I hate marital tension, especially during a night out or a vacation. I realize that no time is convenient for it, but still, I would prefer it didn’t intrude into times that are officially designated for rest and mutual enjoyment.

My wife and I were on a short holiday at the beach. I was doing spiritual reading—maybe Spurgeon or some other reliable theologian—and she said something. I have no recollection of what it was, but it got me thinking.

“What she is saying is not true,” I thought to myself. I seemed to remember that she had said these things before. “This time I am going to help her. I am going to help her see that she is wrong, and I am right.”

My reasoning was flawless. I was reading something spiritual, so my judgment had to be keen from the start. I was doing this for her—and hard things done with the heart of a servant are so attractive. And there was not a hint of anger. I was calm, matter-of-fact. I didn’t want to provoke her or put her on the defensive. So I was a little surprised when she didn’t receive it well. I don’t remember the details of the next hour or two, but I do remember she said we were going to have to “agree to disagree,” which has never been helpful to us in the past.

Walking to the beach the next day, with a relationship that was a bit chilly, and feeling stuck, a simple truth broke through. One of the beauties of Scripture is that it gives the way of wisdom and makes it available to anyone with ears to hear. Though there is a place for keen insight and sometimes our behaviors deserve careful analysis, simple truths are usually the means of our deliverance.

The simple truth was this: Did I love? This question is stamped all over Scripture and I missed it. Being right was a deceptive cover. It felt orthodox. It felt like I was standing for the truth. But it was my truth that concerned me, not the truth about Jesus. I did not love.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6)

Speaking the truth in love . . . (Ephesians 4:15)

I immediately asked forgiveness and then new vistas for fruitful conversation opened for us.

These events have been etched in my conscience and leave me somewhat afraid of the deceptive nature of sin. But that fear is more than counterbalanced by the knowledge that the Spirit loves us by bringing our hearts out into the light.