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.
Before getting there, let me ask you a question: Who is the hardest person in your family to love?
As Paul tells us how to love and live, he does so by comparing two kinds of people: those who are dead in their sin (not followers of Jesus) and those who have been brought into new life in Christ.
This takes away our excuse about loving difficult people, because Paul shows us that through Jesus we have been loved. And we are difficult to love. Apart from God’s grace, we are broken and sinful.
In light of that, Paul tells us what should be true of our relationships and what should not be true of our relationships.
First, the negative side (what shouldn’t be true):
Sexual Immorality: He starts with sexual immorality, impurity, lust and evil desires. Sexual desire is hardwired into us as humans, but because we are sinful we distort our sexual desire.
Whenever the phrase sexual immorality is used in the NT, it is a junk drawer word. It means anything outside of God’s design for sex within the confines of marriage.
Why? Is God trying to ruin our fun?
He knows that when we distort sex and sexual desire we end up hurt and broken. In dating relationships that become sexual, the couple simply feels closer than they actually are, and that covers up issues that should be dealt with.
Greed: Greed refers to the belief that everything, including people, exists for your own personal purposes. Do you see how that would be destructive in a family?
We so easily fall into thinking that our family, spouse and kids are there for our benefit, our pleasure, to build us up and to make us feel good.
We look to them to complete us, to fix us. We look to them to complete them, to fix them.
Think about it like this: Most people love that they aren’t alone instead of loving the other person in the relationship. This is a crucial question to ask: Do you love your spouse, kids, parents? Or do you love not being alone?
The answer to that will determine how you treat them.
Don’t believe me? The next one he lists is in so many relationships.
Anger: We reserve so much anger for those who are closest to us. We will say things to them that we wouldn’t even say in the comfort of Facebook. We are brutal to our family sometimes.
Anger refers to a chronic feeling, not simply outbursts of rage.
It is an attitude, a contempt you feel toward someone.
This happens when we feel and act superior to someone close to us. We put them down. We tell them they are too emotional, too stupid, too needy.
This is when we pull away to get our way, to get what we want.
You might say, “But I’m not emotional. I’m a non-feeler.”
Do you know one of the reasons non-feelers get angry? To avoid being vulnerable. This is why we get up from a conversation, slam a door, storm out, fold our arms and shake our heads. We do this so we don’t have to engage a feeling, and it is dangerous.
Here’s a way it shows up in a family: When one person feels like they do all the work and the other person (spouse or child) doesn’t pull their weight. You work so much and they don’t do as much as you think they should.
Being judgmental and critical. We do this with family members more than anyone else. Why? Because they are stuck with us.
How does wrath, malice and anger show up in families? Through resentment and bitterness.
Words: The last thing Paul talks about is our speech, our words.
It is interesting how much the New Testament talks about our words.
We say the worst things to the people closest to us.
Words carry enormous power in our lives.
We don’t normally tell another person we hate them or never want to see them again. We rarely tell our friends, “I’m afraid I’m going to be stuck with you. You’re too emotional. You’re too controlling.”
Yet, we say those things all the time to our kids and our spouse.
He ends with, don’t lie to each other. Be truthful.
Do you see any of these things in your heart? In any relationships you have?
So, what do you do? My next post will unpack how to love your family and those closest to you.
This article originally appeared here.