Loving Your Immediate Family and Church Family
Besides Christ, who is most precious to us? Is it not our immediate family and our church family? And yet, sometimes we fail to show our love for our family. Stress (which has been tremendous during The Great Recession), health isssues, grief, loss of a loved one, or just the busyness of life can cause us to take our family for granted. When facing life's challenges, we can have unrealistic, idealized expectations of our spouse or our church family, and we may lash out at those whom we are closest to out of disappointment or hurt.
In writing to the church in Ephesus, Paul tells believers how they should act towards one another. In this, he contrasts how people in the world think and act and how they should think or act as those who learned of a new "way of life" in Christ (Eph. 4:20). They are to "put off their old self" and to put on a "new attitude," with "righteousness and holiness" (Eph. 4:22-24). Paul's instructions can be applied to both our biological and church family.
1. Build up family members with encouraging words--do not tear down.
"29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (Eph. 4:29).
You should be a "safe haven" for your spouse, where no matter what is going on outside the home, he or she can come home and be built up with encouraging words. The same is true for the church. The church should be a safe haven for believers. This is why name calling, verbal abuse, and gossip have no place in our homes or in the church. The world tears down our family members--our job should be to help build one another up. This can be done by writing notes of encouragement, telling your spouse or children how special they are, and making sure that we use our words to meet each others' needs.
2. Let the Spirit guide your family--not (the spirt of) anger, rage or bitterness.
"30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice" (Eph 4:30).
As believers, we have all been given the Spirit of God NOW to live and dwell within us, looking towards our FUTURE, full redemption WHEN Christ returns. At our full redemption, we will be completely infused by God's Spirit, putting on spiritual bodies and doing away with sin. It grieves God when we fail to follow the Spirit, who should give peace to our lives, and instead live out of control lives. Satan is behind uncontrolled rage, bitterness (which is anger that is held onto and "nurtured"), and malice (doing things that are designed to hurt and would people). While it would seem that these destructive behaviors (including "brawling"!) would not be problems in God's family, Paul obviously wrote these words for a reason.
3. Be kind and compassionate to family members--do not be callous or cruel.
"32 Be kind and compassionate to one another . . . " (Eph. 4:32).
It is not enough to simply abstain from being hurtful to our family members. We must be proactive in being a postive influence in their lives. We should be kind and compassionate in how we interact with our spouses, our children, our church leaders, and fellow church members. We should take into account all that they are dealing with, and seek to have hearts that are full of love that overflows into action. When they stumble, we should pick them up. When they sin, we should reach out to them and restore them. When we speak, we should be soft and gentle. We should not seal our hearts against our family members, but keep our hearts open to showing love to them.
4. Forgive your family members--do not hold onto past grievances and "keep count" of wrongs.
". . . forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Eph. 4:32).
One of the reasons that God gives us family (biological and church family) is for our santification--being made holy. To be made holy is to be cleansed and to take on the character of God. If we all lived alone on an island, we would not have to practice forgiveness. But when we live with family members or meet together as a body, we will inevitably be hurt by them. And this requires us to practice forgiveness and thus to beome more like God. God forgives. That is why "to forgive is divine." In a marriage or in a church's life, there are many wrongs that happen over the years. We can either become angry and bitter keeping track of all of these wrongs, or we can practice forgiveness--yes, over and over again.
We must learn to love one another deeply. Our families are precious. We should cherish them.
QUESTION: Why do often fail to love and cherish those closest to us--our biologial family and church family? How can we change this?