"Familiarity breeds contempt."
"You always hurt the ones you love."
The timeliness of these old adages speaks volumes. It seems we reserve our unkindest words and do our most thoughtless deeds to those who mean the most to us. And because those close to us care more about what we say and think, those words and actions hurt more deeply. It's a double-whammy. Because the stakes are so high in the family, we must ensure that our communications not only stay away from the negative, but that they lead everyone to the positive. Here are ten passages of Scripture that can be very helpful in transforming our family communications.
- Mining for Good—Philippians 4:8
"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." During the Gold Rush of the mid 19th century, prospectors would scoop up pan after pan of rocks and carefully wash away the useless lumps in hopes of finding just one gold nugget. We need to be prospectors of the good in other family members.
- Rot Not—Ephesians 4:29
"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." Unwholesome, in the original Greek, can just as legitimately be translated "rotten." The contrast in this verse makes it clear that our words fall into two categories: "Edifying" and "Other." If our words are not lifting our family members up, we don't need to be wasting our breath.
- Takes One to Know One—John 13:34
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." When we're considering how we ought to respond to an unkind word from a spouse or other family member, we need think no further that what Christ has done for us. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
- The "I Insist" Principle—Philippians 2:3-4
"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." I come from "The Hospitality State" (Mississippi) where it's not unusual to have two drivers stopped at an intersection, sometimes for 10-15 seconds, each politely signaling to the other to go first. Sure, that may be a bit of overkill, but in this age of selfish individualism, maybe a pendulum swing in the opposite direction would be helpful … and closer to Scripture.
- Go Deep Into Debt—Romans 13:8
"Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law." Scripture warns against being in financial debt to anyone. But here, Paul makes the point that there is an acceptable—even desirable—kind of debt. And because God, who is the author of love, offers an endless reserve of the commodity, the more debt we carry the better it is for everyone.
- It's the Law—John 13:34
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." All the laws of the Old Testament, Jesus proclaimed, hinged on loving God and others. The burdensome, unattainable "to do lists" created by the Pharisees are preempted by one single command, which Jesus deemed important enough to repeat twice. And rather than being burdensome, it is incredibly freeing to both the giver and receiver.
- The Checklist of Love—1 Corinthians 13:4-7
"Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." Few passages of Scripture are as widely accepted and as lightly applied as this one. I've found it to be one of the most helpful tools for revealing my own unloving attitudes in times of turmoil. People generally don't appreciate having it pointed out when they're wrong, but because this passage is so well-loved, it tends to disarm even the most stubborn combatant.
- Egg 'Em On—Hebrews 10:24
"And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds." How many quibbles turn into full-blown disputes because one person has "stimulated" (the word is "provoked" in some translations) the other to anger. Instead of being students of one another's hot buttons, we need to consider what can nudge each other back into the right direction.
- Share the Load—Galatians 6:2
"Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ." In this age of radical individualism, a person's responsibility goes no further than the tip of his nose. But the Apostle Paul reminds us that when we notice someone limping down the highway of life with an oversized load, it is our responsibility as Christians to claim some of that load as our own.
- Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me—Ephesians 4:26-27
"Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity." Few marriages are destroyed as the result of a single action. The vast majority collapse under the combined weight of unconfessed sin and bitterness held in reserve. God's way of you preventing that kind of stockpiling is with a self-imposed Sunset Clause. Knowing that you have to deal with an issue not only defuses the dissension, but it improves communication, which makes the marriage (or other family relationship) stronger.
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