A common issue among Christians is defining the proper balance between their parents’ expectations and opinions and their spouse’s expectations and opinions. Too often, Christians carry into their marriage the idea that they must continue to obey their parents long after they have reached adulthood because Scripture tells them to honor their parents. However, there is a huge difference between obeying parents and honoring parents although both are right depending on the maturity of the individual. The desire to honor parents is right but sometimes contrasts with their spouse’s opinion. This produces tension frequently resulting in an argument or worse in unspoken frustration. The unresolved issue can then potentially give seed to resentment which can in turn devastate a marriage.
It does not have to be this way. By understanding the meaning and application of the Scripture for obeying your parents, honoring your parents and cleaving to your spouse, many Christian marriages can become stronger rather than weaker. God’s perfect design for how to treat each other in our relationships improves those relationships while increasing our desire to learn more about Him. Applying the truths behind these concepts can also improve your relationship at the most fundamental level.
Obeying your parents. Ephesians 6:1 says, “Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do.” Notice the opening of the verse; it is addressed to children, not adults. Children are to obey their parents. To obey means to submit to someone in a position of authority. Repeatedly we are told to obey God’s commandments but nowhere in Scripture are we told as adults to obey our parents. Yet many couples do this well after marriage concerning themselves with the expectations and opinions of their parents over their spouse. This becomes apparent when a spouse goes to their parents with problems (usually money) before ever discussing it with their spouse. It is worsened when the spouse follows the direction of the parents, obeying them as if they were still a child, and then either never informs their spouse of the discussion or does so after the fact. This is destructive to a marriage and not consistent with God’s expectations of us.
Honoring your parents. Ephesians 6:2-3 then goes on to say, “’Honor your father and mother.’ This is the first commandment with a promise. If you honor your father and mother, ‘things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.’” To honor means to esteem with high regard. Think for a moment of the people in life with the title of “Honorable”. They are judges, diplomats, elected officials, and others who have already earned respect and whose opinion is considered valuable. This is how parents should be treated once maturity is reached, as people for whom their opinion is valuable. As in the example above, if a spouse sought the opinion of their parents without following the direction until consensus was reached with their spouse, this would be honoring. But there is still an even better way.
Cleaving to your spouse. Genesis 2:24 says, “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” Cleaving to your spouse means to unite or to adhere to closely. It is a bond that should not be broken even by a person’s father or mother. This bond defines marriage in the Christian church and should not be taken lightly. Ecclesiastes 4:9 states, “Two are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.” This is God’s design for marriage for two to be united as one so they can support and help each other in life. Marriage is meant to help spouses through life, not tear each other apart. Looking one more time at the above example and it becomes apparent that the right view-point is for both spouses in a marriage to agree to seek the opinion of their parents first. Then to listen to their parent’s opinions with respect and finally to decide together (without the parents) if the opinion is one they will follow.
By understanding God’s principles and how to apply them to everyday living, marriages can be strengthened. God knows that relationships with parents and spouses are important which is why it is clearly addressed in His word and why He established proper balances for living well.
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