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The family unit is one of the best ideas God ever had. How clever of Him to provide a social construct within which the relational, emotional, economic, physical, and spiritual needs of all members could be met and to illustrate, at the same time, both the holy union of Christ and the Church through the metaphor of marriage and the complexities of mutual belonging inherent to Christian brotherhood through the practical experience of parent-child and sibling relationships.

I know He doesn’t need me to say it, but I want to: Good job, God!

I happen to love the little family that He gave me. In fact, I probably love them too much sometimes.

Let me explain.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, my ultimate purpose must match His at all times. That purpose is to bring God glory (John 17:4), or advance the fame of His perfection. I do this only when I assume the appropriate posture before God, submitting to Him in every detail and interacting with others according to His will for me and for them as I read and understand it in His Word, thereby giving Him freedom to work in and through me and in and through others as only He has the ability and right to do.

God’s Word tells me to love others as He loved me, extending grace, mercy, and forgiveness at my own expense, and it is right and good to love my family in this way; however, it is wrong for me to extend grace, mercy, and forgiveness to my family at the expense of others, pulling from their pockets, so to speak. To do so is to sin. It is to steal that which is rightfully theirs to give or withhold, show favoritism toward my family, and assume authority that is not mine. It is to get up off my knees before God, turn, and bow before something else.

It’s a slippery slope, this muddy slant from good and appropriate affection to idol worship, and I’m often half-way down before I even realize I’ve lost my footing. Tell-tale thoughts like these are usually my first clue:

Why does he always forgive so quickly? He ought to let them sweat it out for a while. Maybe then they’ll think twice before hurting him again.

Why should she always be the one to reach out to others and lose her spot in the group? Let someone else do it.

He should make sure they know what he’s done. He deserves more recognition.

She should embarrass them the way they embarrassed her and let them feel awkward for a change.

His behavior was inappropriate, but understandable. If so-and-so gets by with it, why shouldn’t he?

The problem with thoughts like these are that they excuse my family from God-given responsibility, something I’ve no right to do in thought or in practice.

Are you guilty?

When God’s commands, where your family is concerned, seem to apply only to other people, that’s a pretty good indicator that your discernment is clouded and you have lifted your loved ones above their appropriate station in your heart.

Ironically, when you do so, you not only rob yourself of the opportunity to participate in God’s perfect plan for their lives, as you aren’t likely to give sound advice in that state of mind, but may also rob them of the very blessings you so faithfully petition God for on their behalf, peace, joy, fulfillment, a sense of driving purpose, success, intimacy with Christ, the chance to know God as the good Father He is, spiritual maturity, etc. How tragic!

Want to love your family well? It’s simple, if not always easy. Just don’t get in the way!

Keep God first and foremost both in your heart and in your interaction with others, serving, encouraging, and correcting as the Holy Spirit urges according to the truth of God’s Word, even when you really don’t want to. Work to maintain an eternal, rather than temporary, focus and lay your little family at the Father’s feet daily—momentarily, if necessary—in prayer, trusting Him to love them as only He can and to work all things, even the hard things, together for their good and His much-deserved glory (Rom 8:28).

Make God the Lord of your nest; He will take care of the rest!