close.

Now, Father, I have spoken only words. Unless the Blessed Holy Spirit who has been poured out to His people, does the work, the message falls on deaf ears. I cannot penetrate the barriers. I cannot get behind the walls. The words I speak fall dead to the person who says, “No one will ever find out who I am.” But Lord, you are the God of the heart. I have done the possible, but the impossible is wholly and totally up to you. I pray for singles who are here today with a history of smashed and painful relationships, unable to communicate. I pray for couples that are here today, unable to really, really talk.

Now, Lord, would you come to us sinners who need You so desperately? And would You heal us? Would You wound us, and then let us heal and do the work You need to do for Your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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