Love Lives Here | House Rules
Monday— Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law. Romans 13:10
“I make the money, so it’s mine to spend!” roared Deke. His wife cowered on the couch, afraid to look up. “But you’re not giving me enough to buy groceries,” she murmured. “The baby’s out of diapers and Lolli had an ear infection—” Deke pounded a fist on the table. “Excuses!” he bellowed. “You don’t manage money right. I work hard, so I get to say how it’s spent. You should be thankful you don’t work. You just sit here all day with four kids and look, this house is a mess! I’m going out with the guys, but you’d better get this cleaned up before I come back or I’m cutting off your phone.” A slammed door and he was gone.
If only this were fiction. But sadly, this scene, and others like it, play out daily in homes that are supposed to be Christian. Some spouses even justify their abusive behaviors by quoting a verse out of context and implying God is on their side. But Jesus showed us God’s heart. He was King of kings, but washed feet. He was Creator of all, but humbly served. He did not demand respect, He commanded it. When we command respect, we earn it by our actions and integrity. If Deke wanted to prove his superiority, he would have made his wife’s needs his top priority. He would have aced Husband 101 instead of flunking. People who cannot command respect, demand it. They do wrong to prove they’re right. They hate to prove they’re loving. They act in selfishness to prove they’re generous. It is never right to do wrong nor loving to do harm.
Final Thought: When you’re not sure if your action is loving, ask yourself: “Will I be doing wrong to God or to this person?”
Prayer: Father, search my motives. Am I loving toward you and the people you’ve put in my life? Am I seeking your pleasure and their best interest? Help me remember that when I’m not sure what to do, first do no wrong. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday— Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21
“I call a window seat!” shrieked Laurel. Barry elbowed past his sister and dashed out the door. “No, you had it last time. No fair! MO-M!” If you have children or if you’ve ever been a child, this scene probably sounds familiar. Children, by nature, are looking out for #1. No one has to teach children to be selfish because they inherited that tendency from their parents, who inherited it from their parents, who inherited it from Adam. It’s called a sin nature and we all have one—that inner drive to please ourselves. That’s why God has to command us to submit to others. If we did so naturally, we wouldn’t need a commandment.
Human nature rebels against the idea of submitting to the needs or opinions of someone else. We fight for our rights, demand to be heard, and assert our ideas. So God commands us to submit to others, but it’s for a good reason—the reputation of Jesus Christ. When we fight and pout, gossip and slander, we dishonor the name of Christ and put Him to open shame. Unbelievers peer into our feuds and turn up their noses: “Hmph! Those Christians are always talking about love and grace and look at them. Look at their homes, their divorces, their adulteries. Who needs it!” So we’re commanded to humbly submit to one another at church—and at home—as a way of protecting the reputation of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Final Thought: How do you view submission? The part of you that rebels against it is the part that needs crucified.
Prayer: Father, I don’t like the idea of submitting to someone else, but that’s what Jesus did. He submitted to His own parents as He grew up, and later to the crucifixion. He is my model. Help me submit my own agendas for His name’s sake. Amen.
Wednesday— Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2
“You call that walking?” Mr. Barret roared as 9-month-old Jasper let go of the coffee table and plopped down on his diaper. At the baby’s hopeful grin, his father continued, “You’re pathetic! Let’s see some real walking. Why aren’t you playing coach-pitch by now?” Baby Jasper’s bottom lip trembled as he stared wide-eyed at his angry father. Mr. Barret threw his newspaper on the floor and stomped out of the room, shouting, “I was the best ball player this town has ever seen! I was jogging at three months old. Why can’t I have a kid worthy of the Barret name! I don’t have time for this…”
If you felt a little disgust at Mr. Barret, then you know how God feels when we treat each other that way.
