How do you handle the relatives who speak negatively about your relationship with your sweetheart, or who make demands that are unfair and hurtful, or who repeatedly cause trouble and stress? How do you handle it as a couple?
Scripture tells us to handle such people deviously: 2 Samuel 22:27 says that to those who are perverse (sinful) God is devious; Jesus says in Matthew 10:16 that we should be as devious (shrewd or cunning) as snakes while remaining as innocent (sinless) as doves when we are in the midst of wolves, and in Luke 16:8, Jesus praises a devious (dishonest) steward.
Isn’t it unholy to be devious? Clearly it is, as is stated in many other scriptures. However, just as there is righteous anger and sinful anger, so too is there righteous deviousness and sinful deviousness. The word “devious” means to deviate or depart from normal methods.
In imitation of how God handles sinners, first we are to extend to problematic relatives our love, patience and opportunities for change. And when we don’t feel loving, we’ve run out of patience, and we don’t know what opportunities to offer, we can ask Jesus to fill us with his supernatural love, patience and ideas. If we’re willing to give it, Jesus gives it to us to share.
And then, when holy methods of dealing with the relatives fail to make improvements, in imitation of God we are to get devious. Circumvent the problem. Depart from the problem-solving methods that failed. For example: If a bad-mouthing mother-in-law repeatedly calls on the phone to speak unkindly about your sweetheart despite your best efforts to stop this behavior, don’t answer. Let the call go to voice mail. Return the call only if there is something else to talk about. And if she asks, “Why didn’t you answer when I called?”, reply, “I wasn’t there.” Where is “there”? It is not sinful deceit to let her assume that you were not near the phone when you actually meant you were not there in her mental state of negativity.
In protective love for your beloved, be as cunning as a snake, slithering around the problematic relatives who won’t quit harming your relationship. And at the same time, be as innocent as a dove, avoiding sin by caring about and praying for them, forgiving them, and always ready for the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts to invite them to conversion and repentance.
- Which of my relatives is hurting my beloved or our relationship? How have I handled this?
- Which of my beloved’s relatives have hurt me? Have I made it clear to my sweetheart how I feel about it?
Strengthen your relationship:
Name the relatives who are not good for your relationship. Together, pray for their healing and their need for Jesus. Ask God to forgive them and to help you to forgive them. And pray for each other, asking for healing and strength, the courage to stand up against the harmful behavior of relatives, and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit for ideas on how to deviate from failed methods for change.
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© 2016 by Terry Modica of Good News Ministries