I am an only child. Therefore, my family is quite small … my Father, Mother and me and my dog Tippy. (The picture was taken before we obtained Tippy!) While I have several cousins, we probably couldn’t fill up a large SUV!
We have some friends in our church who have 10 grandchildren, all in one family. The eldest granddaughter recently married a man who also was from a family of 10 children, and they are already expecting their first child. I simply cannot comprehend that large a family!
Families are complex entities, subject at any moment to be loving and forgiving and then turning on a dime to be condemning and hateful. Since I don’t have any siblings, I can’t emphasize with those who have struggles with their siblings. I certainly know that such difficulties exist, however.
One thing I do understand — the church family. The people my parents worshipped with at the time I was born prayed for me, as I weighed only 3 pounds 10 ounces, not a survivable weight in the 1940s. But my Father called the church and they prayed for both me and my Mother.
I contracted polio and required experimental back surgery when I was 9, a surgery that required being in a body cast for a year. The church family surrounded me with love, prayers and well-wishes, their helping gestures were too numerous for me to comprehend.
Years later, when I was a single parent attending law school, a different church family came to my rescue on numerous occasions as they took care of my young children, brought food, and prayed for me, among other things.
Now my children have children of their own and my husband and I enjoy the marvels of a loving family as we gather to celebrate various occasions, such as my husband’s birthday yesterday.
But our nuclear family is not the only family the Christian has — the obligation to participate in the church family’s health and safety looms large as we remember Jesus’s admonition to care for each other.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.John 13:34
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.Luke 6:34-36
The Apostle Paul, writing in the book of Romans, said this about our love for each other:
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.Romans 12:10
In John’s first epistle, he reiterated the place that love should have in our lives.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.1 John 4:7
The church family – it is much like our earthly families. There are those we love to get together with and there are some we would more than likely shy away from. Some folks are easy to get along with and others are more difficult. Then there are those who are beset with dementia, and other mental disorders, and they often are unaware of the difficulties that they create on a daily basis.
But, we are called to love and care for them.
Because we are just as unlovely as the other folks in the church family.
Because God loves us and gave His Son for us.
Jesus commanded us to love each other.
Showing kindness and mercy is hard when we are pressed about with other things that call for our attention. Showing love is hard when the person to whom it is extended does not want it or will not remember it moments later. But that is exactly what Jesus commands that we do. Further, it is what He did when He died on the cross for us. He gave us love when we did not deserve it and when we didn’t even know it existed.
Praise His holy name for all the wondrous works that He has blessed us with on a moment-by-moment basis!
Even if your family is not exactly as you would have wanted, love them. Show Christ’s love to them. And extend that same love to those who are in your church family. We are called to do so. Don’t ignore a command of our Lord Jesus Christ. Follow Him and He will give you the grace and patience, the wisdom and courage to undertake the task, even if it is difficult. After all, He promises that He will be with you all the way!
Lord, there are often times when I don’t think I can do it. Help me to remember that my family and my church family both need my care and concern for them. They may need food and clothing, a ride to the doctor or an appointment for a haircut. Help me to be sensitive to their needs as we go through the days waiting for Your return.