Where do in-laws fit in?

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Clay7926

Puritan Board Sophomore
One thing I love about Reformed doctrine is it's emphasis on what the Christian family should look like, as well as everyone's roles in said family. However, one aspect of marriage that I've not found a definitive Biblical and Reformed statement on is the place of the mother-in-law or father-in-law in one's marriage.

In Scripture, I see where Moses' father-in-law Jethro gives him good counsel, and I also see where Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law. However, other than these, I don't see any other description of what a relationship with the in-laws should look like from a Biblical and Reformed perspective (other than 'Honor your father and mother).

The question: What should this relationship look like? Could anyone here direct me to scripture and/or any other books that could clear this up for me?
 
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InevitablyReformed

Puritan Board Freshman
Where do in-laws fit in?!

They don't! :lol:

Sorry Henry, it was too good to pass up.

I personally view my in-laws as my parents in the sense that I should honor them. But they certainly do not have access to any and all things in my marriage or parental obligations. I have had to draw some sharp lines in my short marriage (1 yr. 7 mo.).
 

Clay7926

Puritan Board Sophomore
Ha. Ha. Ha.

Where do in-laws fit in?!

They don't! :lol:

Sorry Henry, it was too good to pass up.
I set 'em up, you knock 'em down! :lol:

Thanks for your thoughts. But then here's the next question: how do you honor them in a Biblical sense? What is that supposed to look like?
 
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VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
William Gouge has a lot to say about it in Of Domestical Duties, particularly here:

71. Of the duty of fathers and mothers in law.

The extent of this title [Fathers] is in the last place to be considered. Not only natural parents themselves, but also all that are in their place are comprised under it. As they who are in the place of parents,

1. By the bond of marriage.

2. By propinquity of blood.

3. By voluntary appointment.

The first sort are fathers and mothers in law: who are so reckoned either by the marriage of parents themselves, or by the marriage of their children.

That man or woman which is married to a parent that had children before their marriage, is in the place of a natural parent: thus Joseph was a father to Jesus (Luke 2:48), and Keturah a mother to Isaac (Gen 25:1). So again the natural parents of the son that hath married a wife, or of that daughter that is married to an husband, are in the place of parents to the wife of their son, and to the husband of their daughter. Thus Jethro was a father to Moses (Exod 18:1), and Naomi a mother to Ruth (Ruth 3:1).

All these are to account their children in law [that is, the children of their husband and wife, or the wives of their sons, and the husbands of their daughters] as their own natural children, and according to the age and place of these children to perform the forenamed duties, and every way to seek their good [except in such duties as after a peculiar manner belong to natural parents, as nursing to a natural mother, leaving the inheritance to a natural parent].

For a pattern hereof take the forenamed examples of Joseph and Naomi. What natural parents could do more for their own children than Joseph did for Jesus, and Naomi for Ruth? The history noteth how Joseph took care to have his wives' children circumcised, and presented in the temple (Luke 2:21,22): how he fled from place to place to preserve the child's life (Matt 2:14): how perplexed he was when he thought the child was lost (Luke 2:48): how he trained him up in his own house (Luke 2:51). The history also noteth how Naomi brought Ruth her son's wife into her own country, and retained her with herself (Ruth 1:22), and directed her whither to go (Ruth 2:22), and what husband to have (Ruth 3:1), and became a nurse to her child (Ruth 4:16).

1. Marriage maketh man and wife one flesh: in which respect they ought to have one mind, and the same affections, as mutually each to other, so jointly to the children of each other. On which ground also the husband and wife of a child, being one flesh with the child, ought as the child to be respected. On this ground God counteth the Saints his dear children (Eph 5:1), because they espoused to his natural son (2 Cor 11:2).

2. To respect the children of an husband or wife as their own, is a great evidence of entire love to the husband and wife. And to respect the husband and wife of a child is a great evidence of love to the child itself. If the world's proverb hold true [love me and love my dog] how much more true is this Christian rule, love me and love my child: or love me and love mine husband: or love me and love my wife.

