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I felt I would never get along with my in-laws.
We had different backgrounds, different values, different ways of expressing ourselves, and entirely different perspectives on life.
After years of nursing this typical daughter-in-law opinion, I was convicted by one of God’s principles. You know the one. It’s found in the Fifth Commandment and repeated in Ephesians 6:2-3: “Honor your father and mother.”
Obeying this command is not contingent on the character of our parents but on our character and trust in God’s principles. And as much as we’d like to ignore it, once we’re married our in-laws are part of our Fifth Commandment responsibility.
Honoring parents has grown more difficult, I believe, because it contradicts the prevalent attitudes of our culture and sometimes defies our human logic. But it’s accompanied by an incredible promise for our well-being. If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth” (Eph. 6:2-3 NLT).
As Christians, we have some significant Biblical role models for honoring those in God-given positions:
- King David had a father-in-law from the dark side but he refused to take advantage of King Saul or show him disrespect even when those around him encouraged him to do so (1 Samuel 24; 1 Samuel 26).
- Ruth had an insensitive, self-focused mother-in-law, but Ruth focused on God and was greatly blessed for it. These examples show us how completely we can trust God’s principles and promises.
So let’s look at eight ways we consciously or unconsciously undermine our relationship with our in-laws:
- Judging them hypocritically–not judging our own actions and attitudes in the same way we judge our in-laws’ (Mat.7:1-5). Christians are often more self-righteous about their in-laws than unbelievers.
- Favoring our parents and treating our in-laws like “second-hand” parents and grandparents (Mat.7:12).
- Not encouraging our spouses to resolve conflicts and improve their relationship with their parents (Eph. 6:2-3).
- Being petty and sensitive (1 Peter 4:8).
- Treating in-laws poorly when they treat us poorly (Rom. 12:17,21).
- Thinking we are responding to our in-law’s disinterest or disrespect, when they are actually responding to ours (Phil. 2:3-4).
- Becoming bitter (Heb. 12:15).
- Talking and thinking about in-laws in negative terms (Eph. 4:29; Phil. 4:8).
It’s always good to ask if we would like our married children to treat us in the same way we are treating our in-laws. It very likely will happen.
We must guard against selfish advice from our peers and realize our obedience to the Fifth command reflects our respect for God.
I believe most in-law problems would dissolve if couples showed their in-laws as much respect and interest as they show their friends. Yet God commands us to honor parents more highly than friends.
When I started applying the principles of Ephesians 6:2-3 to my in-law relationship, it was incredibly hard. I was skeptical, and so were my mother and father-in-law. Gradually, however, God showed me how much my judgmental, self-righteous attitudes had damaged the relationship.
Now I not only love and respect my in-laws, I enjoy them. They still have their quirks, but now I realize I also have mine.
I challenge you to test God’s “command with a promise.” I know God will bless you.
For more encouragement to honor your inlaws: Bless Your Marrige, Love Your Mother-in-law and Underestimated Command.