Balancing Church and Family (Eph. 5:25)

Several years ago, a man complained to us that his wife used their home as her personal space, making it impossible for them to entertain friends from church and reciprocate dinner invitations. As a social individual who claimed to pay all the expenses of the home, he told us that he felt stuck and very angry, adding that “our work and church responsibilities would be enhanced by providing hospitality for others in our home, but my wife’s attitude makes this impossible.”

What we know about relationships is that opposites tend to attract before marriage, but often repel after marriage. So, what feels like a really good fit to complete you before marriage, often looks and feels very differently on the other side of that experience; that is, until one comes to grips that having differences of opinion will inevitably take place in marriage.

This man described himself as a very sociable and outgoing person, and his wife as much more reserved and less interested in entertaining people. Like most married couples, they seemed very different from each other.

So, what options would be available to a couple like this in order for them to sort things out and find balance in their lives? Being that both of them were active and involved church members, we encouraged the concerned husband to explore what brought them together and to review God’s intent for marriage.

Ephesians 5:25 states: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” If one is a Christian, the mandate is clear. God means for husbands to love their imperfect and different than themselves wives, just like God loves the church—made up of imperfect people who tend to be unlike God. And yet, God still loves us despite ourselves, and He loves us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3).

Because of the love a husband should have for his wife, despite their differences, the thing to do is to have calm conversation about what is important to both of them, and explore possible ways to bridge those differences, rather than building walls between them.

Since a very tidy house and entertaining friends from church appeared to be the husband’s priority and gift, we encouraged him to take the lead and invite his wife to help him, rather than expecting his wife to do what didn’t come natural to her. We urged them to examine what possibilities they both could live with and where they could find common ground. Of course, this would include some compromise and meant that, at times, their entertainment would need to take place at a favorite restaurant rather than at their home.

When faced with these kinds of circumstances, do not lose sight of the trees by concentrating on the forest. Stay focused on the purpose of marriage and try to see each other through the eyes of Jesus, rather than thinking of involvement with church as an all or nothing kind of enterprise.

When facing differences of opinion with your spouse or your family, change your self-talk and take the time to see things from the other person’s perspective. When you do so, you will transform the trajectory of your marriage and your family relationships.

Remember to trust God for patience today and every day.