Growing a Close Family

I married someone that is the polar opposite of myself.   Paula is engaging, expressive and enjoys meeting people.   I am reserved, less expressive, and tend to pull away from crowds.  Neither personality is wrong; it’s the way God wired us.    Our strengths and weaknesses give us a balance as a couple, but also were the characteristics that attracted us to one another.

However, along with every asset comes a corresponding liability.   One of the issues I mention to couples in premarital counseling is to not marry someone thinking that one day they will change or that it is your job to change them.    No one enjoys beings a “project” for the other person to work on to perfect.

The very same strengths that attracted you to your spouse in abundance will irritate you.   A strength to an extreme becomes a weakness – and we all have them.     If you want someone’s assets you must tolerate their liabilities.   It isn’t your job to change them, but that of the Spirit of God.    The things that irritate us are used of God to polish the rough edges of our character and make us more like Christ.

You don’t have to have a perfect relationship to have a great and growing marriage.    There are some things God has given in His Word to help us achieve intimacy in our family relationships.

Paula and I in Washington D.C.   (You can see the top of the Jefferson Memorial over our heads).    What a great lady.   I am so privileged to call her my wife.

Paula and I in Washington D.C. (You can see the top of the Jefferson Memorial over our heads). What a great lady. I am so privileged to call her my wife.

For many years I led a Bible study in our church for those in their mid-life years.   One of the needs I wanted to address was how to have close relationships in the family.    As I prayed over how to approach the topic God directed me to teach on the “one another” commands in the Bible.

These deal with the way we are to treat each other within a community.    For example, some are: pray for one another, forgive one another, serve one another.  They help a church congregation to stay in harmony.   The same principles and commands would work in your family.    In fact, if they are not present in the family then they will not be practiced at church.

Becoming close is a byproduct.   The way to experience close relationships is by practicing the “one another” commands.     You don’t find intimacy with people as much as it finds you – as you practice the “one another” commands.     I believe this because I have experienced it in my own relationships – even though I am an introvert.

For the next several posts I want to deal with one of the most simple “one another” commands there is; it is also one of the most neglected.    The better we know someone the more we tend to violate it.    We take our spouse (and kids) for granted and stop doing the things we did to win their hearts.

Curtis Hutson said, “If you’ll keep on doing what you did to get married, you’ll never get unmarried”.     One of these areas is the way we treat each other when we first share our greetings.

The Bible admonishes us to “greet one another” or to “salute one another” four times (Romans 16:16; I Corinthians 16:20; II Corinthians 13:12; I Peter 5:14).     If a family would be close they must greet one another daily and sincerely.    What does this mean in practical terms?

One of the most fascinating studies is that of human personality.   In the most basic terms, people can be divided into two categories – introverts and extraverts.   It isn’t an issue of right or wrong where one falls on the spectrum, it just is.

Each has it’s own strengths and weaknesses.    Some are oriented more toward tasks and the other toward relationships.   Typically, extraverts struggle more with anger and introverts with fear.    These are general statements and there are exceptions, but it is an observable tendency.

As I grew up I learned that I felt very deeply about people and relationships, but hesitated to express those feelings.   Through God’s sovereign plan for my life (including the unexpected deaths of people I loved very much while I was very young) I learned that the window of opportunity is very small to express your heart and that I needed to take advantage of it.    And I did and still do to this day.

In ministry one is constantly working with people.   I had to learn to take initiative in relationships if I was to be of any good to them.    The same is true in your family; you must take the initiative in the relationship.  

God’s reward for fulfilling the “one another” commands is authentic community and closeness.     One of these responsibilities is to “greet one another”.    The way you greet your family is important.    It is part of the recipe in enjoying relational intimacy.

Perhaps you are like me, hesitant to express yourself and it’s a struggle.   You can learn to connect with your family.     You must if you would have a close family.

As I write these next few posts I am going to suggest some ways from the Bible how you can learn to initiate relationships if you tend to be quiet.   Most of us are far more preoccupied than we realize and it takes a toll especially on our closest relationships, our family.

Within your relational circle one of three reactions you will have when you spend time with people?   Some drain you of energy, others energize you, but most people with whom we relate is more of a transactional relationship.    Two of the three are not healthy.    Over time a relationship begins to suffer if there is no life in it.   The same can happen in your family.  

You are primarily either a taker or a giver when someone interacts with you.   A simple way that you can make a valuable contribution to each member of your family is to learn the importance of greeting them and to do so as God instructs us in His Word.   What does the Bible mean when it says to “greet one another”?

There are three practical truths regarding greeting people.   If practiced consistently and sincerely they will dramatically improve the quality of your relationships, especially in your family.     I’ll cover these in the following posts.

I know I’m in trouble with Paula and my kids when I interact with them throughout the day on a transactional basis without any emotional connection.    I have used this “one another” command to help me to change that to where I would consciously express my love instead.   I want them to enjoy relating with me.    And it’s my responsibility to take the initiative.

“No matter what you’ve done for yourself or for humanity, if you can’t look back on having given love and attention to your own family, what have you really accomplished?”   (Lee Iacocca)

About familyencouragement

Pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. Married for 41 years with seven children and nine grandchildren.
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3 Responses to Growing a Close Family

  1. David says:

    Pastor Johnson, What a beautiful humbling message this is! As an extrovert I am sometimes overbearing to people and have learned through this message and my wife’s gentle encouragement that listening is key for me and that simple greeting you talk about every time I get to see her after a rough day at work. The Lord has greatly blessed me and humbled me through this blog post. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Sherry McMillen says:

    I have been praying about that “greet each other with an holy kiss” idea. I like your analogy of extending that idea to family, making it a sacred moment, I need to strengthen myself in this area but find myself surrounded by people who hate me from their heart and love me to my face. It hurts. I try to comfort myself knowing that God was also greeted by those who would betray him, but the continual dripping on the same sore spot tends to lead to silence. Even God says he will stop speaking to those who don’t hear what he has to say. He doesn’t stop loving them. He just has nothing to say that he hasn’t already said. If they are not interested in hearing him, he leaves them to continue in their own way.

    Auschwitz is the best example I can give of this dilemma. I don’t believe God designed Auschwitz. I believe God spoke, and spoke, and spoke and no one would listen. Then we all saw the pictures of the skeletons with skin stretched over them. This is just one example of the powers and principalities presuming that if God allows something it is for the good of all. But, no, God allows evil because evil continues to be allowed. Dead men walking. That is what God sees here on the earth. Yet, the powers and principalities continue to pretend that means God is doing it. No, he allows it, because the only other option is to destroy the earth completely. It is by his tender mercies we are not consumed. But, as long as we continue to teach people that social skills are going to save the world. I think God has already given a visual primer as to where social skills go.

    No, there is a missing element of your socialized ideas governing introverts and extroverts. The missing element is righteousness. Righteousness is the barometer upon which introverts and extroverts must come to unity in Christ Jesus. The problem is, just like in the garden, the extroverts really, really, want what the so-called introverts have and vice-versa. They are willing to sell their soul to get it. It is certainly no fun being place in solitary confinement by socialists who think they are doing it for one’s own good. No, tormentors and terrorists are on equal ground here whether they are introverts or extroverts they are both hell-born antagonists of God Almighty.

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