Four ways God equips us to love our in-laws

Published on February 04, 2022

Sometimes it’s easy to consider our in-laws as exceptions to the rules of biblical wisdom. 

We’ll apply certain passages to every other relationship but this one. We’ll follow the Bible’s instructions when it comes to our kids, or our church relationships, or our work friends, and so on. 

But when an in-law gets thrown in the mix, all that Scriptural guidance gets thrown out. We think, “It’s not worth it—after all, we only see them a couple times a year!” Or “It’s too painful; there’s no way God could be asking me to do that with her.” 

To fight our tendency of applying God’s Word selectively, another helpful way to develop a Christlike heart toward your in-law is to recall various passages about loving others—passages you already know and agree with in a general sense—and apply them directly to your mother-in-law (MIL) or daughter-in-law (DIL). 

We aren’t off the hook with these when it comes to our in-law, and we find when we implement them with her, we grow in Christlikeness.

1. Appreciate your in-law for who he created her to be

“God created man in His own image.” You likely know that passage. You probably believe he ordained the number of hairs on our head and the number of our days on this earth (Psalm 139:16). You already know he creates each image-bearer with unique gifts, abilities and personalities. God’s expectations for us are rooted in love and meant to produce fruitful relationships on earth. 

So consider this: your in-law was purposefully created to be the mother of your husband, or the wife of your son. It was no accident. 

If you believe these things in a general sense, you must believe it about her. After all, wouldn’t you want her to believe these things about you?   

Many of us have an ideal image in our mind, the kind of person we expect for a MIL or DIL. It’s the person that we prayed for, perhaps created in our image. Yet it’s not our choice. When we marry, or when our sons marry, we are given the package deal. 

If we hold onto our expectation of who our in-law is supposed to be, we’ll likely be disappointed or resentful. Instead, we need to thank God for the unique person that they are and ask him to help us love them just as they are. After all, God loved us when we were still his enemies. 

Shouldn’t we extend the same grace to our in-law? God made us unique and wrote an intentional story for our lives. Shouldn’t we treat our in-law like we believe the same about her story? And if we don’t, what does that say about our belief in the God who made her?

2. Love your in-law as yourself

Jesus gave us the greatest commandment when he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul” (Matt. 22:37). This was followed by the second greatest commandment, “to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). Is your neighbor only the person living in the house next door to you? Of course not. 

Your neighbor is anyone in your sphere of contact and influence. Your in-law is your neighbor, and we are to love them as we love ourselves. This passage applies to her too!   

It is natural to look out for yourself. We all reflexively go about our days ensuring we are comfortable, with enough food and clothing, with an eye toward our preferences being honored. But it is harder to do that for someone else. 

If we are to love our in-law as ourselves, we should be willing to look out for their well-being. How can we make them feel loved and cared for? What are their preferences with food or time or schedules?

3. Show honor to your in-law

Exodus 20:12 tells us we should honor our father and mother, that our days may be long in the land. We’d agree that this biblical principle should apply to every Christian family. So why not ours? We’d want our kids to follow this wisdom, so why would we not want to follow it ourselves when it comes to our in-law? 

Even though your MIL is not your biological parent, she is the mom of your husband. And since we are one with our husband, she should be honored just as our own mother. 1 Peter 2:17 reminds us to show honor to all people, which includes our in-law. 

This verse doesn’t give an exemption clause if your in-law is difficult to get along with. We show honor by praying for them, listening to them, and caring for their needs.   

Or consider Philippians 2, which exhorts us to consider others as more important than ourselves. Just as Christ humbled himself to the point of death on a cross, so we are to humble ourselves in the service of others. 

Peter and Paul’s aim in sharing these principles was not so that they might be printed in a book and left on a shelf—no, their aim was for these principles to drill down into our everyday relationships, including our MIL or DIL. 

So we must ask ourselves: how can we love our in-law through serving them sacrificially? How might we, even when things are inconvenient, lay aside our preferences for the sake of Gospel love?

4. Live peaceably with your in-law

Romans 12:18 reminds us that we’re to live peaceably with all, as far as it depends on us

God recognizes that relationships are two-way streets. We don’t have control over others, but we do have control over our own actions and attitudes. In other words, she may not choose to live peaceably with us in certain moments, but regardless of her heart or behavior, we will choose to apply this passage in our heart and behavior, making an effort to live peaceably. 

Why? Because more than we owe that to her, we owe it to God. He’s asked us to live this way with everyone. The good news is that he can help us obey through his Spirit. 

We can ask God to help us exercise control of our tongues and our tempers, especially when expectations are dashed, and he really will give us the ability to do so. 

We can be quick to give grace and assume the best of our in-law’s intentions, even when feelings have been hurt, because the Lord in us is helping us be at peace in our relationship, moving towards our in-law in love and grace. 

This article is an excerpt from “Making Room for Her” by Barbara and Stacy Reaoch, released February 2022 from B&H Publishing.  


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Barbara and Stacy Reaoch

Barbara Reaoch, author of A Better Than Anything Christmas (2020) and A Jesus Easter (2022), is the former director of the children’s division at Bible Study Fellowship International. Her home is Minneapolis, Minn., with her husband Ron. Prior to her role at BSF, Barbara and Ron lived in Cape Town, South Africa, to teach Bible Study Fellowship classes. They also worked with the Rafiki Foundation to train young women in job and life skills. You can connect with her at

Stacy Reaoch is a pastor’s wife, mother of four, and the author of Wilderness Wanderings: Finding Contentment in the Desert Times of Life. She has written for
various ministries including Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, and Revive Our Hearts. Stacy and her husband, Ben, (Barbara’s son) live in Pittsburgh, Penn., with their children. You can find more about Stacy and her writings at

Read more about Barbara and Stacy

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