“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:43-45, NIV).
Nonviolence in the face of evil is often understood in terms of war when a draft is being called or in the context of crime when a person is being threatened. However, evil does not confine itself to crime or nations warring against nations. Evil can happen right in your own home.
We all know what it’s like to wake up grouchy and have someone say something that irritates you before you have had your coffee. Sometimes angry words erupt and occasionally you just want to hurt someone back. God forbid you do.
Occasionally we hear of a woman whose husband uses physical abuse or sexual abuse to get her to comply. We hear about spouses committing adultery. We discover a child has been sexually abused by a relative. We overhear a parent angrily yelling at a child. What is our instinct, our first response? These are cases in which we need to respond by loving our enemies, even those in our own homes. How do we do so?
First, child abuse is a federal crime. If children are being molested, hit, kicked or pushed in anger, we Christians must report the person responsible to the authorities and keep the child safe from any contact with the abuser. Children are innocent and since we are raising them to be kings and queens, joint heirs with Christ, we have the responsibility to teach them that those actions are crimes, both federal crimes and crimes in the kingdom of God.
The Bible says,
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven,” (Matthew 18:10, NIV).
One who commits crimes against children is fit to be executed by drowning, Jesus told his followers.
Jesus goes on to tell us how to respond to people who commit sins against us who are in our families. Loving our enemies includes those in our own family who sin against us.
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector,” (Matthew 18:15-17, NIV).
Who are our brothers and sisters? They are our family members who live with us. They are our husbands and wives and our brothers and sisters in church.
What actions violate a home? Being dictatorial and selfish. Not living according to the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-26 NIV). All these violate what God intended in families.
We are called to peace with each other. Screaming at family members, criticizing them, controlling others with anger and of course, hitting them or shoving them is sinful. Being a hypocrite and treating one’s family worse than we would someone else’s is denying the power of God. “Have nothing to do with such people”, Paul commands (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV). Hurting others in our own home is a crime. Consistent patterns of behavior that display selfishness and power over others is wrong. It is a crime in the kingdom of heaven.
Relationships call for deep love and commitment to godliness. Godliness confronts sin. Christians who are confronted accept rebuke with repentance and restitution and they then change their behavior.
Our Savior modeled servanthood in his relationship with his bride and was honored by his Father for it.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness…” (Philippians 2:3-8, NIV).
When you relate to your spouse, use kindness and compassion and tenderness. Your wife is your sister in Christ. Your husband is your brother. How you treat them is how you treat Jesus. Honor your partner. Treat your children and each other with respect and dignity, the way you would Christ.
Nonviolence in the home means confronting evil, being loving enough to rebuke the sinner and pull his or her feet from the fire (Jude 23), and, most of all, truly loving and serving our family members with humility, compassion and the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus, our reigning King, loves his family and wants us all to live with him, but he will not tolerate someone who mistreats his or her family, exposes them to evil and does not love them. We are to have nothing to do with the works of darkness or exposing our children to wickedness, even if that wickedness is found in our own home.
Leading our children into righteousness means protecting them and setting a good example for them on how to act when we do not get what we want. It means helping our family members when we are tired from a long day at work. It means being kind when we don’t feel like it. It means speaking the truth but in love, even when we are wronged.
Opposing evil sometimes breaks family relationships, if necessary, to protect children’s safety or spiritual lives. It sometimes hurts to love your enemy because you need to protect yourself from him or her. But, real love stands for righteousness, especially in your own home. Love protects, cherishes, and is compassionate. It never fails.