There are times when you have to do hard things to those whom you love. You do these things because it’s the best way to honor them. Honoring others does not mean letting them run all over you.
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My son got a huge splinter stuck in his big toe. I tried to get it out. I failed. It was too deep. I texted my small group compadre, who happens to be a doctor. I asked him if he would bring some of his cutting equipment to group tomorrow night. My son said he would be okay and could wait until then. Lucia and I went on a date.
We were no more than 10 minutes down the road when my friend called and said he was standing on my front porch, but no one would come to the door. We have awesome kid-sitters! We called our sitter to let her know that it was okay to let him into the house.
When we got home later in the evening, we did our usual debrief. The sitter said she got a bit woozy when my friend sliced my son’s toe to get the splinter out.
But she knew there was no other way. She said my son screamed at the top of his lungs. I hurt for him when I heard this, and even as I write these words, it hurts. I love my son.
Honoring Is Not Always Comfortable
My friend not only honored my son, but he honored me. There was no way to get that splinter out of his toe without slicing into it. And it would not serve my son to allow him to continue in the state that he was in because it could lead to an infection.
My friend went above and beyond the “call of duty.” Rather than waiting until the next day, he came immediately. He cares for me, and he loves my son. And Haydn understood that our friend loves him. He also knew that there was no other way to get the splinter out of his big toe.
The next day he grabbed his big toe and said, “Hey dad, look at this. It’s gone, and it does not hurt anymore.” As he was pulling on his big toe he was standing like a crane at the beach; he held it up to me so I could see his “war wound.” He was a happy kid.
Who Is Your Mother?
When the disciples told Jesus that His mother and His brother were standing on the outside and could not get into the home, Christ made this very odd statement:
Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” – Luke 8:19-21
I have counseled many adult Christian children who have a hard time putting into practice the words of Jesus. They still succumb to the temptation of their manipulative parents and in-laws, who take advantage of their “past authority over them.” The result is that the parents cloud the thinking of the adult children.
Typically, these independent children interpret the commandment to “honor your father and your mother” as doing whatever their fathers, mothers, and in-laws ask of them. There are at least two objections to this kind of “blank check” thinking:
One – No parent has absolute authority over a child, regardless of the child’s age. Because of sin, it’s possible to “over-rule” those who are under your authority. All people are imperfect, which implies that there is potential for mistakes, poor judgments, or sinful requests from authority figures.
Two – If an adult child is married, their primary priority is to their spouse, not their parents or in-laws. Married children have a brand new autonomous, domestic, empire that takes precedence over the former autonomous, domestic, empire from which they came.
Broadcasting God’s Fame
The vital question that this new family has to answer is, “How can I best make God’s name great through my new, reprioritized relationship with my spouse, regardless how it impacts my immediate family, in-laws, Christian friends, or pagan relationships?”
Jesus set the standard by implying that being a “blood relative” does not give you the “gold card” to where you can hold authoritative sway over any individual. For example, if your relatives were not Christians, they would take a backseat to your Christian relationships. The most special privileges belong to those who are part of the eternal family, not a temporal, earthly family.
Secondly, there are times when the best way you can honor someone is by disappointing them. For example, my friend’s “expression of honor” to my son meant short-term, personal disappointment and pain for him.
The question you have to work through is how you can make God’s name remarkable in your relationships? Not, how can you make sure this person will always like you? One of my professors captured this idea when he said, “You can like me now and hate me later, or you can hate me now and love me later.”
His meaning is that there will be times in your relationships when you will have to say or do hard things to people, especially those who are close to you. He added that in those moments you might be tempted to not say the hard stuff because of the potential of losing that friendship. Ironically, if you lose the friendship, you never had it.
He appealed to us to make sure our primary approval must come from God, rather than people. If you are living in this gospel truth, you will be in the best possible place to serve others, even if helping them means disappointing them.
Though my son would not say it this way, he could have said, “I didn’t like that man cutting into my foot on Saturday, but I like him a lot now.”
Call to Action
- What hinders you from speaking the truth in love to those whom you think what you have to say will hurt them?
- If you are a parent, relative, in-law or other authority, are you still trying to control adult family members or their spouses? If you are, why are you doing this to them?
- Do you consider the family of God as more important than blood kin? If not, why not?
Also published on Medium.