The Family

18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.

21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:

23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

4:1 Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. Col. 3:18-4:1

We should be extremely wary of the flesh, especially in relation to our families. You notice in this scripture that Paul is not talking about relationships within the church, but within the family. And here the Apostle Paul makes it clear that even a servant is a part of the family.

The reason for this need for vigilance is because it is the easiest thing for us to cast ourselves into a mould, where things become ‘normalised’ and we are no longer running the race we have been called to. The whole concept of salvation, including our relationships, is a daily race, and a gritty one. It is a race of the Spirit vs the flesh. But it is with the family that God is most concerned and it is with the family that this race must begin.

My son is a slow learner, and much of the time (at least, according to my estimations) he does things contrary to the instructions I give him.  I am well aware that there was some delay during his delivery and this was what caused his condition. But this knowledge does nothing to calm my high-strung calibre and much of the time, the things that my son does have me clawing up the wall, literally.

And so it was that one day I was watering my garden and I asked him to carefully move the hose for me between the young plants. Instead of picking the part of the hose I had shown him, he picked the wrong one and in the process he ended up breaking one or two of my precious plants.

To talk of a sonic boom here would hardly do credit to the bellow I let out. If you ever saw Disney’s animated “Beauty and the Beast”, well, the Beast’s roars there are a downgraded version of what occurred that afternoon. My son stood still as I went on the warpath and blasted him into Neverland.

But the Lord is good and I thank Him for His mercy towards me. After my son had left the crime scene, the Lord quietly came to me and showed me the rot that was in my heart. As I lay on my bed that the evening, I called my son.

“Joe”, I said, “I want you to forgive me for what I did to you this evening. I am truly sorry and please know that I love you.”

I was sorely tempted to add, “But please, please try harder at doing things right”; but with all the effort I had I bit my tongue and held my peace.

Notice the Bible says, both in Colossians above and in Ephesians 6:4, that fathers should not provoke their children to anger. The Bible here is not talking of the small children that we in our selfishness are wont to spoil. Rather, when children reach a certain age, when they are in their teens, it is the time that their independence begins to assert itself, and it is here that parents need to be very careful to not to stamp out that independence. It is this independence, nurtured in the love of God, that will lead your child on to maturity.

There are any number of scenarios with regard to our lack of vigilance. It is the easiest thing, for example, for the wife or husband to enter into an adulterous relationship with another person, not for any other reason than that they have not been vigilant in their relationship to their spouse. But it requires a daily death to the flesh for that relationship to stay renewed in the Spirit.

The same goes for every other relationship within the family. The parents need to die for their children; and the children, likewise, for their parents. The servant needs the death of the cross to work in him for him to serve his master as he would serve Christ; likewise, the man and woman of the house towards their servant. If the work of the cross is not in them, they can easily look down on or mistreat their servants.

It is the easiest thing for the pastor to run about pastoring everyone else except his family. He never spends time with his wife or children! It is no wonder, therefore, that many pastors today stand accused of having adulterous affairs with other women, because they were unable to pay the price needed to take time with their wives.

It is the easiest thing for the mother to be busy, oh! inviting over and welcoming all those beloved brothers and sisters in Christ – but never having a thought for her children. And the children become rebellious and she wonders why!

It is the easiest thing, as I said, for us to allow the flesh in its various forms to take over control of our families. It is the easiest thing for us to become selfish and to look only to our own interests: the father, to his own pride; the child, his/her own independence, etc. But the Bible in 1 Peter 5:8 says:

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…”

It talks about the devil there, but it might as well be talking of our flesh. The flesh is always lying in wait for us, ready at any moment to step in and take control the minute we lose our vigilance. That is why we need to be very vigilant in our relations with our family members.

The church setting is meant to overflow with the love and selfless sacrifice of Christ. And it has to begin with the family. As one of my friends used to say, you cannot jump to No.2 before you are done with No.1. The family is the Number One place where we are required to deny ourselves, to take up our cross daily and to follow Christ.