3. This also is an especial means to kindle and preserve mutual love betwixt man and wife, who have children of former husbands and wives: as also betwixt parents and children.

72. Of the perverse carriage of fathers and mothers in law to their children.

Contrary is the carriage of most fathers and mothers in law: especially of those who are married to husbands or to wives that had children before marriage: so far they are from performing the forenamed duty, as rather they envy at the prosperity of their husbands' and wives' children: and secretly endeavour to hinder it in what they can: and cunningly seek to alienate the natural parents' affection from them: whence fearful tragedies have been made, and lamentable mischiefs have followed. What other reason can be given hereof but a plain instigation of the devil, who thus laboureth to disunite those whom God hath joined together? For avoiding this snare note the mischiefs that follow from thence.

1. Such parents sin against God's ordinance: and as Eve, lean more to Satan's suggestion than to God's direction.

2. They alienate the hearts and affections of one from another: not only from their children, but from themselves.

3. They provoke their children in law to contemn and despise them, and to yield no duty unto them.

Hence note into what an hell unkind fathers and mothers in law do cast themselves. If this were duly weighed, I think they would be otherwise minded. But the god of this world doth so blind their eyes with self-love, and with envy, that they cannot see the mischiefs whereinto they implunge themselves.

This is a point the more to be weighed, because the fault here taxed is so common, and hath in all ages been too common. What grievous complaints have in former times been made, and still are made by children against fathers, and mothers in law? Whence also direful imprecations have followed. Let widowers and widows that have children seriously think of it beforehand: and be the more circumspect in taking a second or third husband or wife: and after they are married let them take heed of Satan's snares: and let conscience of duty more prevail with them, than corruption of nature.
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
Henry,

In the Old Testament, the word for a "father-in-law" is "he who circumcises". In other words, the father-in-law plays a significant role in preparing the young man for the covenant of marriage. This is why negotiations for a young woman's hand are to be made with the father of the girl, and not directly with the girl. The circumciser is to be the door-way through which a man goes to capture a bride.

In this way, as symbolized in the Christian marriage service, the father passes on his authority over his daughter to the man who takes her. The husband who does not have the blessing and permission of the father-in-law does not have lawful authority. If there is no father-in-law to speak of, or if he is derelict, scripture provides for legal proxies.

That in mind, the father-in-law ought to be revered and honored, but not obeyed once the woman is given in marriage. In other words, in-laws have no lawful authority to tell their sons, daughters, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law what to do.

On the other hand, only a fool would not seek their advice in important matters, such as family government, relationships, budgeting, investments, etc.

As a personal note, my father-in-law and I are very good friends. He is an excellent counselor, and a reverend father to me. He has given me excellent insights into parenting, as well as into my wife's particular giftings and weaknesses. I love him. And yet, he never "tells me what to do". This, in my opinion, is what in-laws are all about.

When they seek to impose themselves, they ought to be resisted. But when they offer godly wisdom, they are probably the first people you should listen to.

Godspeed,
 

kalawine

Puritan Board Junior
Where do in-laws fit in?!

They don't! :lol:

Sorry Henry, it was too good to pass up.

I personally view my in-laws as my parents in the sense that I should honor them. But they certainly do not have access to any and all things in my marriage or parental obligations. I have had to draw some sharp lines in my short marriage (1 yr. 7 mo.).
Awww.... you stole my joke! :lol:
 

kalawine

Puritan Board Junior
Is it ok to get tired of one's in-laws?
My inlaws did all they could to intrude on my marriage and had a lot to do with it ending. But then, the whole family was disfunctional and was a ministry family with loads of skeletons in their closet. I would say that we should "leave and cleave" but respect them at the same time. Just today I was listening to the Bible at my desk and I remember thinking about how longsuffering Jacob was with his father-in-law. God help me but I might have killed the guy! :lol: (JKing of course)
 

Zenas

Snow Miser
When my future father-in-law finally gave me permission to ask my fiancee' to marry me, he compared me to Jacob and himself to Laban. This was also the first time they recognized us as officially having some semblance of a relationship. We were "friends" for nearly 3 years up to that point. :p

If that tells you anything.
 
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