Jasper was just a baby, so his father needed to “bear with him.” To “bear with one another” means we make allowances for their immaturity and ignorance, and they make allowances for ours. However, that does not give us the right to remain immature and ignorant. If in five years Jasper still expects applause for taking baby steps, then something is wrong with Jasper. And if we expect everyone to bear with us while we continue to behave like ungodly fools, something is wrong with us. However, there’s a right and wrong way to correct people. Calling someone an “ungodly fool” is the wrong way. Being humble and gentle when we point out the error is the right way. Love bears with the immaturity in others but requires maturity in itself.
Final Thought: Who in your life needs you to bear with them right now?
Prayer: Jesus, you know how hard it is to bear with people. You had to bear with people when you were on the earth, and you still bear with me. You corrected error, but you always did it in a humble, gentle way. Help me to follow your example. Amen.
Thursday— Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit…in humility value others above yourselves. Philippians 2:3
He finally got it! The big promotion he’d longed for. He stared at the envelope that contained his good news and thought of the years he’d sacrificed, the time he’d invested, and the things he’d missed. But it was worth it. He’d finally won and the taste of victory was sweet to his soul. He reached for the phone to call Darla, but it rang first. “Hey, Babe!” he cried. “Guess what—” She cut him off with a low, measured tone. “I called to tell you we won’t be here when you get home,” she said. “I’ve waited, prayed, excused your lack of interest in us, but I can’t do it anymore. The kids are at Mom’s and I’m leaving as soon as we hang up. Don’t chase us. We can’t compete with your real love—success.” Click. In trying to have it all, he lost everything.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit… This idea clashes with the American Dream, so we wrestle with it. We’re born with that dream etched on our souls: Work hard—get ahead. Ahead of whom? The very idea of “getting ahead” means we’re competing with other people for a prize. But because we crave being first, best, brightest, or most admired, we excuse our selfish ambitions and our “look at me” lifestyles, even with our families. Ministry can also be a ruthless taskmaster when we let pride and ambition rule. But no pride is as heinous to God as spiritual pride. When we slap a Bible verse on top of ambition or conceit and call it righteousness, God turns away from us. In trying to have it all, we can lose everything.
Final Thought: If selfish ambition and vain conceit present are present in your life, God may be resisting you (James 4:6).
Prayer: Father, do I need a reality check? What’s driving me? Is it service to you, love for my family, or is it selfish ambition? Help me get my priorities straight: It’s you first, my family second, and then the work you’ve given me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Friday— Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2
*The kid’s sneer flashed across Abe’s mind, but he approached the judge’s bench anyway. “I’ll pay his damages,” he said.
*“She’ll never be like other kids,” the doctors said. “Severely handicapped.” So they spent their entire lives caring for her.
*Ky had ruined Beth’s career and her reputation, but now he had cancer. Beth took a day off work to clean his house for him.
*Men mocked as they nailed Him to a cross, but Jesus looked into their hostile eyes and said, “Father, forgive them.”
Walking in love sounds sweet and fluffy, but the truth is anything but syrup. We’re told to walk in love as Christ loved us. Think about what that means. Was he filled with sentimental thoughts while men mocked and tortured Him? Did He feel all mushy inside as soldiers hoisted His body into the air so the wooden spike could slam into the ground? There was nothing sweet and fluffy about the way Jesus loved and that’s the example He left us. Love can be painful. It requires an ongoing crucifixion of our own desires and preferences. It expresses itself in a million ways, many of them difficult. While serving filthy outcasts, Mother Theresa endured the stench of love. Because they would not deny Christ, martyrs felt the agony of love. In order to stay faithful to his bedridden wife, Stan wrestled with the discipline of love. And hanging on a cross, Jesus showed the forgiveness of love.
Final Thought: What does “walking in love as Christ loved us” look like in your home?
Prayer: Father, I’ll never know the depth of pain you endured as you watched your beloved Son tortured to death for a world of ungrateful sinners. I can only thank you from the bottom of my heart. Help me learn to love like you do. In Jesus’ name, amen.