Unity in the home is something we all long for, but even among Christians, it is not easy to obtain!
This week we celebrated Valentines Day, and so I did some research into what this day is all about. The original Valentine was a Roman priest who defied an edict from Emperor Claudius II. The Emperor felt marriage was stopping his recruitment drive for his army, so he banned marriage, and Valentine continued to marry couples in secret.
When exposed he was captured, beaten and imprisoned, and while awaiting execution, he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter, to whom he wrote many love notes. On February 14, 270AD He was executed, having signed off his last note, Your Valentine. He gave his life for love and his belief in Christ, but he never wrote, “Roses are red, violets are blue.”
So today I had something else lined up to speak on, but I have felt the Lord strongly working on me to change the topic and speak not about Romantic love but about unity in the family, especially between husband and wife.
Please understand, I’m not trying to make you feel uncomfortable, but I sense I need to address the elephant in the room. We don’t talk about this often, and no one really knows what is happening behind closed doors at your house, but this is something we must not ignore. Probably the easiest way for the devil to destroy Ignite Christian Church and negate any effect we can have on the world for Christ is to destroy our families. And you know what it’s like… you might have had a fight last night, you might have thrown plates, said things you didn’t mean or screamed at the kids, but on Sunday we all paint on happy faces and turn up to Church. Don’t look so pious, we have all done it sometime, right?
UNITY IN THE HOME AND THE ATTACK ON FAMILIES
I believe that today, more than ever before we are seeing an attack on unity in the home and families. Values long held across all of society by all peoples in all cultures have been sacrificed to appease a tiny minority.
Maybe the same-sex marriage laws don’t affect you directly, maybe the so-called safer schools directives don’t concern you directly, but these and many other forces from parliament to divorce courts to songs to movies to Mardi Gras have chipped away at the family. Even in church our people are affected, our families are under threat like never before, and the divorce rate among Christians is as high as that among the world!
The Lord has been showing me how unbelievably disruptive lack of unity in the home can be, within the church and within your family…
Psalms 133:1,3 (ESV Strong’s)
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.
I believe that God doesn’t just suggest unity because it’s a good idea, or so you can get some peace and quiet. God crowns unity among people with the command of His blessing, life forevermore. If you want blessing in our church, be in unity. If you want blessing in your home and marriage, be in unity! Unity breeds blessing, just as disunity destroys it!
Many of you have lived through relationship disunity in the past. Many have experienced divorce or separation, all of us have had a broken heart or two. Many are living without unity in the home right now, sometimes openly and sometimes behind closed doors. Unity will command God’s blessing, but disunity will kill a church, a business, a football team, a band, a club and especially a family.
Satan loves attacking families because the results are high for him. He can take a small issue in your home, like putting out the garbage, what to buy or not buy, squeezing the toothpaste in the wrong spot or controlling the TV remote, and turn it into a mountain of misery for all concerned.
At Ignite we have tremendous unity, from the leadership right down. But this week the Lord spoke to me and said, hidden away below the surface there is disunity, not just between church members but within many families on a scale that would shock us if we actually knew.
Behind the Valentine Day façade, the flowers and chocolates, behind the happy family approach to Church I know that some of us here are hurting like crazy, and there is conflict bubbling away in our marriages and homes. Husband against wife, wife against husband, mother against daughter, father against son, brother against sister.
I know you come to church to feel better, not for the pastor to make you feel uncomfortable or horrible. For some of us, myself included, this is going to hurt a little bit, but the end result will be greater unity and a blessings that are off the charts! I cannot begin to solve every individual marriage problem or relationship difficulty in one sermon. But if the Lord has challenged me to speak on this, something we usually hush up when we come to church, then I want to be obedient and speak about unity in the home.
Let me confess to you that I am not a perfect husband. I don’t give Fiona nearly enough love, barely enough money and never enough time. I make decisions without her, I’m selfish, way too focussed and isolate myself at times. But I love her and believe that, as I yield to the Lord and let Him shape my life, we will see unity and great blessing in our home.
WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT
Let’s start by saying this…we are all different. Men are different to women, kids are different to parents. We think differently, we speak differently and we act differently.
When a man speaks he is direct… I speak, you listen, you speak, I listen. But a woman can be speaking and hear every other conversation in the room!
Men have this area of the brain called autopilot, and while they are looking at you speaking and appear to be listening, they are really thinking about the football score. Women can turn on the waterworks and cry, but men tend to stonewall, simmering in silence.
Men live in the now, often disregarding the consequences. Women live in multiple time zones, and everything you’ve every done in your relationship is carefully catalogued to be recalled when it is needed to win an argument.
What about kids? I mean, what’s the difference between a 2 year old and a terrorist? You can reason with a terrorist. I heard an eminent psychologist this week explain that there is actually very little difference between the behaviour of the average teenager and a psychopath. They sited lack of empathy for others, wanting their own way and defiance, in fact pretty much all the character traits of psychopaths bar killing small animals.
