Dealing With In-Laws


My wife hates my parents. She flew into a rage when she learned that I had invited them to our home. We had a terrible argument. What am I supposed to do in a situation like this?

This is a more common problem than we might think. We need to seek the mind of the Lord for the solution to this and all such problems. Where do we discover the mind of the Lord? In His holy word, the Bible.

There are at least two biblical teachings that must be considered here. The first is found in Genesis 2:24—“For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (cf. Mark 10:7-8; Ephesians 5:31). This establishes the priority that must exist in marriage. From the moment we are joined in Christian marriage, our first priority under God, our first allegiance and responsibil­ity, are to our spouse.

As the old saying goes, “we have to cut the apron strings.” The loyalty and responsi­bility we have had to our parents must now give way to that person to whom we have given our very selves in marriage. The unity created in marriage must remain intact. This mean that no one—parents, children, friends, co-workers—must be allowed to come between a husband and wife.

So, if the moment does come when we are forced to make a choice, we must remem­ber that we made our choice the day we took our marriage vows.

Yet, there is something more to be said. The fifth commandment is: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” (Exodus 20:12). As children, we are required to OBEY our parents (Ephesians 6:1). As adults, especially married adults who now are parents ourselves, we are no longer under this requirement. But we are still under the fifth commandment. So are our spouses.

While the Bible doesn’t tell us specifically how to honor our parents, there are enough guidelines to help us maintain a proper relationship with our parents while also maintaining the proper priority of relationship with our spouse. One good example is Ephesians 4:32: “And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

We must remember, also, that when we marry there is a sense in which our spouse’s parents become our parents, too, and the fifth commandment applies. Somehow, we must find a way to balance these two biblical principles in our marriages in a way that God can accept and bless. If we truly desire to do this, He will help us—as He always will when we strive to do His will.


Written by  Dr. James Van Dyke for The John Ankerberg Show, ©1999.

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