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by Jacob Ninan
Question: We are a married couple in our twenties. My husband's father is trying to control him by telling him that the Bible tells children to obey their parents. This is causing a lot of conflicts in our marriage. Does the Bible actually teach this?
Answer: The Bible does tell children to obey their parents (Eph.6:1). This is because children don't know much and they need to be guided and trained by their parents till they become able to stand on their own feet (Prov.22:6). Parents have a lot more experience in the world than the children, and so it is good for the children to seek for guidance from the parents.
But can you put adults who are married in the category of children as described above? Hardly! When people get married, they leave their father and mother and start a new family of their own (Gen.2:24). They are no longer children who have to obey their parents. Now they have to stand together as husband and wife and make their own decisions. The parents can no longer give 'commands' and expect to be obeyed! Actually they need to encourage their 'children' to leave them and become one with each other.
This process of 'leaving' parents and 'cleaving to each other' is usually difficult for one or both marriage partners. (See Leaving and cleaving is not easy.) They have grown up all their life being close to or dependent on them. They find it difficult to stand on their own feet, or think of hurting their parents who have made so much of sacrifices for them! But they must realise that God who gave us the instruction to leave parents knows what is best. God wants couples to get a chance to grow closer to each other without interference from others. He also knows that the couple needs to learn to take responsibility for their new family.
It is hard for the parents also to leave their children or let the children leave them! They may think that no one else, especially the new person who has come into the child's life, has the expertise or the understanding to take care of their child. So they keep directing the child or giving advice which sometimes takes the form of commands! Or they may be worried that if their child clings too closely with their spouse, he or she may desert them, which is a frightful thing to think of in their old age! So these parents try intimidation, quotation of Scripture, or tears to keep the child from leaving them. Any of these reasons may be why your husband's parents are behaving like this.
Both of you may stand together and try to explain the situation to the parents in a respectful way. But if it does not work, you may need to slowly let it become known to the parents that you two stand together and make your own decisions. It may cause somewhat painful situations in the beginning. But in the end this is needed to bring peace.
At the same time you both must realise that the Bible tells you to honour your parents (Eph.6:2,3). This means respecting them, showing gratitude for all that they have done to bring you up, and also taking care of them (along with your siblings) as they grow older and weak. It also means that you recognise that they have more experience than you and that it is good to listen to what they tell you (and take your decision after both of you discuss it between the two of you!).
The bottom line is that both of you must stand together and deal with every challenge you face in life.
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