STEPS TO DIVIDE A HOUSE
Jesus said this…
Mark 3:24-25 (ESV Strong’s)
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
So how does a house, any house such as a church or your home, become divided? Usually it starts with a difference of opinion, maybe on finances, maybe about disciplining kids, but it then escalates beyond proportion and beyond our control. Here are some of the steps to dividing your house, and Jesus says it will not stand…
1. DIFFERENCE OF OPINION
Disunity starts with a difference of opinion. And let’s face it, we all disagree at some time. My wife often disagrees with me, and it upsets me that she can be wrong so often!
One of the great plots of the evil one right now is to allow everybody to think that their opinion is actually important! Look at Facebook. Never before has so much ranting been done so excessively by so many with so little point. Years ago we felt like the little guys had no voice, but today it’s like every idiot with a smartphone can voice the most ridiculous ideas, anytime, anywhere. Opinions are like noses… everyone has one, and most of them smell!
So division, whether in church, business or your family, starts with a difference of opinion. It is not wrong to disagree or have an opposing opinion to your spouse, your child, friend or the pastor. It’s how we express this difference of opinion that makes all the difference!
Proverbs 18:2 (ESV Strong’s)
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
2. WANTING TO BE RIGHT
Once during an argument my wife said, “When we argue, you always think you’re right…” I replied that that was true, because if I thought I was wrong I wouldn’t take up a contrary position.
We all want to be right, all the time. We all think we are right, most of the time.
3. CHOOSING BEING RIGHT OVER LOVE
While we want to be right, it should be more important that we love one another.
John 13:34 (ESV Strong’s)
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
Whenever there is any conflict in the home, and it is inevitable there will be some, unless you live by yourself, and even then you might fight with yourself. When there is conflict or a difference of opinion, you face a choice… do you fight for what you believe is right, or do you show love and grace towards the other party.
Now you can love someone and disagree with them, so I am not asking you to become a doormat for love. However, as I often say in the church, you can disagree as long as you agree to disagree agreeably.
Disunity occurs when we choose that we want to be right more than we want to be reconciled. When Paul writes about lawsuits between believers he says this…
1 Corinthians 6:7 (ESV Strong’s)
To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?
In your home, in your marriage, in your relationships with kids and parents, why take offence? I’m not saying you should become a doormat, but many times we love being right more than we love the other party. I can believe I am right, but still treat you with respect and love if I choose to do so.
However, what often happens is that one party stands their ground and insists on being right while the other capitulates and gives in every time. If both of you love each other more than the argument unity is achievable.
4. REACTING RATHER THAN RESPONDING
So many of us react rather than respond, which can kill unity in the home. When we don’t like things, when we have a disagreement, when we feel hurt or overlooked or persecuted, we often tend to have a knee-jerk reaction (which could be shortened to a jerk reaction, as in being a jerk!)
The knee-jerk response is a measurement by doctors of our traction time. It involves a nervous reflex which does not involve the brain, so you make this reaction without conscious thought.
As a general rule, when you feel offended, the first reaction is usually neither productive nor the one you want. If, every time you faced conflict, you came apart for half an hour before responding, you would find that both sides will tend to make a more rational, more controlled and more balanced approach.
If you respond rather react you will preserve unity far better than if you explode as soon as you’re offended or not happy. Works with the kids, the wife, the dog, the boss and the pastor!
Proverbs 19:11 (ESV Strong’s)
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offence.
5. HOLDING ON TO THE OFFENCE
And here is the clincher for ruining unity in the home. If you want to ruin your family, ruin your church or anything else, never let go of offence. Jesus instructs us…
Luke 17:3-4 (ESV Strong’s)
Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
Why should you forgive them so many times? Does Jesus care if you’re right? I mean, I some men say, married a woman I knew that for me was Miss right, I just didn’t realise her first name was always!
Jesus commands you to forgive the other’s offence because if you don’t do this, it hurts you far more than it hurts them! It’s like you drinking poison hoping the other guy dies.
I have branches of my extended family who haven’t spoken to each other for years. I know of Christians who have been to church every week with people that they haven’t spoken to for years. Holding onto offence never ends well. If you have long term issues with your spouse or kids, pray, swallow your need to be right no matter what and forgive them. Forgiveness creates unity in the home.
Paul’s advice is this…
Ephesians 4:26-27 (ESV Strong’s)
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
You may not be able to settle every argument on the day, although it is a good things to aim at, but what Paul says is don’t hold onto it. The longer you remain angry, the more damage you will do, to your relationship and also to yourself. You are better off giving it to the Lord and letting Him sort it than hanging on, feeling self justified but miserable and alienated.
6. GOING COLD
If you choose to hold onto offence long enough, something within you and your relationship can die, along with unity in the home.
Jesus said to the church at Ephesus
Revelation 2:4-5 (ESV Strong’s)
But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.
