Setting the Tone in Your Home

by Jeff Jones

Modern Family “Setting the Tone”

Jeff Jones, Senior Pastor

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

For every one of us here, we want to help those we love flourish in life, not hinder them. We want our key relationships, such as people we are dating, or our marriage, or our kids to be accompanied with joy, not tension. Today in this series on Modern Family we are talking about a distinctive of a home or relationship where such positive things happen. Today we are talking about the tone of our home and the tone of our key relationships.

We all know that tone is important, certainly in communication. I can say the same words but communicate the opposite meaning just by changing the tone. I can say, “You’re a genius.” Or I can say, “You’re a genius.” Or, “You are so bad. You are so bad.” Or “come here,” versus, “come here.” One makes you want to run and the other makes you want to come over, just by varying the tone.

I’ve recruited a volunteer to illustrate this another way, so let’s welcome ________ to the stage. I’m going to ask him/her to shoot some baskets, and if he makes at least __ baskets in 30 seconds, he’ll get this chocolate. He actually gets two tries at it. But you have a role to play in this. You as the crowd are going to set the tone, and I want Epoch and Fairview to play along, too. For the first round, I want you as a crowd to boo like crazy, make fun of him, just be jerks. For the second round, we’ll do the opposite. So, let’s do this. When I count to two, the 30 seconds will start, and I’ll need you guys to be really loud and obnoxious. (DO ROUND ONE).

Now, we get to be nicer. He gets another shot at this, but this time you cheer him on and encourage him like crazy. (DO ROUND TWO and debrief).

Tone matters. A huge theme of this series is that what make Christ-following homes and relationships distinctive is that we are to relate to those closest to us the same way God our Father relates to us, which is a radically different way to relate. The tone of our relationships is one of those places of radical differences, not a tone of strife and negativity but one that allows that other person to flourish. We can say all the right things and do all the right things, but if we have the wrong tone we can crush the heart of a child or choke the life out of our spouse.

Today we are going to examine and apply one of the most recognizable and beautiful passages in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, as well as a passage in Romans to help reset the tone of our relationships. I’m going to read the passage first, and then we’ll talk about it and apply it, so turn with me in your Bibles or the ones under the seat in front of you to 1 Corinthians 13, and we’ll start with v. 4:

Slide: ____________________) 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…

Imagine a home where love as just described set the tone of the home, and that’s what we are going to talk about and then work on this week. How do we make this the tone of our home and what would that even look like? You can follow along with me in your outline that you were given when you came in.

Slide: ________________) 1) Change the Rules (Defy Gravity)

There is so much in these verses, and all of us would want to relate this way and set a tone of love that was patient and kind, not easily angered and not holding grudges, and that is easy to do when the other person is doing the same thing, or when they are doing what we want them to do. It’s easy to be kind to a kind person. It’s easy to be patient with our kids when they are doing what they are supposed to be doing.

That’s why even though most marriages don’t end up making it, almost all marriages make it through the honeymoon. You are in love, in an ideal environment, no pressure, no expectations of each other. You are just on the beach and in love. At some point though the honeymoon is over, and reality kicks in, and you realize that your ideal man or woman isn’t so ideal after all. Same with kids. When you first see your child, they are this completely innocent little baby and you look at them and you think, “Wow, he or she is just perfect. I can’t ever imagine this little baby causing any problems.” And then they turn two, and then they become teenagers, and doing the whole 1 Corinthians 13 thing isn’t so easy.

We can talk about having a good tone when the other person is doing what we want, but why do that? Instead, I want to talk about choosing a tone of love when the other person is doing the opposite of what we think, because that’s when we typically give ourselves permission to temporarily throw this passage out of our Bibles. We are going to talk about changing the rules, defying relational gravity. By relational gravity, I’m talking about the negative spiral that naturally and immediately starts when you hurt me or wrong me or frustrate me, and then I respond in kind, and then you respond in kind, and then I do so again, and so on, and we spiral down to some pretty low places.