[My family. The highest responsibility I have is both to my wife and children, to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” – Eph. 6:4]

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Loving Our Wives

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it Eph. 5:25

My favorite scripture when it came to me and my wife had always been Ephesians 5:22-24:

“22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

I especially loved the parts about the husband being the head of the wife and the exhortation to the wife to submit to her husband “in every thing”. Whenever an argument arose between me and my wife, I would bring up that scripture and I would insist that she submit to me in everything, just as the scriptures stated.

I would tell her, “If you do not submit to me, then you are not submitting to Christ.”

Little did I know that one day, God would show me just how much I needed to submit to my wife!

It is no secret that most conflicts in marriage do not occur because there is no “food on the table”; otherwise, Hollywood would top the list of most stable marriages. There is no lack of food there.

But, on the contrary, conflicts in marriage more often come about due to disagreement issues between the husband and wife. One or both parties find it impossible to concede to the other and the result is that they engage in an eternal state of agreeing to disagree. In many cases, this leads to divorce, with one – or both – parties claiming “irreconciliable differences”.

But the truth is that no difference between husband and wife is irreconciliable. The cold fact is that people are unable to take the spiritual path of denying self, taking up their cross and following Christ.

When you are far from the cross, arguments and disagreements are the order of the day in any marriage and, on my part, being a stranger to the death of the cross meant that I as the man always had to have the last word in the constant war of words that rose up between me and my wife.

One day, however, as I was studying the Word of God, I arrived at Ephesians 5:25, a scripture which I had always glossed over. This time, for the first time, I noticed the second part of that scripture:

“Husbands, love your wives, EVEN AS CHRIST ALSO LOVED THE CHURCH, AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR IT”.

I had never noticed that last part. At least, I had never stopped to think that I ought to love my wife as Christ loved His church. The idea appeared strangely new to me. So I decided to look up how Christ loved His church. And I found the answer right there. Christ loved His church by giving Himself for her.

Immediately, my justification mode kicked in. I began thinking of the many ways that I had given myself for my wife. I remembered the many good things I had done for her, especially when I had a good-paying job and I could provide for her. I recalled even how for a time, when we were both out of work, I had worked some of the lowliest jobs in order to provide for her.

But, on this particular day, the hand of the Lord was upon me, and I held off justifying myself, at least momentarily. I decided to study more.

I remembered Colossians had similar words, so I looked it up. I found it in Colossians 3:19:

“Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.”

There! That had to be it. I had always carried a hard and bitter heart towards my wife. I thought she was rebellious and argumentative, and I could not take it. Over the course of time I had developed a hard heart towards her.

For the first time, I saw the situation clearly. When the Lord showed me my heart, I realised that I did not love my wife, because I was bitter towards her. For the first time, I felt I had been running from something, and I stopped running and confronted it.

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and I felt I could make a go for it. I decided to work on the problem.

The first thing I did was, of course, was to stop justifying myself. I realized I did not love my wife, and that was it. The next step was to see how I could begin loving my wife in the new way that the Lord had shown me.

But I instantly realized this would be no easy undertaking. It was clear that if I was to begin loving my wife by “giving myself” to her, it meant I had to lower myself beneath her especially in the case of a disagreement. If a disagreement arose between us I had to allow her to win. The prospect was quite unnerving. But the Lord was there, speaking to me. There was no way I could ignore His voice. And so, by the grace of God, I began the long journey towards doing God’s will with regard to loving my wife.

Bending to my wife’s will is an ‘art’ that has taken me many years to perfect. Not that I am anywhere near perfect, of course. But the bitterness is gone. Now, many years later, however difficult the situation is and however hard we may disagree, the bitterness is no longer there. That is the Good News, as far as I am concerned.

I cherish with all my heart that valuable lesson… that of humbling myself to my wife by going down and letting her be the winner. That is how Christ gave Himself for His church.

[And now, for your listening pleasure…]