I used to think it was a part of my job description as a father, to ensure that my children were honoring and obedient. As a husband I felt I was responsible to help my wife have a proper attitude of submission and respect. I now recognize I was reading their mail.

Reading Other People’s Mail, Seeing Jesus, and an Opportunity to Serve

I used to think it was a part of my job description as a father, to ensure that my children were honoring and obedient. As a husband I felt I was responsible to help my wife have a proper attitude of submission and respect. I now recognize I was reading their mail. The commands for children to honor and obey their parents, and the exhortation to wives to submit and respect to their husband, were directed to them, not to me. 
     I do have a responsibility to teach all scripture to my family, and be faithful to the whole counsel of God, but as a husband and father, God’s command to me is to love my wife as Christ loved the church and nurture and train my children without provoking or discouraging them.
     Instead of opening their mail and focusing on their obedience, and the condition of their heart and spirit, I should have been been giving more diligence on how to lay my life down for my family and die. As a father I should have been seeking God to equip me to be honorable in my actions and conduct, so as not to exasperate them. 
     My change of heart in how I am to conduct myself towards my family began in 2012 when my eyes were opened to the new commandment, which is to love others as Jesus has loved us.

Seeing Jesus
     “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.” (John 13:34) This “new commandment” is the basis for Paul’s instruction to husbands in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her.” 
     As I continued to study the ministry of Jesus, the more I saw His heart. I observed a gentle humble savior who did not force himself on people, but won their hearts. When I first heard the gospel, I sensed God gently offering me forgiveness, eternal life, and a personal relationship with Jesus. I responded to His offer to be His adopted child. I asked Him to forgive my sins and be my Lord. There was no coercion on His part, just love and open arms.
     As I meditate on how Jesus loves me, I now understand my calling is to love my family, not to fix them. Only God can change hearts, not Steve.

God is Love
     When the prodigal son returned home, he was greeted with tears and open arms. When his elder brother was offended at this reception, and the party which was being planned to celebrate the return of his wayward brother, the loving father then gently talked to him and reaffirmed his love for him. In both instances, God was loving, gentle, kind, and patient.
     As I have grown in my knowledge of God I have sought to document how the Son of God loved us, His children by faith. He took the initiative to love us while we were naturally unlovable. “While we were sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
     He has never been a rugged harsh overbearing Lord, but “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29). He offers rest, an easy yoke, and a light burden.
     He has a giving servant heart. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
     Even though He was God, He came in humility. “Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave.” (Philippians 2:3-7 NLT)
     Jesus was God and possessed all authority in heaven and on earth. He then gave authority to the apostles. Paul speaks of “the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.” (2 Corinthians 13:10) As a husband and father, God has called me to be the head of my wife, but now I am asking myself, do I use this authority to lord it over my wife and family or serve them? Do I tear them down or build them up?

Mother’s Day
     In the Spirit of Jesus, one of the best ways I can serve my family is by how I honor and treat my wife. Husbands set the tone for their home and model an attitude of respect and deference by how they treat their bride. How can I expect my sons to honor their mother and respect her, if I do not? Attitudes are caught better than taught. If I esteem my wife highly and love my sons have a better chance of following my lead, and then inheriting the subsequent blessings of the 5th commandment. These attitudes are for always. One day each May is a good start, let’s keep it going!
     I am not only a husband and father, but a son as well. I will always be a son, even though my mom and dad have passed on. The command to honor one’s parents is for all of us for all time. May God help us each to have a Christlike servant heart, which humbly honors and respects our spouse and parents.

Opportunity to Serve
     As many of you know, I serve at the Joni and Friends Family Retreat in Pennsylvania each summer. Our family first attended in 2006 and we have been enthusiastic campers ever since. We look forward to this once a year event with joy and anticipation. For the past few years I have volunteered to also serve the men’s ministry at camp. 
     One to the reasons the week is so special is because of the STMs (short term missionaries) who volunteer to serve the families during the week. When Sandi and I arrive on Monday, our son John is met by his STM, who will be his friend and companion for the rest of the week. My wife and I are then free to attend meetings for men and women, participate in marriage workshops, or just spend time with each other enjoying a refreshing period of respite.
     If you or your children are interested in serving as volunteers, we could use some help June 17-22. There are partial scholarships available if the cost is a concern. If you are interested in learning more about the Joni and Friends Family Retreats this summer at Spruce Lake Retreat Center in the Pocono Mountains of PA, send me an email.

Reading my own mail and seeking to love others as Jesus has loved me,