How to make a blended family work
By Tom Brown
Brady Bunch was the first TV family to deal with the concept of blended
families. If you are part of a blended family, I am sure you are thinking,
“My family looks nothing like the Brady Bunch, but more like The Adam’s
Family.” Let’s face it: the modern family looks very different than the
traditional family of yesteryear. The change has not been good. The family
has gone through a great crisis.
common place. More and more women are pregnant out of wedlock. Children are
the causalities of the disintegration of the traditional, nuclear family.
Despite the fact that the modern family with divorce and unwed pregnancies
is not God’s ideal, God can still bless it.
Jesus met a
woman at the well who was not part of the traditional family. Her family
looked more like today’s family. She had been married five times, and she
gave up on marriage and was shacking up with a guy. By the way, I did some
research and found out her name. Her name was Elizabeth Taylor.
Kidding aside, she was not happy.
out during the hot hour noon sun to draw water from the well. She was an
outcast. She did not associate with the women in the village. She felt
rejected. Then she met Jesus.
something about Him that made her shift focus from her disappointing life to
her relationship with God. Jesus promised her living water if she would
believe in Him. At once, she told all her neighbors about Jesus. She no
longer allowed shame to stop her from following Christ. If you are part of
the modern family: single mother, divorcee, or step parent—don’t let the
past stop you from following Christ. God can forgive you. He can give you
wisdom to make wiser choices, and the strength to live a better life.
Jesus Acknowledged her Past
Jesus told her,
“Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I have no husband,” she
Jesus said to her,
“You are right when you say you have no husband.
fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your
husband. What you have just said is quite true”
that the woman had five husbands. I find it interesting that people have
interpreted Jesus teachings as to exclude the possibility of remarriage.
Yet, Jesus acknowledged she had five husbands. I think we need to confess
our past if we are to learn from it and let the past make us better people.
Jesus also mildly
reprimanded the woman for living with a man without the benefit of marriage,
“The man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is
quite true.” To have the best life God wants for us, we have to repent
of any current sins we are committing. You can’t be asking God’s blessings
on your relationship when you don’t want to get married.
Maria came to me
and asked if she could get counseling with her and her boyfriend, Javier
I agreed. They came to my office and proceeded to explain how they
constantly fight, they have problems with one of the kids from a previous
relationship and they needed guidance. I asked if they were living together,
and they said they were living together for two years. I said, “Are you
aware that you are living in sin?”
They had a blank
look. Then they looked at each other, “Well, we have mentioned the
possibility of getting married, but we aren’t sure if we are ready.”
I had to do my
pastoral job by explaining that unless they get married, they will continue
to live without the full blessing of the Lord. They won’t have the full
wisdom or strength to make their relationship work without God.
I find many
couples like Maria and Javier: they struggle, and they want God’s help
without doing what God says to do. Jesus will not stoop down to your level
just to allow you to stay on your level. He wants you to come up to His
level. You can’t continue making the same mistakes over and over again and
yet expect God’s blessings.
sister, you can’t keep sleeping with guys and getting pregnant, and yet,
come to the Lord and ask him to bless your life. He will bless your life,
but you have to learn to abstain from your passions until you get married.
Yes, God forgives your past, but not so you can continue repeating your
mistakes. He gave you grace to change.
The lesson we
learn from Jesus talking to the woman at the well was we should acknowledge
our past and repent from our current mistakes so we can receive the full
blessings of God. Jesus even used this woman as an evangelist since she won
many people in her town to Christ. God is not through with you because of
your past mistakes.
God hates divorce
divorce,” says the Lord God of
Israel (Mal 2:16). God does not hate people that are divorce, but He
hates divorce because of the pain it causes people. I thank God I have been
married to the same woman all my life. This has caused me to avoid needless
pain, confusion and complications.
someone has been divorced they experience an almost unbearable pain. The
pain is emotional and financial. It also can also be spiritual pain. Bonnie
had been a very faithful member of my church for years, but when her husband
left her and got remarried, it crushed her. Not only was she hurt
emotionally, but she was hurt spiritually. Eventually she left the church
and to my knowledge has stopped serving the Lord. Bonnie is not alone. There
are many women like her. Men too. They have become disillusioned with God
and the Church because of their divorce.
causes additional baggage in a new relationship. Most people who are divorce
will eventually get remarried. However, the person marrying the divorced
person is not just marrying one person; they are accepting the past lives of
the person, which includes their children and even a relationship with their
ex spouses. Their finances are also affected. They may have to pay child
support. Visitation rights are also thrown into the mix. As you can see, the
reason God hates divorce is because of the pain and complications it can
bring us. However, God will work with the situation you are in to bring
about the best possible life you can have. But you have to trust God and do
things His way.