That’s the natural thing to do. It’s relational gravity, just like when I drop this ball; it’s pretty predictable what’s going to happen. It’s not going up, it’s going down. In relationships, relational gravity is just as predictable. You hurt me, I’m going to hurt you back. You wrong me, I’m going to get even. Even if it takes awhile, I am now holding a grudge, and I’m going to make you pay. You frustrate me, and I’m going to put you back in your place. It feels like justice to do so. So, our spouse treats us badly or blows an expectation we have for them, and we react. The spiral starts going downhill. Our kid does something wrong or is disrespectful or irresponsible, and boom, there goes gravity.

Once gravity starts, we feel very justified in throwing 1 Corinthians 13 out the window, and we justify being rude and impatient and unkind and being angry quickly and holding on to that anger in the form of a grudge. Yet, as Christ-followers we are called to respond in a very different way that breaks the cycle and sets a whole different tone in that home or that relationship. We choose to love at all times.

Romans 12:21 tells us how to respond when someone wrongs or frustrates us:

Slide: ___________________) Romans 12:21 (NIV)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

You choose to break the laws of relational gravity and overcome evil with good, you respond to wrong with right, you choose love always.

So, if someone acts immature or foolish or hurtful, you don’t respond in kind. You don’t sink to that level. You don’t let that set the tone. Instead, you break the spiral and respond with love.

That’s not easy to do though. It’s amazing what a spouse or a child can do to you, how easily you can sink to the level of a two year old or a 16 year old. Someone told me this week that as they were driving home from church, this mom and her teenage daughter pulled up next to them at a light, and they were arguing in the car, and the mom was just going off on her kid, who I’m sure frustrated the heck out of her. Soon, the mom threw something at her daughter, which I’m sure felt good at the moment. I’ve been there. They then drove away, and guess what was on the back of their car? A Chase Oaks sticker. One of us! Because we’ve all been there. It could have been me, but I’m not a mom and I don’t have a daughter. Hey, if you have toddlers or teenagers, you’ve done the gravity thing too. It’s natural.

Proverbs 29:22 says,

Slide: ____________________) Proverbs 29:22 (NIV)

An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.

Anger is maybe the biggest reason we choose sin over love, and allow relational gravity to do its evil work. In an angry moment, I can justify a toxic tone and violating love feels right. And our lives are so stressful that it makes all this even easier to get it wrong. In the moment, it feels so right but in the aftermath we realize our oops after the damage is done. You can probably all remember something someone you love said to you in anger that hurt you. It may have been 30 years ago, but you still remember it. You can probably remember things you’ve done or said in anger that wounded too. So easy to jettison 1 Corinthians 13 when we get frustrated or angry, but we have to learn the opposite response, and choose to overcome evil with good. We may have to call a time out and go to separate corners before responding to each other when we are mad. That’s fine. But so much damage happens when we are frustrated, and the gravity spiral leads to soul damage and relational damage 100% of the time. Instead, choose to break the laws of relational gravity that allows you to respond to evil with good.

You can still speak the truth about how you feel and correct a wrong attitude or action. You just speak the truth in love, as Ephesians says. Rather than being rude and angry and spiteful, you choose to be patient and kind and respectful.

As a Christ-follower, you’ve got to be the one to break the downward spiral so that the tone of the home isn’t ruined, so that hearts don’t get crushed, so that regrets don’t build, and so that you don’t shut down the willingness of your kid or teenager to communicate with you or open up to you in the future. In that tense moment, you choose to overcome evil with good.

Slide: ___________________) 2) Believe the Best (Defy Logic)

What I’m about to say does defy logic. It isn’t necessarily rational, but it is a choice that love makes that changes the whole tone of a home or a marriage. These next couple of verses in 1 Corinthians 13 are just crazy verses, and when people describe love as making you crazy, this is a great illustration of that. Let’s look at 13:7, and this is one crazy passage:

Slide: ___________________) 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NIV)

[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Notice the repetition of “always” here. This is what love does. It always protects, believes, hopes, and perseveres. The New American Standard translation reads: [Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Another way to say this is that love is incredibly generous toward the other person, always. Love chooses to believe all things and hope all things. Love chooses to believe the best, to see the other person through the lens of incredible generosity and just assume that if you don’t know the motives of the other person, that they are probably really great. Love sets this crazy, generous tone that says, “I believe you. I trust you. I’m not going anywhere. And I’m always holding out hope for you.”

