Posted by Bobette Hatteberg, Children’s Ministry Director
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3
A checklist popped up on my to-do list today that I thought I would share, as I think it is something we will all find helpful right now. The reason it popped up this week is because it’s Easter week and I had anticipated that at least some of my extended family would be together for a few extended days. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 stay-at-home order we will not be together. However, I’m sharing it because I think it’s a vital list of reminders for all of us as we adjust to the new family dynamics of this time of shelter-in-place, as we are sharing more time and space than normal, as our routines have been disrupted, and as there are no doubt more occasions for conflict and frustration.
By now, most households are experiencing some restlessness in the sense of being more easily annoyed and more easily frustrated. Words come out a little bit harsher, hot buttons are activated a little bit quicker, and irritation creeps in a little bit faster. We are all having to fight against the flesh and are having to work much harder at being full of grace and love.
This list is something I made several years ago when our family was adjusting to changing family dynamics – an adult son, an adult daughter and her new husband, aging parents. No longer were we living together as family, but instead had extended visits in each other’s homes.
Why the need for a checklist?
Because after our first Christmas together I was convicted that I needed to be very purposeful in preparing for our times together. Sure, I had carefully planned the meals, some fun outings, and things to do together, but I had NOT prepared my heart for the temptations that would arise. That Christmas I found myself irritated by little things, judging how my family members did things differently than I did, and unrealistic expectations. I found that after a few days of “living together,” my words became less kind, my selfishness boiled up, and the peace and joy I so desired was escaping me and was no doubt evident to my family. The time that I looked so forward to had turned into frustration and an occasion for me to be less than patient, unkind, and prideful.
I created this checklist to pop up on my to-do list before each holiday and family vacation. WHY? Because this list is something I need to have at the forefront of my mind when more bodies are sharing space, when family is visiting, and routines are not normal, when there is more occasion for conflict and frustrations. I pray this checklist helps guide your interactions with your family as you spend these weeks together.
I’ve incorporated the checklist into a devotional format so you can use this as a family devotion as you all strive to walk in a manner worthy of Christ’s call! (You can simplify this with your younger preschool children by talking about one character quality each day.)
- Read Ephesians 4:1-3 together.
Ephesians was written by the Apostle Paul to the Church at Ephesus. The entire book is a letter of encouragement and admonition (caution, warning), written to remind believers of their immeasurable (infinite, large number of) blessings in Jesus Christ. And he wrote to not only encourage them to be thankful for those blessings, but also to live in a manner worthy of them (live in a way that reflects Jesus).
- In verse 1, what does “to walk (live) in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” mean?
- Why would it be helpful for us to consider how we are walking/living right now in the middle of our family situation? What temptations are we facing?
- Read verses 2 and 3 and make a checklist of how God is calling us to live.
- Bearing with one another in love
- Eager to maintain unity
- Have you seen similar lists in other places in Scripture? (See Galatians 5:22-23 and Colossians 3:12-14.)
- Talk about each character quality: what it means and what it looks like.
- Verse 3 ends with “in the bond of peace.” What is the bond of peace? (the spiritual cord that surrounds and binds God’s people together. Colossians 3:14 tells us the bond is LOVE.)
- Give an example of how Christ shows YOU each of these qualities.
- Spend a little time each thinking about ways you have NOT been showing these character qualities. Have a time of prayer and ask God’s forgiveness for these sinful attitudes and actions. After asking God’s forgiveness for your own sins, ask for forgiveness from those you have sinned against.
- Give an example of how you can work to show each character quality in your family.
- Make a poster or a small sign of your own checklist based on this passage so you will be frequently reminded how to love each other.
- Pray and ask God to help you remember the kind of love that He has shown you and ask Him to help you show that same kind of love to your family.
Here is the list I made for myself:
- Be careful of unrealistic expectations
- Give and serve to show love, not to get something in return
- Seek to know them (ask good questions)
- Offer to help versus tell them what to do
- Seek their wisdom, desires, and thoughts
- Be grateful for our differences! God sovereignly placed each of these people in my family.
- Be gracious in my words
- Examine my heart before I speak
- If something difficult needs to be said, find the right time and way to share it
- Be flexible
- Realize we all have different expectations; hold mine loosely
- Bearing with one another in love
- Don’t expect that sinners will not act like sinners
- Do not be easily irritated; overlook small things
- Be quick to forgive
- Eager to maintain unity
- Our relationship is important to God
- One day we will all be free of sin (long for heaven)
Resources you may find helpful:
- Bearing Fruit in Christ (Sermon Series) by Paul Tautges (series will continue 4/19/2020)
- Peacemaking for Families By Ken Sande
- The Young Peacemaker (a workbook set of comic style lessons on how to be a peacemaker)
- Help! My Kids Won’t Stop Fighting (article by Corlette Sande)
- Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love by John Crotts (free on audible right now!)