November 24, 2008
Your mother-in-law is not your enemy! Our parents and parents-in-law are a part of our lives. But whether we’re newlyweds or an ‘old married couple,’ how should we relate to in-laws? Actually, we need one another. Mutual freedom and mutual respect should be the guiding principle for parents and their married children. What guidelines does the Bible give for in-law relationships? Two principles must be kept in balance: leaving parents and honoring parents.
In Genesis chapter 2 we read, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Marriage involves a change of allegiance. Before marriage, our allegiance is to our parents, but after marriage it is to our spouse. We must cut the ‘apron strings.’
Don’t disregard your father-in-law’s wisdom. God often speaks through fathers-in-law and mothers-in-law. They are older and may have more wisdom than we. The mature husband and wife will consider carefully the advice of parents and in-laws. At the same time, you are not to put the advice of parents above the desires of your spouse. It’s the biblical concept of “leaving parents” and “cleaving to your spouse” that allows you to establish a new family unit under God.
How do you honor your parents after you are married, without allowing them to control you? As long as they live it is right to honor them. Sometimes we do not respect the lifestyle of our parents or in-laws. But we must respect their position. In the providence of God, they gave us life. For that we respect them. Honor does not mean that you must do everything your parent’s request. Honor is seeking to do what is best for them.
Honoring parents can get sticky because there are two sets of them. The wife’s mother wants them home for Christmas Eve. The husband’s mother wants them home for Christmas dinner. The principle is equality. In Romans 2:11 the Bible says, “God does not show favoritism.” We must seek to treat both sets of in-laws with equality. This may mean Christmas here this year and Christmas there next year. The purpose is to honor and show respect for them equally. Having done so, you have followed the biblical injunction: Honor your father and your mother.
Have you struggled to honor your in-laws? If so, how? How have you and your spouse dealt with these struggles?