Our personal relationships begin to breakdown whenever our primary focus shifts from fulfilling our own responsibilities to the failures of others to fulfill theirs.
It is not accidental that throughout the New Testament God gives us commands in our various relational roles, not as conditioned upon the performance of the other party, but upon our own profession of faith:
- Wives, submit to your own husbands (Ephesians 5:22a)
- Husbands, love your wives (Ephesians 5:25a)
- Children, obey your parents in everything (Colossians 3:20a)
- Fathers, do not provoke your children (Colossians 3:21a)
- Bondservants, obey your earthly masters (Ephesians 6:5a)
- Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly (Colossians 4:1a)
In each instance we are expected to obey God and perform His commands, regardless of how the other party is living or treating us. A husband, for example, cannot excuse his lack of love for his wife on the basis of her failure to submit to him, nor can a wife excuse her lack of submission to her husband on the basis of her husband’s failure to love her.
Neither is it accidental that Jesus told us to first take the log out of our eye before addressing the speck in another’s eye (Matthew 7:1-5). Every relationship in society would breakdown if everyone refused to address their own faults and only focused on those of others. No one would ever change. No one would ever grow. We all would just become increasingly frustrated with each other as we all futilely pointed out each other’s faults while leaving our own unaddressed.
Our focus is to be upon Christ and the fulfilling of His commands in our own life for the good of others, not upon the failures of others in fulfilling their obligations to us. In this, we not only give space for others to grow in Christlikeness without suffocating them, but we also stretch ourselves to grow in Christlikeness. For Christ did not wait until we became “responsible enough” before doing His Father’s will and laying down His life for us (John 10:17-18). Instead, He demonstrated His love for us in that while we were still sinners – helpless, rebellious, obnoxious, and dead – He died for us (Romans 5:8; cf. also Mark 10:45; Ephesians 5:1-2; 1 John 4:7-11).