In-laws or Outlaws?

Someone asked me, “Do you know why Peter denied the Lord?” I answered, “Because he was afraid that he would be arrested too?”

“No,” the person replied. “It was because Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law.”

In-laws are usually stereotyped in movies as meddlers in a couple’s life (such as in Jennifer Lopez’s Monster-in-Law). But really this is a case of art imitating life. There are times that in-laws become outlaws.

I believe that Genesis 2:24 provided God’s original plan for the family: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (New International Version) There are commentators however that says Genesis 2:24 can’t refer to geographical separation due to the extended family structure of the Jews. Usually “the man continued to live in or near his parents’ home. It was the wife who left home to join her husband.” (Thomas Constable, Notes on Genesis) But Moses wrote under the guidance of the Spirit that even the man had to leave his parents. The word “leave” means “to go from one place to another, to take the load off another and assume it on your shoulder, and to forsake a person for another person.” (Bruce Wilkinson, A Biblical Portrait of Marriage) I know there are risks. Some are afraid to leave because they think they are not yet financially capable. But the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Of course, if the parents need special care, we are to take care of them. “Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” (1 Timothy 5:3-4) Leaving does not negate the command to honor one’s parents.

However, though it includes physical or geographical separation, leaving goes beyond that. Kenneth Boa wrote, “Leaving must precede cleaving—marriage requires the forsaking of other relationships so that the husband and wife can be fully committed to each other. When a man and a woman leave home to start a new family unit, they are no longer under the authority of their parents, but are now directly responsible to God and to each other. They are to be independent of their parents in a geographical, emotional, and financial sense, and no other relationship should be allowed to come between them.” (Marriage: Intimates or Inmates?) In short, to leave means standing on your own feet.

Brethren, let us uphold God’s blueprint for marriage.


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