Hopefully there are members of your family that you love. Perhaps you have a close sibling or a cousin you keep in contact with. You look forward to talking with them and hanging out if you’re both in the same area. But there’s also that relative that no one likes to talk about. When the family gets together, nothing will be good enough. Something could be better, changed, or not there at all.
You know who I’m talking about: the senile grandpa, the cranky aunt, or fill in your own relative here. And yet we tolerate them and try to make the best of it because, hey, they’re family, right? So, why can’t we do that with the church?
In the book John, he refers to us as “children of God.” Since we’re all children of the same Father, that’s makes us family. Paul talks in 1 Corinthians 12 about the church being one body in Christ. I think there are few lessons the church could learn from the family.
- In the family, not everyone gets what they want. At some point, two sides will collide, and when that happens, both sides can’t get what they want. It’s an impossibility. If Jimmy wants to go to Applebee’s for dinner and Sally wants to go to HuHot, one of them will get what they want, and the other won’t (unless Mom wants to go to Chipotle, in which case they both lose). The point is, we have to compromise with each other to make things work.
- You can’t quit your family. While there are times we have those monumental fights with our family and don’t talk to each other for long stretches, that doesn’t change the fact that we’re still family. I can’t be un-born; my parents will always be my parents and my siblings will always be my siblings. I don’t get the convenience of walking away; it’s in my best interest to work it out.
- The “love them even if you don’t like them” rule applies here. Did you ever remember hearing that from your mom or a teacher growing up? The problem as a kid was, no one explained what that was supposed to mean. Do I just say, “I love you, but I don’t like you”, or did you just try to fill in a check box called “Love” in your head? Now that I’m older, I have this (honestly kind of scary) thought on how it works. It’s like love in a marriage: you have to put the other person’s needs ahead of yours. So we have to do music I don’t like on Sunday because it meets someone else’s needs? Yep!
And this is where the rubber really meets the road. “They will know we are Christians by our love” the hymn says. But what does it look like if we can’t even live that out to each other. Anyone can take care of and live with someone they like. It’s how you interact with those that get under your skin that shows a deeper level of who you are.
As members of a church (and the Church), are we ready to put our needs behind us and instead care for those around us? Can we stop nagging and arguing, put aside our differences, and be part of a community that truly demonstrates what love is? Or are we going to be just like every other family that starts Thanksgiving dinner with a prayer and ends it with shouting matches and slammed doors?