Making In-Laws not Outlaws

Maybe you have heard the joke, “What is the difference between In-laws and Outlaws?” The punch line is outlaws are wanted! And everyone laughs because it is something that most couples have experienced. I would venture to suggest that in your family this is at least one challenging extended family relationship that you wish was better. The Bible offers some very practical instruction that help us to work toward making these relationships a blessing.

Two Sunday’s ago we launched our new fall series, “Endangered Relationships.” The focus of this series is to look at how to improve or rescue the extended family relationships in our lives. This past week my focus was on the relationship between parents and adult children and more specifically married adult children. It has been a burden over the years to know of situations where both the parents and the adult children are burdened by the lack of relationship with the other. Anyone in this situation knows the challenge of keeping these relationships healthy. It is not easy and it is an opportunity for growth for the parents and for the adult children. There is also a great need for Biblical mercy and forgiveness to remove the obstacles of past offenses and allow the relationship to more forward. This past Sunday I spoke to both sides as I spoke to the Parents then the Adult Children. If you are interested in listening to the full message, you can find it here.

Let me begin with the parents who should be the more mature party in this discussion. The most important thing is the need to “Respect Your Children as Adults.” Speaking from experience I can tell you that this is difficult to do. Just like we must let our children go when we teach them to ride a bicycle, take there first solo drive in a car,drop them off for college, we must also “let go” when they become adults and especially when they get married. It seems that most problems do not surface until our child says, “I do.” I believe that a well known Bible verse provides the insight that we need, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) I need you to take a moment and read that verse again, slowly. It says that when your child is married a new family is created. The question you need to ask and answer is what does it mean to “leave father and mother.” It means your child is no longer under your authority. They are now under God’s authority, as a new family is established in God’s sight. The biggest blunder is when the parents attempt to rule over their children. It is challenging for parents to let go, but God makes it clear that your child’s allegiance must be to their spouse and the new family that is established. We are also reminded that the two become one. This is why parents that vilify the new spouse only do greater damage to the relationship with this new family. Let me direct you to the sermon when I offer 10 practical insights for parents to build their relationship with their adult children and spouses.

Just as adult children have experienced that pain usually directed at their spouse. The parents also know the pain of hurts caused by the actions or words of their children. The Bible calls adult children to respect their parents. This transition is also awkward for young adults attempting to figure out how to balance their responsibility to their new family and their parents. God speaks to the importance of the parent and child relationship in the sixth commandment when God says, “Honor your father and your mother.” (Exodus 20:12a) Now the challenge for adult children is what does it mean to “honor” your parents? This word carries several aspects of responsibility, but the one pertinent to our focus is that of respect. It means to respect your parents and not dishonor them. This means while the children are now on their own there is still a tie and an allegiance to their families. And this is where wisdom, grace, mercy and forgiveness come into play as the parents and adult children figure out how to make this new relationship work.

The most important things in our lives are our relationships. Let me encourage you to think through these passages and check out the message and then act to rescue the endangered relationship between parents and adult children.

-Pastor Joe Parkinson

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