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« Now, this is how books ought to be written | Main | Grammar is not just for nerds »
Wednesday
May102017

Divided families

I was reading Mark 2:23-3:35 this morning. In this passage, we are told that the reaction of Jesus' own people to his ministry was not positive. Mark 3:21 says, "He has lost his senses." It's pretty sobering when the Saviour himself generates a reaction like that.

I am sure my own family believed I had lost my senses when I was converted. It was't the first time I'd had a religious experience. As a teenager, I spent a number of months immersed in the teaching of the Latter-Day Saints. I was a very good Mormon. When I had a very emotional change of heart, it probably came across as having been merely a fad.

However, it was only the beginning of something else. Perhaps some would object, but I see now God's providential hand in directing me to the LDS church. It propelled me forward in a significant way: it impressed upon me the importance of the Bible. After that, my path was fairly clear. Three years later, I was converted. Perhaps the skepticism of my family was understandable. Here we go again *eye roll*.

It is not easy being the only Christian in my family. The reality is that despite spending our lives together, being raised by the same parents and in the same context, my brothers and I live very different lives. We have different priorities. The similar experiences remain part of who we are, but since my conversion, and as we moved into adulthood, the differerence was apparent, especially once we became parents. The place where we begin to build a family is important, and for me, it started with God as the focus of our home. That put me even more on the outside. Now, as my parents are getting older, the reality of aging and death has shown me how I am separated from my own parents. I love my parents and they love me, too We enjoy being together, but the difference remains.

Luke 12:51-53 reminds me of the expectation of division: 

Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

Christ's coming would pit people against one another everywhere, including among families. This is a hard truth to live with. Our siblings are our closest biological relatives. We share a common life, a common upbringing. We have memories. I love to sit and listen to my own children remenisce about the fun things they did as children. Those times are part of who they are. But when we are separated by a difference of belief, it can be difficult. In the past couple of years, as I have spent time with two of my three brothers whom I see very little, I am reminded that in some ways, we don't really know one another well, and we have little in common. That saddens me.

The end of the exchange in Mark 3 finds Jesus embracing those around him: "For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother." We find fellowship and a common life with the Body of Christ. And if we are fortunate to have biological family members in the Body of Christ, we are doubly blessed. The church is important. It is a gift to us. That is one of the reasons I struggle with people who say they love Jesus but not the church. The church is imperfect, but it is within that body where I find the opportunity for fellowship and friendship. It isn't always easy, but it is possible. 

It takes work and the grace of God to live peacefully with unbelieving family members. We pray for their salvation year after year. We hope that every time together is an edifying time where we can live Christ before them. Sometimes, our efforts are well received, and sometimes not. Our families know us well, and they often bring to the surface our worst qualities. The temptation to be bitter or dismissive is real. But we must continue to love them, accept the reality of division, and rely on God. It isn't easy, but as I get older, I realize how very difficult the Christian life truly is.

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