Let’s be honest about families. They are incredible. They bring us love, joy and a ton of great memories.
They can also be difficult, painful, hurtful and wreck our lives (at least a portion of them).
We often underestimate the impact that our families have on our lives and the kind of people we become.
Who we become has a lot to do with where we came from, who we grew up with and what that house and family were like. The person we marry has an enormous impact on our lives and what they are like.
As we think about being a follower of Jesus, loving our family doesn’t often come into our thinking. We hear Jesus say we are to love our neighbor, so we look around us to figure out who to love. Yet, our family members are our neighbors, too. This is one of the biggest missed opportunities to show the love of God and impact lives.
In Colossians 3:18 – 21, the apostle Paul lays out what a family is supposed to be like, what a husband and wife do and what children are to be like. But before he gets there, he lays the foundation in verses 1 – 17 of what a family does and what is the environment of a family. While similar to the list in 1 Corinthians 13 (the famous love chapter), this is a little different.
If we are to love families (and we are), how do we do that?
Paul tells us by giving us a list (so buckle up for all you list people!):
Who are defined by compassion, kindness, humility, meekness or gentleness and patience.
These words should define every family, every marriage and every parent.
Compassion: For the perfectionist who gets mad because family members mess up and don’t pull their weight. Don’t correct them; show compassion. Maybe there’s a good reason they dropped the ball.
This is looking out for the people around you. Do they have what they need?
Kindness: There is no place for smugness, superiority, anger, malice or contempt in the heart of a Christian and their relationships. No place.
Kindness is caring about the feelings and desires of others.
Humility: Humility is putting the other person or other family members first. Not getting your way. Not always being right.
Humility allows us to serve others without worrying about getting noticed.
One of the biggest areas of fighting in families centers on: I think I do more than you, and you need to start pulling your weight. I think I should get thanked more than I do, noticed more than I do.
That’s not humility and has no place.
Yes, discuss who will do what in a family, but you should not be fighting over who does what chore and who does more in a family. That’s sin. That’s pride. That’s arrogance.
Gentleness: Meekness or gentleness makes allowances for others. This is grace giving in relationships. This is knowing you will be let down and sinned against and yet giving grace.
That doesn’t mean you don’t have consequences or confront something, but give grace.
In your speech, are you gentle? Do your spouse or kids fear when you open your mouth? Do they fear your presence?
These are words, silences, sighs, eye rolls, your presence.
Here’s a great question to ask on a regular basis: What is it like to be on the other side of me?
Let me give you this challenge. Ask someone close to you today that question.
We underestimate the power of our presence in people’s lives.
Patience: Toe tapping, standing at the front door asking if they’re ready yet. Wanting people to hurry up and get their act together, pick a major, stick with a job, stop being so flighty.
That’s not patience.
Patience says, “I’ll wait. I have time to talk even though all I want you to do right now is go to sleep.”
When our relationships are defined by compassion, kindness, humility, meekness or gentleness and patience, things change. People change. Our hearts soften to those around us, and their hearts have the chance to soften towards ours.
Think about one relationship you have, a close one. Which of these could you apply today that would bring change to that relationship? Not drastic change, although that would be nice. But change. A small step towards each other.