Blended Families Part 17: Loyalty Conflicts & Blended Families in the Bible
Over the last 4½ months, we’ve looked at blended family issues of all kinds: the losses and the gains involved, how to love one another biblically, God’s goal in blending a family, favoritism, anger and how we might unintentionally provoke our children to anger. We’ve talked about step-parenting, behavior contracts, dealing with ex’s and the differences in rules between two households. We’ve also talked about the importance of taking responsibility when we’re wrong and humbly confessing our sins, even to our children. We’ve discussed the importance of overcoming evil with good and how to help our children adjust.
Last week in “Blended Families Part 16: 4 Rules of Communication,” we discussed the importance of good biblical communication and looked at 4 simple rules that can help us stay on track. I also explained something we call the “put-offs and put-ons” from Ephesians 4.22-24. We might call it God’s methodology for change.
Today I’ll talk about loyalty issues, blended families in the Bible, and then wrap things up. Next week I’ll start a new series, “Marriage Made in Heaven?”
Hearts: Ours & Our Children’s
We’ve talked a lot about heart issues and how God is always dealing with us on that level, no matter what challenges we face. He’s also working all things for good so we can become progressively more like Christ. We need to remember that and remind our children when they’re struggling. In fact, Romans 8.28-29 might be a good passage to memorize as a family.
We can also do some self-evaluation (and help our children to do the same), especially when we’re tempted to fight and quarrel, to see what we’re wanting and whether or not we might be wanting it too much.
James 1.13-15: Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death (Jas. 1).
James 4. 1-4: Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?
Even good desires, obedient children, an ex-spouse who does what he (or she) says he will, step-children who respect us, a step-parent who doesn’t show favoritism, etc., can become a lust (any strongly held desire) if we want them so much that we’re willing to sin against God and others to get them.
As I said in the last post, we need to make appropriate changes, not just on the doing level, but in our attitudes and thinking, as well. That is a two-part process: both putting off unbiblical thoughts, words, and actions, and putting on godly ones.
One thing we haven’t spent much time on is loyalty conflicts. Spouses can struggle with loyalty issues if one of them is constantly trying to appease an ex-spouse. This requires loving change on both their parts. The new spouse needs to understand that some contact and compromise with our ex is necessary for the sake of the children and the glory of God. But we need to remember that our loyalty is always to our current spouse. Our responsibility is not to please our ex, but to please God, see “Blended Families Part 4: The Goal of Life”
Parents can struggle with loyalty issues when it comes to spending time with and parenting step-children. But love shouldn’t be exclusive. Showing love to one doesn’t mean we don’t love the other. It helps if we can begin to see the blended family as a whole, instead of “yours and mine.” For more on this subject, you might want to read, “Blended Families Part 3: Loving Not Liking Each Other.”
Children, too, can struggle with loyalty issues. As one little girl said, “On Mother’s Day I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t even know what I should do or could do. If I went with my stepmother, my mother would be furious. If I went with my mother, my stepmother would be upset. I couldn’t even think about it. It’s the worst situation I ever had in my life.”
We need to help our children understand that we want them to be loyal to God. That means to demonstrate biblical love for both sets of parents. And even though it’s challenging, we can do a lot to alleviate the stress our children feel, by giving them permission to treat the other parent or parents lovingly. And we need to set a good example for them by how we treat our ex and his or her new spouse.
Dealing with In-Laws
Many parents welcome their child’s new family with open arms, but others might be less accepting of a new spouse and children. Sometimes it’s because of loyalty to the former spouse. Other times it’s an unwillingness to see step-children as “theirs.”
If it continues to be an issue, you may need to prayerfully and lovingly sit down with them and let them know you need their help to do the hard work of blending a family. Let them know that you understand that they have different feelings for children who have been part of their lives before. Genuine relationships take time. But you may need to firmly let them know that you can’t allow them to come into the family situation and show favoritism to some of the children.
I’ve seen situations where grandparents came to visit and brought lavish gifts for their biological grandchildren while step siblings looked on in hurt or anger. This can be devastating to any sense of unity and acceptance. Continue reading