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My husband’s family is unsaved and over the years they have encouraged my children to ignore our teachings, rules and God’s word to the point of encouraging and helping them to sneak around. Our oldest son moved out (because he didn’t like our rules) and in with his grandma (who is not saved and we repeatedly asked her not to allow him to live with her) she encourages and allows drinking, pre-marital sex.

I also have two young children. I am struggling with having a relationship with people who have and do tell my children that the Bible is not true, they don’t have to follow the rules at our home and they may live with them so they can live their lives as they please. I don’t know scripturally how respond to this ongoing situation.

I’m so glad you want to handle this situation scripturally. As Christians, we should always go to Scripture first to learn what to do in any circumstance.

We need to start by remembering our heirarchy of responsibility. As Christians, our first responsibility is to love and obey Christ. As Christian wives and moms, our next responsibility is to submit to our husbands’ leadership. Finally, we are responsible for raising our children in a godly way. But we also want to love and honor our extended family, and that can be really difficult when they aren’t saved and have a pagan worldview.

It’s such a comfort to me to know that Jesus knew and addressed the fact that He would be a dividing line between people, sometimes even within families:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
Matthew 10:34-37 (see also Luke 12:51-53)

But Jesus reminds us that, despite those painful divisions and our love for our family members, our loyalty to Him and His word must come first. It’s important to note that the God who said these words in Matthew and Luke is the same God who said in Exodus 20:12 (the Ten Commandments):

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

I think that might be your dilemma. How do we honor Christ in our home and still honor our parents who stand in opposition to Christ?

Let’s look at a few more passages, again, remembering that our first obligation is to obey God’s word. God has made it incumbent upon parents, particularly fathers, to raise our children to know His word and to walk in His ways:

You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul…You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Deuteronomy 11:18a,19

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

Your children also have a responsibility to honor and obey their parents:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
Ephesians 6:1

But while you’re raising your children in the ways of the Lord and training them to obey you, you need to make sure you’re not doing things that would make that difficult for them, because doing so will “provoke your children to anger” or “exasperate” them:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:4

Imagine how difficult it must be for a child – who already wants only to gratify his fleshly desires – to obey mom and dad’s instruction in godliness when mom and dad keep having him spend time with grandparents whom they love and who allow them to gratify those desires of the flesh. It would be difficult for an adult to be obedient in that situation of being pulled both ways, let alone a child.

In order to discover what God would have you do about your relationship with your in-laws, you and your husband will need to discuss what God’s word says about honoring his parents and raising your children in a godly way. Ultimately, as the spiritual leader of your home, the final decision about the relationship your family will have with his parents rests on his shoulders, and you will need to honor and respect his decision. As you prayerfully study God’s word and discuss things, you might find the following questions helpful:

  • Are our younger children being exasperated or frustrated in their attempts to obey Ephesians 6:1 when we have them spend time with grandparents who are encouraging them to disobey God’s word? Is continually exposing our children to their grandparents’ ungodliness putting a “stumbling block” in front of a weaker person?
  • Since we know God’s word does not contradict itself, how can we honor our parents (Exodus 20:12) even though they are enemies of Christ (Matthew 10:34-37)? Is there a way we can modify the way we spend time with them and/or the amount of time we spend with them so that we still have a relationship with them, yet minimize or remove the ungodly influence they have on our children? Does honoring our parents require us or our children to spend a particular amount of time with them? Is the situation so extreme that our loyalty to Christ demands that we sever the relationship altogether?
  • First Corinthians 15:33 says: Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Does it make a difference, biblically, if the “bad company” is relatives? Would we let our children spend time with people like this if they were not related to us?
  • Am I, individually, and are we, as a family, regularly praying about this situation and praying for my in-laws’ salvation? Are we sharing the gospel with them? Are we trusting God to answer our prayers and work through this situation?

If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected

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