Today I am sharing an abridged excerpt from my first book, “Related By Chance, Family By Choice: Transforming Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships. I hope you enjoy it. You can find the book at Amazon with this link: Amazon
“This is my mother-in-love, Deb.”
The young woman behind the counter in the green apron smiled at me and waved. She was Sarah’s Starbucks boss, and I was glad to meet her. I was thrilled, however, with my daughter-in-law’s introduction of me. “Mother-in-love” was a sweet surprise, and I was once again reminded why this lovely girl has captured not only my son’s heart, but mine as well.
Mother-in-love is what Sarah calls me when she introduces me to friends or coworkers. It touches my heart and makes me smile when she says it. It is a wonderful honor. It also made me think about the terms in-law and in-love. I was intrigued by the contrast of these two titles. Love versus law. The more I meditated on them, the more interested I became. Where did the term in-law originate?
The explanation is simple: we are in-laws because of the legal joining of the couple. We are related according to and through the law.
Next on my quest was to understand what the term law means. What are its attributes? How does it serve? Who does it protect? The law has specific qualities and characteristics that distinctly define it.
• The law limits and excludes.
• The law is a finite thing: black and white, inflexible, ?focused on minute details.
• The law is conditional: if you, then I.
• The law is of the mind and intellect.
• The law seeks to benefit itself. Its only fulfillment is to ?be obeyed.
• The law is without emotion and without mercy, and it ?pronounces judgment.
• The law demands a high price to be paid if it is not ?observed correctly.
• The law is designed to rule by power; it enforces norms ?and standards of behavior.
The purpose of the law includes a coercive effect in regulating conduct. ?If a personal or family relationship is ruled by law, it leaves a lot to be desired, doesn’t it?
The law is inflexible and coercive, enforcing standards established through harsh penalty. It is relationship based on the conditional proposition that if you do as I require, then I will not punish you, or I may even provide you with some benefit. Wasn’t that the arrangement between God and man after the Fall in the garden and before the death of Christ on our behalf?
Relationship between God and man before grace was built on the Law given to Moses. The book of Leviticus provides a thorough and detailed description of the requirements by which man could maintain relationship with God. There was a lot of blood involved. It required daily attention and a constant investment of time. The next required act of obedience was never far from one’s mind, because the penalties for failing to follow the Law were substantial.
Sounds like some in-law relationships I know. Characterized by demand and obedience, inflexibility and personal preference, these relationships choke out the potential for family unity and harmony. Grudges are nursed like babies at the breast. Walls are erected, bridges are burned, and the structure of the family divides like the waters of the Red Sea.
But love is quite another matter. The characteristics of love are very different.
• Love is a living thing.
• Love overlooks, forgives, and grants pardon.?• Love includes and gathers in.
• Love is easily satisfied and does not demand on its own behalf.
• Love is unconditional.
• Love is from the heart and seeks to benefit others at the expense of itself.
• Love is fulfilled when it’s invested and given away.
• Love is full of mercy.
• Love pays the price.
Now that’s more like it. There’s an element of promise, hope, and possibility in a relationship rooted and grounded in love.
So, the burning question is this: Should we be living our in-law relationship in love or under the law?
It’s not a surprise the Word of God provides us direction.
“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law,” (Rom. 13:8). “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works,” (Heb. 10:24).
Love accomplishes what the law cannot. And love is a choice.
Christ chose to love us when we were anything but lovable. He knew every last secret, every shred of pride and rebellion, every ugly thought. All of it. He loved us still. And He asks us to do the same to a lost and dying world. Even with our woman-in-law.
Demonstrating love on a daily basis is not easy. Some people are hard to love. They are difficult, arrogant, opinionated, prideful, selfish, and the list goes on. It does not matter to Christ. To love those who are lovable is nothing special—those who walk without Jesus can manage that. He asks us to love those whose behavior is hurtful and damaging.
That’s a tall order. Being civil is not sufficient. Love those who seem determined to take you down, to hurt and demean you. Pray for the ones who use you in a spiteful way. Remember that before we trusted in Christ, we were just as unlovely in the eyes of a perfect and spotless Lord Jesus. If we can’t or won’t make this our goal, we are failing to follow the foundations of life in Christ.
Love is a choice.
I hope you will make an important choice. If you desire to live your life aligned with God’s word on the subject of MILs and DILs, this book can be a very helpful tool. You can find Related By Chance, Family By Choice at this link: Books by Deb