That is a very different tone than most marriages and in most parent-child relationships. Rather than a negative, mistrusting, I’ve got to watch you all the time because you are so messed up tone, it is just this positive, trusting, “I am for you and I believe in you” tone that sometimes defies logic.

Let’s talk about how this generous tone craziness affects marriage. A few years ago I read a book by Marcus Buckingham, who wrote Now Discover Your Strengths and other best-selling books. This one was called, The One Thing You Need to Know. Although the book is not about marriage, he illustrates the one thing you need to know at the beginning of the book with an illustration that comes out of one of the largest marriage studies ever done. This marriage study was a study done on hundreds of marriages of ten years plus that by various standards were good marriages, to find what these good marriages had in common. They found one primary common denominator, and the finding blew all their expectations out of the water. None of them expected that to be the one thing they all had in common. They assumed that these marriages would be couples who had a very accurate and realistic view of each other, and had realistic expectations of that other person based on those. That love is not blind for these couples, but highly informed. What they found was the opposite.

What they found was that for these couples, love is blind. They irrationally see the other person as being much better than they are, and they treat them accordingly. They choose to believe the best. Here’s the way Buckingham worded it:

Slide: ____________________)
The one thing: Find the most generous explanation for each other’s behavior and believe it.

The one thing was an overly generous view of their partner that caused them to interpret everything through that positive lens. They just refused to go negative. When they described their partner, they were irrationally generous and worded their weaknesses as strengths. So her husband was not impatient, he was intense. His wife was not lazy but laid-back and fun-loving. He was not insensitive, but highly-focused. They focused on the positive and chose always to believe the best.

They chose a positive tone for the marriage that allowed trust and love to then flourish. They were for each other. The same is true in parenting. Massive amounts of research have demonstrated the reality of self-fulfilling prophecies in child- raising, how we create in our kids what we believe our kids are and are becoming. Our kids become what they feel we think they are. If that means we think they are a pain in the rear, that’s what they will become. Or, on the positive side, if they feel our belief in them, they tend to rise to that level of belief.

In the biblical era, one way that this was communicated was through names. When people named their children, they did so carefully and the names meant something. Names like “faithful,” and “God is my focus.” Not, klutz or moron. An interesting Bible study is to look at names of Bible characters, and you see how these people actually grow into their names, so much so that sometimes you think the Bible had to cheat…that they had to be named after they grew up, not before.

Just think about how God fathers us, how he views us. He does so with a generous, positive tone. The Bible says that God delights in us multiple times. One of the more dramatic verses is in a song we sometimes sing about God dancing and singing over his children with delight, from Zephaniah. God is patient with us, as Psalm 103 so eloquently says:

Slide: ____________________) Psalm 103:13-14 (NIV)

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

He believes in us, and focuses on our strengths, not our weaknesses. The Bible emphasizes our gifts, not our deficiencies, which means we should do the same with our own kids.

Our kids should feel the same. They should never feel like an object of our disgust, but of our delight, not our shame but our pride, not our pain but our pleasure. That’s true even in discipline, which we will talk about next week. This sets the tone of our discipline, so that rather than words or a tone that communicates, “You are such a screw up. You always do the wrong thing and you never choose what’s right,” you change the tone. It’s more, “I love your strong will, but this time you chose to cross a line that I can’t let you cross without consequences.”

The point here is to have an overly generous view of our kids that sets a positive tone of belief, and that is rare. Of all the things I am thankful for in my life, near the very top is how my parents did this for me. I have said this before, but I cannot remember one second in my life where I doubted the fact that my parents love me and believe in me and are cheering me on in life. That foundation is one that I do not take for granted, and one that I certainly want to give my own kids as their dad. We take Collin to college this week, and when he is going to bed in his dorm room (same with Caleb), I want him to go to sleep with the reality that his mom and dad treasure him and believe in him and are cheering him on in life to do what God has put him on this planet to do.

