Those of us who desire to be salt and light in our day-to-day interactions, often miss the obvious arena to let our light shine—our homes. In fact, it is all too easy to have a winning demeanor with those outside the faith, only to regularly trample on those in our own families.
I recall a time I was doing very important work for the Kingdom. Don’t get me wrong; it was important work. But, in the process I would hush my children, and overlook behavior that was clearly out of line. Why? Because I was doing very important work to further God’s Kingdom.
Hopefully, you see the disconnect in this. I was busy sinning against my children, and justifying it with the “eternal importance” of what I was doing. This is not to say that the activity I was involved with should have been sidelined until my children were grown. What I’m saying is that in an effort to build the Kingdom, I was tearing down fences in my own home.
Fences can have a variety of purposes. One function is to protect and preserve things of value. A fence around a garden keeps out pests and intruders that would damage what is growing. In a like manner, there should be fences around our relationships that prevent our sinful tendencies to trample on one another.
This is an all too common situation between husbands and wives. Each can become so focused on his or her area of concern (work, church, and schooling), that they inadvertently trespass against one another by failing to really listen to each other and nurture their relationship. They trample on each other, figuring that because they are committed to each other for life these trespasses won’t matter. But they do matter, precisely because we are to give special attention to those of our own households.
Recognizing the tendency is the first step, but there are many that need to follow. When one person of the pair sees what is happening, rather than carry on extensive one-sided conversations in his/her head, the need to confront the situation directly is in order. This doesn’t mean raised voices or a shouting match. It means caring enough about the relationship to not let weeds grow and varmints invade within it. How couples resolve this will be unique to their own relationship. However, failing to deal with these trespasses will allow them to grow from molehills to mountains.
Scripture gives us two differing words in the recounting of the Lord’s Prayer in the Gospels. I find it more useful to consider my offenses against my loved ones as trespasses rather than as debts. By trespasses I do not mean deliberate violations of God’s commandments. I am referring to what takes place when sinful, not fully sanctified people live under the same roof in close proximity and take each other for granted. These are real life opportunities to forgive each other on a daily basis, while ensuring that we don’t let the enemy stake his claim in our family.
God is delighted to forgive us our trespasses providing we acknowledge them and ask for forgiveness (1 John 1:9). We should imitate Him in this regard and be ready to repair those fences we have knocked over, as well as be ready to help restore those knocked down by others.