Relative Obligations

The other day, the following Proverb caught my attention, "A relative offended is harder to reach than a strong city." (Prov 18:19a)  In my own life, I've found it to be true that some of my biggest conflicts and the hardest to resolve are with loved ones.  Prompted to dig a little deeper, I found the following insight by the Reverend Matthew Henry:

Great care must be taken to prevent quarrels among relations, and those that are under special obligation to each other, not only because they are most unnatural and unbecoming, but because between such things are commonly taken most unkindly, and resentments are apt to be carried too far. Wisdom and grace would indeed make it most easy to us to forgive our relations and friends if they offend us, but corruption makes it most difficult to forgive them; let us therefore take heed of disobliging a brother, or one that has been as a brother; ingratitude is very provoking. Great pains must be taken to compromise matters in variance between relations, with all speed, because it is a work of so much difficulty, and consequently the more honourable if it be done.

What struck me most about what Rev. Henry had to say is the idea of obligations.  As I wonder why it's easier for me to have grace with another child in AWANA than with Luke, my own son, the answer may lie in the fact that I have higher expectations of him -- I've placed on him a greater obligation.  But does that mean I should lower my expectations?  Not necessarily...

  1. Identifying Expectations: Before I can begin to lower or eliminate an expectation, I must first be clear just what it is I'm expecting.  Often, I don't realize what I've expected until I feel upset or disappointed when that expectation hasn't been met.  
  2. Weighing Expectations: As Rev. Henry states and the Proverbs at least imply, obligations are relative.  Scripture is clear that parents and children have certain duties to each other.  Similarly, what we expect of fellow believers is different than what we should expect of the "lost."  Even having settled that, we must still discern whether our expectations are worthy.  Are they intended to honor and glorify God?  Could it be that our expectations are manifestations of our need for control?
  3. When Expectations Aren't Met: Assuming we've assessed and concluded that our expectations are warranted.  How should we respond when they're not met?  Should we, as Rev. Henry recommends, "disoblige" and take "great pains...to compromise matters"?  Absolutely.  I want to be clear that I'm not talking about lowering standards or not speaking the truth.  However, we must remember that we must be quick to forgive and eager to edify.  When a God-honoring expectation hasn't been met, we ought to be disappointed and aggrieved.  But we must be careful that we don't encroach on the Lord's work -- to judge and change hearts.
Questions to Consider (or Reply):
  1. Have you had experience with a conflict/disagreement with a loved one because of a higher expectation?  
  2. Is there a time you can remember where you've been disappointed but haven't been able to explain, even to yourself, what your expectation was?
  3. Do you agree that we must often "disoblige" and be quick to forgive?

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