How many times have families divided over a man’s or a woman’s choice of a mate? Too many times to count, for sure. But remember, love is indeed blind (and sometimes I have wondered if it is deaf and dumb as well), but barring the choice of a nonbeliever for a spouse, love and beauty are in the eye of the beholder. Far too many times future in- laws become outlaws from the get-go because of their ill-advised criticism of their child’s choice of a mate. When faced with this scenario, we need to remember the next truth:
Demanding a choice between spouse and family is always the wrong thing to do.
This is a twofold truth, applying equally to parents and their adult children. Parents who demand children to choose them over their spouses are asking them to sin. Married people who ask their mates to forsake their families of origin rather than do all they can to live in peace with the extended family are wrong too. Whether by implication or insinuation, by direct proclamation or indirect communication, it is always wrong to set up a showdown between spouse and family. It is the wrong way to act and the wrong thing to ask, without exception. Of course, sometimes there are instances when the strife in a family becomes so great that the only wise thing to do is to create some distance, but that is generally the result of wrong already done.
James 3:13–18 provides some sage advice:
If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.
This is never more true than in the family and perhaps again best illustrated in the struggle so many young couples face of trying to keep family members happy during the holidays. In this age of blended families, it is not unusual for a young couple to have four or five stops they are expected to make on any given holiday. Carefully they must balance whose house they go to first, how long they stay, and how to schedule the other required stops. Many blessed events have been turned into family feuds because of the pressure of trying to please everyone.
Being the father-in-law of a most wonderful daughter-in-law, I can attest to you that this is not always easy. Like most people, I want my family together on holidays, honoring our traditions as much as possible. But part of the reason I have such a wonderful daughter-in-law is that she came from a wonderful family who loves their traditions too. Both families have had to make adjustments to accommodate this new family. It hasn’t always been easy to coordinate our activities, but it has always been worth it.
Of course, not everyone has the good fortune of having Christians or loving and peaceable members on both sides of the family. Some do have that blessing, but the parents are still having a hard time letting go. Still others feel like their mate’s family is a bunch of outlaws who are out to rob them of peace and happiness. Regardless of the scenario, if all parties involved would take to heart the scriptural admonition to live at peace as much as it depends on them, personal opinions and demands would take a backseat to preserving family harmony. When the command from Scripture is ignored, self-seeking demands lead only to confusion and every evil thing.
Excerpt from “Happily… Even After” now available on Amazon.