Why Divorce hurts so much?
Divorce has two
parts: first is the legal side and second is the emotional side. Jesus dealt
with both in the passage in Matthew 5:32 “It hath been said, Whosoever
shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement” (KJV).
There are two words used here: first is “put away” and the second is
“divorcement.” Divorce is legal and instant; however the putting away
literally mans to let loose and to tear away from that which was bound. This
Divorce is tearing the bonds
that were glued. If you can picture two papers bound together with glue, and
after years, you try to tear the paper apart from each other, you can
imagine the papers will not be the same. There will be pieces of one paper
still attached to the other. You can’t simply cleanly tear apart the two
papers glued, and neither can you break the bond of marriage in a clean
manner. There will be pieces of you stuck with the other person.
This is why
resentment is normal in divorce. While it’s normal it is not inevitable or
even desirable. Unforgiveness keeps the ungodly bonds connected to the ex.
This is why it’s hard to form a godly relationship with the new spouse until
you forgive the ex spouse.
“Oh, that’s too
hard to do. I am not going to forgive him for what he did to me.”
Forgiveness is not
primarily for the other person’s benefit, it is for yours. By forgiving you
release the grace and mercy of God into your life. Jesus said,
“But if you do not forgive, neither will your
Father who is in heaven forgive your sins”
(Mark 11:26). We all make mistakes, and even if
you are not the primary fault of the divorce, there are areas in your life
you need God’s mercy, and by forgiving, we release God’s full mercy and
grace in our lives. And we need God’s grace and mercy in a new marriage.
If you are the
cause of the divorce, then you need to ask God to forgive you for deserting
your spouse and possibly even hurting your children, and if possible be
reconciled to your former spouse. “To the married I give this command
(not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she
does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a
husband must not divorce his wife” (1 Cor 7:10-11). So if neither of you
have been remarried, then you owe it to God, your former spouse as well as
to your children to work at being reconciled which means remarried again.
For some of you you might be crying, “Ouch!” But that is the command of “the
The Bible says
almost nothing about step children or step parents, except that step parents
cannot have sex with their step children. “Do not have sexual relations
with both a woman and her daughter. Do not have sexual relations with either
her son's daughter or her daughter's daughter; they are her close relatives.
That is wickedness” (Lev 18:17). In other words, don’t pull a Woody
Allen on your step daughters. Outside of this explicit instruction,
there is nothing specific in the Bible about raising step children. However,
we do have the Holy Spirit in us to guide us and there are examples in the
Bible that can give us principles in raising step children.
The first thing
you must realize is that there will be a natural inclination to treat your
own biological children better than you would treat your step children, and
you must avoid this.
Cinderella is a
great fairytale that reveals a not so fairy-truth about step parents. Ella
had a wonderful, loving father, but when he died, the step mother took
control. And as the story goes, she mistreated Ella and banished her to the
cinders to work, hence the name Cinderella. No step parent sees themselves
as Lady Tremain. After all she was the wicked step mother. However,
wickedness is very subtle. It doesn’t easily reveal itself. It manifest in
little ways, and as a step parent, you must guard yourself from showing
favoritism toward your own biological children.
The second thing
you must realize is that you are not the biological parent and therefore you
do not have the “right” to discipline the step children in the same way you
would discipline your own children.
“For what son
is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone
undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.
(Heb 12:7-8). Step children are neither the illegitimate children nor
are they your true children. Thus, the discipline you bring them must
consider this truth. First, you do have a responsibility as the step parent
to bring some discipline in the household, but you must be considerate
toward the “true” parents, the biological ones.
For example, if my
wife died and I remarried a woman with children, I would not bring out the
paddle to discipline her children, without considering her and the true
father’s feelings. If their true father did not want me to spank his kids,
then I would not spank them. I have to be considerate toward the true
parents. Yet many step parents not only discriminate against the step
children, but they are harsh with discipline. You are sure to bring
discouragement and bad feelings in the hearts of your step children if you
go that direction.
My step father Red
was an ideal step father. First, I remember my mother talking to my sister
and me about Red. She said, “You can call Red, Daddy if you want.”
Just then, Red
jump up and said, “Oh, no, Tommy and Cathy, you have your father, and I am
not replacing him. You don’t have to call me Dad. You can call me Red.”
He was not
interested in titles. He simply became a dad to me without needing to be
called dad. To tell you the truth, Red has been more of a dad to me than my
own dad was. Yet, I still call him Red.
Another thing Red
did was he never disciplined us. He did not yell. He never showed anger
toward my sister and me. He always understood that the discipline
responsibility lay with my mom and my dad. As I look at Red’s example, I
think he got it right. To this day, I have a great love for my step-father
and Javier were not their real names.
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