Monday, August 31, 2009


Jesus says he didn't come to bring peace to the Earth, but that instead, of all the things you might not expect, he came to bring a sword, because swords violently divide things. Have you ever read Matthew 10, verses 34 through 39? He says that my enemies will, or at least could be my own family! I don't want to be divided from my family, but there's Jesus, threatening to chop us up. When his family shows up to see him, he says they're not his family, people who do the will of God are his family. That makes sense, because then we all have one Father, but it still sucks for families. But on the other hand, if your family is more important to you than doing the will of the Father, then you're not following Jesus (he says so). So much for Jesus valuing the nuclear family! Now, for me, a good thing to keep in mind is that my family are Christians. At the same time, however, Jesus says that being a Christian redefines who my family is. So although my family may still be family, my family is not longer restricted to them.

I often wonder what it means to be family, since both the existence of adoption and the teachings of Jesus tell me it means something other than blood relation. Personal experience suggests it means the people you love best. People say you don't have to like your family, but you do have to love them; I've never been clear on how to love someone without at least not disliking them, but personal experience may help here too. At Camp, there are plenty of people who, if not for Camp, I probably would never be friends with. To be more precise, I would not consider them a friend, if not for Jesus. This, I think, is significant. Here are people I would not love except for the fact that we follow Jesus, and, indeed, I consider them my brothers and sisters, despite that we enjoy different things, think different ways, come from different places, etc. If we weren't brothers, I'd probably dislike some of them even, but instead I want to love them, despite our differences. Maybe family means that you hold in common your most important bond. For many, this is blood, DNA, relation. For Christians, this is our Father.

I'm supposed to love my neighbors, which means people who help me when I'm beat up, and I'm supposed to love my enemies too. So how do I treat my family any different? If there's no difference in how I treat them, why does it matter their family? Laying aside that complicated issue, what would it look like if I treated all Christians like family?

If all Christians are my family, and we're supposed to be a family that loves each other, not some kind of dysfunctional mess, then we can't just move away and stop talking if we disagree about stuff. If all Christians are my family, then I need to eat with them, I need to talk with them, I need to live with them, and I need to take care of them.

If I treated all Christians like family, I'd let them live in my house whenever they needed to (presuming I own a house, I guess). Of course, Jesus tells us to do that for people, because when we do, we're actually giving Jesus a home, somehow. I'd give them food when they needed it, and much the same comments apply here. I'd love and trust them above all, because ... well, because they're family. Trusting everyone who loves Jesus?

That really is the problem, I suppose: loving people.


Ryan said...

good stuff tim. as you know, i hate the "family friendly" Christian radio marketing ploy.

i like ur struggling with ecumenicalism. i agree that it is really about love. i think, expressed through humbleness and looking back towards unity in the creeds.

i read a term meant to teach people coming from backgrounds like ours how to get along with other kinds of Christians- “cognitive modesty.” its meant to describe how we cant possible explain all of the bible and church history into a single doctrinal system/tradition. thus, we should have strong zeal for the ancient creeds, but modesty when it comes to rubbing up with other kinds of Christians with secondary issues.

Ryan said...

Something else I wonder about is why Christians get married and raise children in single family homes, especially in suburbs. I def have issues with single family homes; the negatives are hopefully obvious. Over the last year or so, ive also been wondering if suberbs are really compatable with the biblical examples of Christian community, wealth distribution, social justice, art, and culture.

Matthew said...

I think that we have to understand the Near Eastern and traditional view of family & culture when it comes to understanding the Bible's teaching on family and the church. Back then (and in many traditional societies today), blood ties were about far more than simply loving people that you're stuck with (although that is certainly an important point to help us with how we relate to other people in the church!) Back then, your family was principally your identity-- your ties to family and clan were the most important that you had, superseding your work, entertainment, or oftentimes religion (though obviously work and religion were also strongly tied to family and tribe.) Today, in Yemen, if your family out in the country gets into a dispute with another one and arms are taken up, you leave your job in the city and take up your AK-47 to go defend your family.

This sense of communal living, of identity, and common purpose-- all these are important aspects of family that we don't think about too much in the West because our culture isn't nearly as family-oriented.

In relation to your last few paragraphs: I have a brother who's autistic and an uncle who's bipolar. I treat them differently from my brother who's a student and my uncle who's a retired mechanic. Wisdom and God-given common sense helps us to making these kinds of decisions, I think.