“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
What makes for a truly happy home and a functional family? There are many things that can contribute to this, but one thing stands above all the rest–living according to the gospel of Christ. This means that the gospel is more than something we heard at church last Sunday. It is the basis for our interaction with each other.
Look around your home and what do you see? Sinners–sinners everywhere! Don’t forget, that includes the person in the mirror. How can so many sinners possibly coexist within the same walls? In some families there are those who try to coexist by keeping their frustrations inside, allowing anger, bitterness, and resentment to build up year after year. There are also those who attempt to deal with such frustrations by controlling those around them. They may do this by shouting, threatening, or the silent treatment. Others use things like guilt, fear, and avoidance. If someone hurts or disappoints them, they may respond by inflicting pain in return.
What are some other things that people try to do in order to coexist with those who share the home? Denial? Running away? Callousing the heart? How can you effectively cope with living in such close proximity to sinners, including the spouse lying next to you or the brother in the bunk above you?
The answer is the gospel. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners from eternal suffering. On the cross Jesus paid the debt for all sins. He also fulfilled the Law for us. Thus, sins have been forgiven and Jesus’ righteousness covers those who trust in Him. They will rise to be with Him in Paradise because He rose from the dead.
We love those gospel words. But what do they have to do with the way we interact with our family?? Everything!
We are given a new perspective by these words. That person with whom I share the toothpaste is not just my spouse. That pesky kid who knocks on my door and runs away laughing is not just my little sister. These people have been redeemed from their sins by the blood of Christ just as I have. They also have weaknesses, say things they shouldn’t say, neglect to do things they ought to do, and get tired and cranky just as I do. Rather than trying to excuse our behavior or telling others that they shouldn’t let it bother them, it is best to freely admit our failings.
Some of the sweetest words sincerely spoken are: “I am sorry.” This is short for “I regret that my behavior hurt and disappointed you. I am dismayed when I do that. I want to relieve the sadness I caused you.” It is also good to spell out exactly what one is sorry about rather than leaving it generic. This helps to demonstrate sincerity.
Even sweeter are the words: “I forgive you!” So much peace and joy is shared when family members care enough to stop and have such a dialogue. They are connecting on an emotional and spiritual level.
Isn’t this a direct application of the gospel and precisely what the Lord says He wants us to do? (John 13:35; 20:23) When we Christians say, “I am sorry” and “I forgive you,” we are truly glorifying the name of our Savior.
The most excellent expression of kindness and being tenderhearted is forgiveness. What a joy it is to hear youngsters end a squabble all by themselves by saying they are sorry and by forgiving each other!
Where are they going to learn to do that? At church? Perhaps. It is more likely, however, that they will learn this from observing Mom and Dad. That is something worthwhile for parents to think about. Confessing and forgiving sins does wonders for marriages too.
–Pastor Delwyn Maas