By Brianna Hines
When Lew and I were first married, just as the euphoria of the honeymoon began to fade, I realized that I didn’t truly know this man I was sharing an apartment with. Having never lived together before our wedding day, it was quite a shock when I found out that Lew is a bit of a clean freak. Now, I would never have labeled myself as a messy person before this point, but in comparison to my new husband, I was a downright slob!
Every day when he would come home from work, he liked to have the apartment just so. He had a certain way of arranging his desk, a certain way of keeping his shoes, and the sight of dirty dishes would stress him out. This didn’t bother me much at the time because it was fairly easy to keep a house neat when it was just the two of us. However, round about the second child, I couldn’t keep up. Now when Lew would come home, he was lucky to see a patch of bare countertop, or even bare carpet. What he did get to see were two bare naked babies running wild, while I hunted for a clean pair of pajamas. Needless to say, it caused some tension between us.
His knee jerk response to all this uncleanliness and chaos was to go on a mad tidying spree. He would start picking up everything in view and shoving it wherever he could find that would put it out of sight. For the dishes, that was the dishwasher. For the laundry, clean or dirty, that was the hamper. For the bills, that was a drawer where they would never be found again. I knew he was trying to “help” but his “helping” became a source of annoyance for me. I couldn’t find anything anymore. And what’s worse is that I had to go behind him and actually organize all of those things he was shoving out of sight, so we wouldn’t have our lights shut off from unpaid electric bills rotting in the art bin.
As time went on, I began to resent my clean freak husband. I began to look for ways to prove to him how unhelpful he was actually being. Whenever I would find an overdue bill, I would wave it in front of his nose. Whenever I couldn’t find something of mine, I would rant about how he shoves all my stuff “heaven knows where!” I manipulatively stopped doing his laundry as often so that he wouldn’t throw clean clothes in the dirty laundry bin just because they were laying on the bed. It was getting bad.
I will blame the Holy Spirit for this, but one day I realized that all I could see in my husband was the bad in him. It didn’t matter what he did, or why he did things. I would search and search for something to attack him about, something to condemn him for. I was hunting for the antichrist in my husband, just waiting on tiptoes for him to mess up so that I could emerge as the self-righteous policewoman. Lew had no chance to ever prove me wrong because I only had eyes for all the things he was failing at. I had become blind to all that he was doing right.
The Lord helped me realize that He had given me a man that actually likes to help me clean the house. How had I missed that!?! All this time I was fuming about a few clean shirts in the laundry bin and completely overlooking the fact that I never have to do the dishes. Never! I was angry about unnecessary laundry, but here was a man that regularly makes our bed in the morning. How had I become so ungrateful? So blind?
Sometimes we get so focused on hunting for antichrists that we fail to see the faithful people right in front of us.
Much of the book of First John is a defense against false teachers, or antichrists. However, comparatively speaking, John spends a lot less time telling us how to spot these antichrists than he does to avoid becoming them ourselves. First John is not a book about being the antichrist police. Sure, we need to be aware of what those people will look and act like, but it is much more important that we focus the majority of our attention on rooting out those antichrist tendencies in our own hearts first, those tendencies to withhold love from our fellow believers or to disobey our Heavenly Father.
This kind of antichrist-hunting attitude we sometimes show toward our husbands or even our kids can easily spread beyond our families and right onto our brothers and sisters in Christ. Despite John’s warning about antichrists, the vast majority of our church families will be normal people that love Jesus, but might also be hard to get along with sometimes. It is easy to look around at all the other people in our church body and notice the ways they are not following the Lord like they should. It is tempting to receive a careless comment or callous greeting as “unchristian-like behavior” instead of searching for the hurting soul hiding behind.
Ultimately, we are not antichrist hunters. Our #1 job, that John reminds us of continually, is to LOVE other people, especially other believers, and especially when they are not the easiest to love. Only by being rooted and grounded in God’s extravagant and patient love toward us are we able to extend that to others. Just as God doesn’t go around searching for ways that we have failed Him, so we should not search for that in our husbands, or our sisters in Christ. The true antichrists in our Christian communities will generally take care of themselves, eventually making their exit from the church. The rest of us need to focus on taking care of each other, seeing the best in each other, and stirring up one another to love and good works. If we all do this, any antichrists out there will stand out like a sore thumb. No hunting needed.
Editor’s Note: Join UFC Women today at 9:30 a.m. at Barn (or on Zoom) or at 6:30 p.m. in the church offices for our study of First John. The cost for the study guide is $15. Childcare will be provided for the morning study. If you are interested in joining the Zoom group, please contact Jamie Harms at firstname.lastname@example.org.