Family: The Ultimate Test
Now He arose from the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. But Simon’s wife’s mother was sick with a high fever, and they made request of Him concerning her.
I just shared a quote this weekend with some of my extended family. After doing some research (thanks Lee!), I discovered that I have misattributed the quote to Samuel Clemmons (aka Mark Twain), when in fact it was penned by our beloved founding father Ben Franklin (aka Silence Dogood). The quote goes like this: “Guests are like fish. After three days the both begin to stink.” I had inserted the word ‘family’ for ‘guests’ (so not only did I get the name but the actual quote itself wrong), but when family stays over for an extended stay, I guess that makes them guests as well… Maybe I should stop now. If you are family, and have stayed at my house, please read on before you send me hate mail or change the Will. I’ll be redeeming the situation shortly.
With the recent passing of a beloved member of our family, we have been with and around our extended family off and on for about two weeks now. We love them all, and coming together under the circumstances of a family death always seems to temper the mood, and give everyone just an extra bit of grace. I was blessed not only to be able to share a portion of scripture from the pulpit at the memorial, but my oldest son Wyatt was able to do a reading as well. Being there with family, and being part of the healing process for so many, really puts into perspective what the function of family really is.
Matthew, Mark and Luke make reference to the story that took place in Capernaum. I have been blessed to have taken two trips to Israel, each with one of my children. During both trips we have been to what is touted as, and I believe IS the very place where this story took place. The foundations of both the original Synagogue (and several incarnations of subsequent structures on top of the original foundation, including a very impressive structure indeed still standing), and what appear to be the original house in which Simon Peter lived are still there. It is amazing to consider that by the strength of his family ties, this story still lives and, and we can go and see that place where the bond of an extended family were strong, tight and loving enough that Peter was willing to make an effort to see that healing would come.
In the midst of all that had happened over the last week or so, I was reminded of this story from the Pulpit at the service. It was not my place to say anything at that time, but of you know me, you know the thought crossed my mind. Jesus, the disciples and Paul all made references to the ‘family of God’. Maybe not all in so many words, but the references to being a ‘child of God’, a ‘son of God’, ‘grafted in to the family’ etc, are all through scripture. Paul in Ephesians 3 starting in verse 14 summed it up well
14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
In Christ we are most certainly one. In Christ The One lives in us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Yet why is it so hard at times to treat and think of family as friends? Why do men like Ben Franklin say what they say, and guys like Mark Twain to get stuck with such quotes as believable? I think it is because we are not willing to sit down and show the patience and love with those who are related to us in the same way we do others. But this is in fact an ultimate test. Brothers and sisters in Christ are one thing. Biological brothers and sisters are another, or at least that’s how we treat them. We need to make the effort with all those whom God places in our area of influence. There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, nor slave or fee with Christ, and there should be no difference for us.
Family members have a past with us. We tend to hold on to that. We hold on to memories of hardships and trials that people have put us through. With family it seems like forgiveness needs to be earned, and not simply given as a gift from us, just as Christ has given it to us. All I have to say is that I’m so glad I do not have to earn my forgiveness from God, as it is simply not possible. That being the case, why do we make family members, those who are from our own blood, work so hard to receive true forgiveness from us? Many churches has signs over their doors on the inside of the church so that as you exit is reads, ‘you are now entering the mission field’. We’d be wise to place such a sign on the outside of our own homes so that we see it as we walk in. We be wise to place a reminder of such a sign on the inside walls of our bedrooms so we have that in mind as we leave our sleep each night and head out to see the spouse and kids.
Family is obviously important to us as people, but it seems too easy for us to sweep whatever problems we have under the rug instead of dealing with them in a Matthew 18 kind of way. Family is obviously important to God, as we are called His children, and heaven is called our ‘home’. It’s time family starts being as important to us as it is to God. If it comes time to sacrifice, let it be each one of us the lead by example. Sometimes the ultimate test is to be the best witness to those closest to us. We must do this best, if we have any hope to be affective elsewhere.