We can say those words to our kids, but if the tone in which we relate with them doesn’t match, it renders the words hollow. A negative, suspicious, condescending tone robs our kids and teenagers of dignity, and they will struggle with a low self- esteem or they will get as far away from us as quickly as they can to get out of the toxic environment our negative tone creates.

So, how would you describe the tone you set as a husband or wife in your marriage? What would your spouse say? How about the tone you set with your kids? What would your kids say? For some of you, we actually asked your kids last week in Kidzone and made a video of their responses. We got some pretty shocking responses, so I hope you won’t be too embarrassed, but go ahead and show the video. I’m kidding. Wouldn’t do that to you, and we all have our less than perfect moments on this tone thing. Yet, this is one we need to get right. You and I, as parents, are the ones who are responsible for the tone in our home, not our kids. For kids to flourish, that tone must be one of unwavering belief in them.

Slide: ___________________) 3) Keep on Loving (Defy entropy)

The last little statement in 1 Corinthians 13 is a good statement for us to go home with: Love never fails. Love doesn’t quit, even when it gets hard. It just keeps on going. Love always holds out hope, grace, and forgiveness. One of the most biblically important concepts about God as our father is an Old Testament, Hebrew word, pronounced hesed, and often translated “lovingkindness” or “unending love” in some translations. It is God choosing to love us with a never ending love. His love never exhausts. He just keeps loving, regardless of our performance.

For you and me as parents, we must love the same way, but that isn’t easy. Marriage and parenting can be really exhausting, and therefore maintaining a 1 Corinthians 13 tone in our home can be easy for a little while to maintain, but hard over a long period of time. For this to happen, it means we must stay close to God and we must manage our own lives well. Staying close to God, in his Word, in prayer, keeps us in touch with his delight in us, how he loves us, which then helps us treat others the same way. He also empowers us to keep us going. Managing our own lives well is also so important, because stress is not a friend to a healthy tone in the home. We need to manage our stress and those things that stress us out so that we can be loving.

The other night I came in from a day where I had meetings from 8 in the morning to ten at night, and after 14 hours of meetings, I was spent and stressed and I was one grumpy guy by the time I got home. And that was my fault for not managing my day better than I did. I could have managed it better, to insert a little bit of rest or recreation into it so that I could be more effective in those meetings and more loving at home, but I didn’t. So, I was kind of a jerk. Every once in a while, that’s going to happen, but I sure don’t want it to be my pattern. I don’t want it to be the way my kids describe me one day to their kids. We need to stay close to God and manage our lives well if we are going to be spouses and parents who foster a good tone in the home; otherwise, it won’t happen. Where is your stress level right now? How could you manage your life better, in a way that makes you far more effective at setting the kind of tone that helps a family flourish and not falter?

This week we realized that our main air-conditioning unit is going out, which is not good in 110 degree weather. Nor is it good for our pocketbook. Between car expenses and this, so far life is not making our Go Boldly commitment easy, but that’s okay; God will provide what we need to be faithful to that.

But on the house, what I want is to be able to come in and set the thermometer to a healthy temperature, one where we can flourish as a family. So, on this tone element, picture yourself looking at the thermostat now, and what is the temperature of your home? What is the tone you are setting?

To get more specific, let’s review the message:
First, defying relational gravity. How are you doing there? This week, make a choice to stop the negative spiral and choose to overcome evil with good. Choose to respond with kindness, and patience, and respect. Don’t sink below the level of what love would do.

How about defying logic with how we view our kids? Are you irrationally generous in the way you see your kids in a way that comes across in your parenting of them? Do they believe you believe in them completely, trust them, choose to believe the best when you don’t know what’s going on?

And last, are you defying entropy by leaning on God to love well and lead your home with a healthy tone?

Great questions as we go to God in prayer. This week, let’s ask for God’s help in changing the tone of our home.


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