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Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Ephesians 5:25-33 NKJV

I want to be a great husband and father. I want to lead my family by my example of love. I want to be obedient to God. And I’ll be honest with you – most days, my greatest struggles are not with temptations, or my job, or with what I face in the streets/jails/rehab. The greatest challenge daily usually comes from within my own closest circle – either my family or those closest friends in my life.

Many times the greatest struggles are between our closest friends. Besides Jesus, I consider my wife to be my closest friend. But I have to admit that life inside our house is not perfect and without its tension, disagreements, and misunderstandings. When the Lord is calling us out into ever deeper waters, and we are making decisions constantly to swim against the stream of the ways of the world, and we are giving up on the very security and safety that our nature is used to craving – there is going to be tension even if that was just a single person being affected. But when it is a whole family – now you’re facing a challenge.

So how can we best deal with these situations? I like to look at how Christ treated people.

He asked questions and listened intently to see past any emotions, posturing, manipulation, and defensive behavior to hear the heart of their issue – so that He could address the root cause, not just the symptoms.

Christ offered His love and His guidance and was the leading evangelist,  teaching His disciples, His church, how to live a life more like Him. Discussions with Him would inevitably bring up convictions in the lives of those around Him over the things that weren’t yet yielded and that were self serving instead of honoring God and serving others – not because He was preaching AT them, but He was walking it out, and telling them, and showing them a right life.

When someone was willful and prideful, wanting to pull in a different direction that He knew was leading them to destruction, He was firm and bold – even to the point of direct correction – but even His correction had a loving purpose.  When someone was scared and of little faith, not yet trusting in God’s faithfulness to provide getting the need, and walking a doubt filled and powerless life, He was patient, gentle, and encouraging – but He still pointed out their doubt and their need to press in further. He didn’t crush anyone with direct judgement and condemnation, because the truth of His words spoke to them clearly and their own hearts either convicted them into new actions, or testified against their unwillingness to yield to His will.

Yes, He used discernment to see what was happening on the inside,  the underlying issue, and then He determined what fuel needed to be added to the fire. If someone was full of the darkness of bitterness, He would flame the fire of forgiveness, saying,  “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” If someone was full of the darkness of self interest and concern for their own plans,  He would flame the fire of sacrifice and service unto others. If someone was full of the darkness of worry and anxiety,  He would flame the fire of faith through offering either they lay down their heavy burdens at His feet or expect promised trials and testing that they cannot bear on their own. Yes, all of this to humble us, to remodel us, into a new creation that more and more resembles Christ.

And I’m supposed to show this kind of love towards my wife. And I’m supposed to lead my family in this same manner, making disciples of my children so that they can go out and bear their crosses and face opposition from the world. If we didn’t believe, we would laugh in the face of such nonsense and maybe settle for a Sunday morning religious practice to keep Good off of our backs so that we can spend our lives with the idol that we really love most, ourself.

But if we believe, there is work to be done daily. There is examination and guidance, and correction,  and firm leadership of the family that is expected from our fathers. There are difficult discussions and decisions that have to be has and made for the sake of our families – even in times where there is not yet agreement and unity, we must stand up and lead in love.

And we must learn to care enough about our families not to drag them along kicking and screaming, but to identify what they need and determine how we can best fill that need. To realize that what we think that we want is not always the same as what we need and what is best for us. We as fathers must strive to determine the true needs, and to provide for their needs, to make sure that an outpouring of His nourishing fruit is being fed to our families daily.

Love is not all puppies and balloons and cakes and ice cream. It takes work and sacrifice – and sometimes the very people you love and are trying to help would be happy with nothing less than hammering the nails into you themselves to watch you “die on the cross of your self righteousness” – but as long as it isn’t self righteousness and your only righteousness comes from Crust who lives in you, Jesus tells us –

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
John 15:13 NKJV

Lord, help us to feed our families with the fruit that they truly need from an eternal perspective, with a discerning eye, and with a loving heart. Amen.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
I Timothy 5:8 NKJV