“I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan.” 2 Samuel 9:7
Many years after his friend Jonathan died, King David reached out to Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth. David restored to Mephibosheth the land that had belonged to his grandfather, King Saul, and David welcomed Mephibosheth to his royal table. Why? Because David loved Jonathan and wanted to do something kind to a member of Saul’s household “for Jonathan’s sake” (2 Samuel 9:1).
Sometimes, I don’t want to extend myself on behalf of anyone else, even my husband. But when we entered into marriage, we committed not just to love each other but also to behave lovingly toward the people we each love. This doesn’t mean we necessarily have to like everyone our spouse likes. The Bible, after all, doesn’t say whether or not David liked Mephibosheth. What it says is that David and Jonathan had a special love for each other (see 1 Samuel 18:1–4; 20:17; 2 Samuel 1:26); and because David loved Jonathan, he extended kindness to Mephibosheth.
One of the most powerful ways my husband loves me is by loving my sister. To be completely honest, my sister and I don’t get along that well. We don’t have much in common (except our faces, which are almost identical). When we’re together, we seem to regress to childhood, circa 1985, when I was nine and she was sixteen. She tells me what to do, and I bristle. We get tetchy. We pick at each other like hens.
I think Griff and Leanne like each other well enough, though I doubt they would have sought each other out and become friends had not marriage made them siblings-in-law. And it doesn’t really matter how much they like each other. What matters is that they extend themselves to one another.
On Wednesday nights, when I have church commitments, Griff eats dinner with Leanne and her family. Griff also volunteers to babysit for my nephew. When I am out of town on business, Leanne calls Griff and checks on him. And though Griff and Leanne do have affection for one another, they make these gestures, I think, less out of affection for one another and more out of love for me. Griff understands that eating dinner with Leanne and her family knits Leanne and me together, even though I am not at the dinner table.
When two people marry, they don’t become involved with just one other person. Spouses come with a constellation of families and friends. We can ignore those relationships. We can view them as a threat to our relationship with our spouse and fight them. Or we can lovingly insert ourselves into those relationships and help grow them.
We don’t have to develop intimate friendships with all of our spouse’s relatives and close friends. But, as David understood, we can best honor, love and serve our spouse by making loving overtures to the people they love.
- Who are the people (besides each other and our children) we love best in the world? How have we extended ourselves in love to people in each other’s world?
- Why is it sometimes difficult to love the other people who came with this marriage? Is there someone one of us finds difficult to love? What would happen if we imagined God showing up in our relationships with difficult people?
- Is there a cherished friend or relative whom we wished had a better relationship with one of us?