The church at Ephesus were doing all the right things, looked pious and godly on the surface, but had lost that first love, that sense of wonder that we all have when we fall in love.
So, husbands and wives, do not forsake your first love. When you have conflict or disharmony, it is tempting to focus on the disharmony, but most often the current issue is never the real issue. We tend to sweep it up and shovel it under the bed, then gloss it over and come to church. But I would urge you to look back and regain your first love. I am not talking about gooey feelings here, but the commitment you once had.
When you first stood before the altar and said your wedding vows, remember that. When you first held that little baby in your arms, the same one who has grown up and you’re now fighting with, remember that first love.
Going cold towards the other person, giving them the cold shoulder or the silent treatment does not solve the problem. You need honest, open and frank discussion, without threats, screaming or cursing. If you have a conflict with your kids, sit them down and talk about it. If it’s between spouses, find a time to sit with a coffee and share openly and honestly.
YOU’RE NOT ALONE!
The fact is, if you are struggling in your marriage or family relationships you are not the only ones. This is happening right across society and I believe especially in the church. The enemy is attacking. The best way to destroy the ministry of a church is to destroy the families within it. You may not feel that your family is being destroyed, but many including myself are starting to feel the pressure against unity in the home.
Fiona and I are going away camping this week because, when we are here, we are so busy we often get zero time together. Two workaholics need to be careful, and take steps to improve their relationship! So what practical steps can you take if you feel the enemy is attacking your family?
1. PRAY FOR PROTECTION AND UNITY IN THE HOME
Psalms 57:1 (ESV Strong’s)
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.
Your Heavenly Father longs to protect you. As we sang, He longs to hide you in the shadow of His wings. The first thing you should do is pray for the blood of Jesus to cover your family, and then the enemy will have no choice but to Passover your family, just as the Israelites experienced in the 10th plague.
Praying together as a family also can help, although if kids or spouses are not Christians, this is obviously not always an option. Remember, the family that prays together stays together!
2. DRAW NEAR TO GOD
James 4:7-8 (ESV Strong’s)
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Get into your daily quiet times, listen to podcasts and sermons, read Christian books. If you do everything you can to draw close to God He promises to draw near to you, and many times you will draw closer to each other as a result.
3. GUARD YOUR MOUTH
If you have issues with your family members, pray don’t say!
James 3:5 (ESV Strong’s)
So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!
How many of us have created havoc by the rash words we have spoken in anger? How many times have we, in anger or frustration, said things we regret? Things that have destroyed unity in the home.
Bill Newman tells of a woman who had been saying horrible things about the pastor. She felt convicted and apologised to the pastor, but he had a strange request… go to the local mountain, cut open a pillow and throw all of the feathers to the wind. She did this, and then the pastor said one more thing… could you go and pick them all up please?
Proverbs 18:21 (ESV Strong’s)
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Watch what you say, speak life not death to your family, and also watch how you say it! Eg: I’m sorry I love you
4. OPEN LINES OF COMMUNICATION
If the situation is explosive, it’s great to back off and take the time to respond appropriately. This doesn’t mean the silent treatment for days, weeks, months or years. To resolve anything, you will need to talk, and talk honestly and openly. So guys in particular, don’t run and hide in the shed… make time, schedule time in my case, to talk.
A couple in counselling… the woman complains “He never tells me he loves me.” The man replies, “I told you when we got married, and if I ever change my mind I will let you know!”
Learn to speak, even if it is not your way, and learn to speak words that build up, not pull down. Words that promote unity in the home.
Ephesians 4:29 (ESV Strong’s)
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Look, I know we all, myself included, have said a lot of rough things to those we love, our wives, husbands, kids, brothers and sister, especially when we are under pressure. You cannot take them back, but you can apologise.
And changes in your family and relationships start with a decision, a commitment if you will. You can fall in love again, you can have the relationships you want, but you have to decide to do it. Remember, the devil is out to bring you down, and the little foxes spoil the vines… those little irritations, neglected and glossed over, cause major breakups and destroy marriages time and time again.
So I’m going to ask you to be honest right now. Is there pressure on your marriage, on your relationships with kids, grandkids, siblings or even church family that aren’t ideal? Have you exploded, ignored or withdrawn in the most important relationships you have.
Valentine’s Day this week was all about love. But love is a commitment, and a commitment requires a choice. Ideally, you both commit to each other, but if the other party is too angry or withdrawn, will you be the bigger one and make the choice for establishing unity in the home?
Deuteronomy 30:19 (ESV Strong’s)
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,
Satan is attacking our families, but we won’t stand for it! We don’t want to lose one marriage, one family, one child, we want to be fully committed to each other and to the Lord’s service.
If you have tension, undue pressure on your home, your marriage or your relationship with your kids stand up for unity in the home.
Ephesians 4:1-3 (ESV Strong’s)
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Unity in the home begets blessing, so if you want your marriage and family blessed, come forward.