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"You're kinder to strangers than to your own family."

Have you ever heard something like that? I did, several years ago - by my wife. At first, I was shocked she would even suggest such a thing. After all, I was a pastor...a man of God...a shining example of Christ-like love and virtue.

But the more I thought about it, and the more I began to examine my behavior patterns, the more I realized she was right.

To the rest of the world, I was patient, compassionate, and ever willing to die to self to meet their needs. But to my wife and children, I was often something less than those things.

In other words, I wasn't bringing my best love home. Of course, I immediately took steps to remedy that situation.

In the years since that disturbing revelation, I've discovered I'm not the only one with the tendency to be "Mr. Gracious" to everyone at work and "Mr. Grouchy" once I step across my welcome mat.

Every day, believers throughout the body of Christ fall into the trap of thinking that, once they're home, they no longer need to extend the kind of courtesy and grace we offer automatically in the workplace and the marketplace.

God's Plan
Once my wife lovingly pointed out this negative pattern, God really began to deal with me about taking my family for granted. He said, "You need to bring your best love home. Because, if you're not bringing your best love home, you're really living a hypocritical love in front of your wife and children."

I think it's fair to say that often, the ones we love the most receive the lowest output of our love and affection. They're the ones with which we're the least careful in expressing ourselves. And frequently, they're the ones to whom we're the least polite and patient.

Sadly, our children often begin to reflect some of those same traits.

Perhaps they're as patient as they can be with their best friends, but they pick on their own brothers and sisters. They judge them. They tell on them. They won't give them the time of day. But if their friend comes over, there's all the grace, all the patience, all the room in the world for their friend.

I used to think that this was normal behavior, because almost all kids act this way. But the Lord spoke to me and said, "You know, there is nothing normal about that. Not according to my plan. There's nothing normal about siblings hating each other or fighting with each other. And it's not normal in my eyes for you to be impatient or unloving toward your family."

In actuality, the love and respect that you show for other people should be magnified for your wife or husband, children and siblings. God's way is for you to bring your best love home. And in order to bring our best love home, we first have to determine what love really is.

To that end, look with me in the book of Exodus where we see God descending in a cloud and standing with Moses:
And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation.
(Exodus 34:6-7)
Before the Lord revealed the ten commandments to Moses, he first wanted to reveal something about himself. So, the first thing the Lord declares here to Moses is not law, but the attributes of His love, justice and mercy.

Of course, the attributes of God's love are widely known. But there's a difference between the attributes of love and what love really is.

First Corinthians 13 describes the attributes of love, but verse three sums up its importance when it says, "And if I have not love it profiteth me nothing."

According to the first three verses of this passage, you can be the most spiritual-acting human being on the earth, yet if you don't have love, it won't profit you a thing. The truth is, God doesn't care nearly as much about your ability, as He does your ability to love.

In the next five verses we see that love is patient, kind, doesn't get envious or jealous, and doesn't get prideful or egotistical. It doesn't behave unmannerly. It isn't selfish or easily offended. It doesn't think evil about others, nor does is rejoice in somebody else's misfortunes. It only rejoices in the truth.

The Bible says that love protects in loyalty and it patiently waits for the best in other people. Love never fails.

These powerful scriptures are familiar to most of us, but have we applied them to our relationships at home?

Through God's Eyes
Did you know that it's possible to walk in the attributes of love without necessarily having a heart-revelation of what love really is? When we consistently shortchange our loved ones at home, yet extend love to the rest of the world, we're merely walking in the attributes, not the true revelation of love.

In the world people love because they are motivated by need. They're looking for something in return. For example, perhaps you're nice to your boss because he controls your paycheck. So, you put on the attributes of love in order to bring home your paycheck. It's a transaction.

In 1 John 4:10 we discover that genuine love is based on a different type of transaction:
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
As we see in this verse, love in its purest form comes from a revelation of God's love for us. The world portrays love as some elusive emotion. You meet somebody and the sparks fly, the adrenaline flows, the chemistry gels, and there's such passion that you cannot stand to be away from that person for a second. The problem with this type of love is that it is temporary and fleeting. You fall in it and out of it.

That kind of love is also a discriminating love. It chooses whom it will and won't favor. But the Bible says that as God loved us, so should we love one another. With every encounter we need to remember, God loves that person.

If this is true where our day-to-day acquaintances are concerned, it's doubly true at home. When you think of your family, you need to say:

"I know God loves everybody that I'm dealing with today, but He loves my family just as much and they're the first one I've been given care over. My first responsibility is to them. God loves each family member and they are mine! God loves them and I'd better take good care of them. My family is God's property."

Practicing that kind of love will absolutely change you. At the same time it will transform your home into a peaceful refuge. The good news is, if you'll exercise that kind of love at home, it will naturally spill out into all your outside relationships.

The next time you walk through the door after a tiring and difficult day, remember the message of John 4:7-8:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love."
Make it a point to bring your best love home every day. Do so, and you'll find that your home life is blissful and that you're carrying that love outward to a hurting world!

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All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

Tim Burt
Web site: Todays Fresh Manna
Pastor Tim became a part of the leadership team at Living Word Christian Center in 1984 and served as Associate Pastor from 1989 to 2017. He and His wife Renee, also a Pastor at Living Word, resigned, feeling impressed by God to pursue the tremendous growth of their ministry "Fresh Manna," as well as teaching conferences and seminars, and increasing their involvement on the mission field through Tim & Renee Burt Ministries.

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