Paul gives practical adivce about relationships in this portion of his writing to the Ephesians. Some of his advice is simple on the surface but hard to carry out in reality. As I read this portion of Scripture I am reminded of Gary Chapman’s “Five Love Languages”, which I often encourage spouses and others struggling with relationship to read.
Both Paul and Gary Chapman are reminding us that there are some practical ways to learn and to really act toward others in love.
Spouses must learn to love one another in mutual respect and honoring one another mutually. Love is never about what I am getting out of the relationship, but what I can give. However, in practical ways love takes time to truly know what it takes to love the other. That is because in our self-centered sinful tendancy we often fall into the trap of loving others the way we think they should be loved, or trying to turn them into our image of love. Instead love should look for their need of love and support, and their way of love. We often learn this by watching how they show love, because we often love the way we understand love.
Beyond the spousal relationship Paul goes to the parental child relationship. He reminds us to honor our parents and to love our children. This again for many people is easier said than done, and that is because as parents we often put onto our children images of what we think they should be, or expectations based on our ideas instead of based on who God has created them to be. Some of us have grown up with poor exectations and broken relationships with parents, and now we are on the otherside of life and it is making honoring and respecting our parents very difficult. Paul’s guidance to many seems so simple, yet it hits home. Show undconditional love to your kids, and love them individually. “Don’t exasperate”, which could cover a lot of false expectations of parents, or extreme presures that some parents put on their kids.
Children are both a gift and responsibility for us. God gives them to us to love and to help them become the best they can be as God has created them to be. There is the real problem for many of us. We have trouble realizing that it is who God wants them to be and not who I want them to be. This takes a great deal of paitentce and time to know them and respond to them well. It also takes a great deal of time to be discipled by Christ through the Holy Spirit, so that we may lead them to know God and who they should be in Him.
Some of us are on the other end of the spectrum. We are now faced with care of aging parents. We are faced with loving and honoring their wishes, while meeting their needs. Again love and paitence is going to be needed to do the right thing. Only Christ’s love will help us to do this the best way for them in in respect to them.
Why not take some time to ask God to show you where you can grow in your relationships today. Maybe it’s with your spouse. Maybe it’s with your kids. Maybe your dealing with aging parents and needs some real guidance in how to love and respect your parents for who they are. May God help you to love one another in your family in all ways.