“Do not follow the statutes of your parents or keep their laws or defile yourselves with their idols. I am the LORD your God; follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
Most children follow the example of their parents. Even as we move into adulthood and marriage, it is natural to mirror our parents’ attitudes and actions. Following their examples can be positive and productive. But what some parents teach can also be difficult and destructive, or somewhere in between.
Jim and Jolene wrestled with the lessons each had learned in their dysfunctional families. When they gave their lives and their marriage to Jesus Christ, they found themselves on a healthier path. But the lessons each had learned from parents and other family members required a lot of sifting. As the couple grew in Christ, they learned three important lessons that the people of Israel also had to learn. The prophet Ezekiel provided specific directions:
First, do not follow the rules (written and unwritten) of sinful parents. Their destructive behavior, broken relationships and spiritual emptiness can lead to death. That was Jim’s experience. He had witnessed drunkenness, abuse and betrayal in his parents’ relationship, and as a teen Jim followed their example as he got into drugs, alcohol and trouble with the law.
Even religious parents can provide poor examples to follow. Jolene often went to church with her family and took part in a youth group. But her mother was judgmental, and her father was preoccupied with his own life. Neither one modeled for Jolene how to behave in a long-term relationship.
Second, do everything you can to pattern your lives and relationship after Christ and his followers. Before meeting each other, Jim and Jolene had become believers. Yet they had to learn how to live as authentic Christians in marriage. They learned as much as they could from Christ’s teachings and example as well as from godly couples in church.
Third, keep the Sabbath. It’s easy to organize life around each other, your jobs, recreational activities, house and yard upkeep, or caring for the kids. But as God says in Ezekiel 20:20, we must keep the Sabbaths holy, “that they may be a sign between us.” When our lives conform to the pattern suggested to us by Scripture, setting aside a day to worship God with other believers and letting everything else line up after that, then, as Ezekiel said, we will know God is our Lord.
John R. Throop