“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” These are God’s words spoken through the apostle Paul (Ephesians 4:2-3)
The divine command is repeated through the apostle Peter, “All of you, be like-minded and show sympathy, love, compassion, and humility to and for each other.” (1 Peter 3:8)
As I was trying to make good sense of the doubled instructions, I noticed the significance.
Is it not true that when an instruction is repeated, there is an a priori assumption that the instruction might not be readily absorbed? The instructor does not feel confident that the instructee would get it right away. Thus, he repeats it.
Case in point: Soonest I enter our apartment, my wife Apple would say, “My love, your shoes please.” She wants me to take off my shoes and put them at the place where shoes should be. If she repeats herself, “Pastor Nitos Dobles, your shoes,” then that means I am in trouble.
It is the same with God. At times, God would have to repeat himself in instructing us – be patient, be kind, be gentle, be loving…
The Lord knows these are main ingredients of a happy family. We know it too. Less these virtues, families would be a mess. Families start to break up when family members begin to be prideful, abrasive and harsh in language, quick tempered, impatient and unforgiving.
Is this not the goal of the enemy — for our families to fall apart? Each family member that falls is one less soul coming to church. It is one less soul serving the Lord. It is another soul moving to his camp!
Satan fancies causing trouble in the family. He would instigate in-fighting. On Sunday mornings, you might hear mom yelling at her kids because they are not yet dressed up, the older sister yelling because her younger sister is wearing the dress she’s planned to wear, the dad is yelling too and honking the car as they are late for church, and the mom is yelling back at the dad telling him that if only he has helped wash the dishes and if everyone had slept early the night before then they should not be late in the first place. (Yes, moms have the final say, and are always right! Amen?).
Have you experienced this chaos? I am sure that we would be so ashamed if Jesus suddenly comes knocking at our door Sunday morning.
None are exempt – family squabbles happen. It shouldn’t stay this way. We should not let the enemy get the best of us. He must not win.
Fervent’s author Priscilla Shirer said: “If I were your enemy, I’d seek to disintegrate your family and destroy every member of it. I’d want to tear away at your trust and unity and turn everyone’s love inward on themselves. I’d make sure your family didn’t look anything like it’s supposed to – because then people would look at your Christian marriage, your Christian kids, and see you’re no different, no stronger than anybody else – that God underneath it all really doesn’t change anything.”
The enemy is real. I fell into his trap once.
I worked around the clock as JPMorgan Chase’s Vice President for Global Treasury Operations. With 250 people in my team working three shifts covering four continents – Australia, Asia, Europe and North America, I spent 20 hours in the office, every day.
Busy and tired, I became petulant, kind in the office but not so much at home. I deserved a slap on the nape from the Lord as I have forgotten His doubled command to be nice.
Thanks to God, He pulled me out from the pit that I put myself in. I realized that the work the Lord has blessed me with should not be the way it is – killing me and our home. It should instead bless us.
The enemy was at work. But you know what, the Lord’s camp was also at work (it is always!). My wife Apple was busy praying for me. Despite my shortcomings, she was patient with me, ever gentle and forgiving.
She understood well the power of prayer. Hard she prayed for a breakthrough to happen in my work-life.
And God did! I would not put up my own chair to tell you if I became kind and compassionate. Only Apple and our kids could tell you that.
But what I can tell you is that I felt so much love once again in our home. Prayer made our family stronger, drawing us closer to Jesus. Apple’s prayers and of our kids brought us together.
I recall that from then on we started praying together as a family. Our experience encouraged us to practice “a family that prays together, stays together.”
This was also when I heard the Lord knocking at the door of my heart calling me to pastoral ministry. I am certain that this has to do with my wife’s prayers. She even invited her friends to join her in praying!
Now she knows the saying is true, “Be careful what you pray for. You just might get it.”
When someone in the family starts to pray, the light of hope begins to shine as God’s grace begins to sip into the once impenetrable walls of in-fighting. Prayer melts anger and pride, and the heart that seeks forgiveness are met with mercy and compassion. Love springs forth anew.
If one family member praying can be the fire-starter of such a beautiful miracle, what more we can expect by faith when everyone in the family starts to pray!
The great leader, Joshua, who led the Israelites out of Egypt onward to the Promised Land is famous for saying, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
There is power when the family is united in achieving a common goal. “As for me and my house” – what would that look like for your family? Serving the Lord may come in many forms – giving, helping, worshiping together, and more.
But perhaps, we could start by doing, “As for me and my house, we will pray to the Lord.” Prayer equips. It is a great weapon in God’s arsenal.
So then get ready, get ready to go to war – to fight for your family! It’s time to battle the demonic things that are tearing your family apart. And get ready to see some changes you’ve never seen before!
How do you do this? What will be the strategy? Take the fight into your prayer room rather than in your bed room, kitchen or living room.
Engage the Son of the Living God, our Lord Jesus, and ask God the Holy Spirit to fight your battle. He will! (Exodus 14:14)
In prayer, entrust your family to the “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Together, as a family, bend the knee.
As for me and my house, this is our fighting stance. May it be yours too.
The writer is the lead pastor at Pasco United Methodist Church. He is a doctor of ministry student at United Theological Seminary. He also preaches at the First Fil-Am Christian Fellowship at 5 p.m. on Sundays. He and his wife, Apple, and their three children, Betina, Athena and Nathan, live in Englewood, Ohio.