We fell in love forty three years ago, and have never looked back. With three adult sons and two grandchildren, we are so grateful for the gift of family. This past summer has been a time of family reunions for many of us. We deeply appreciated the opportunities to hang out with our family members, particularly those who live far away.
Most families are complicated and messy. Reconnecting with our family members during the summer can be challenging for many people. Setting boundaries with people that we love is never easy. Saying no to our family members, even when necessary, can sometimes be really hard. Even Jesus, who was never unloving, had problems at times with his family. He said that sometimes there would be painful division even within our families. Jesus said that family cannot be the ultimate, but rather a penultimate very high priority. He said that if we sought first God’s kingdom, then everything would go better, including our relationships with our family.
One time Jesus was so involved with helping people that he did not have time to eat. This so upset his family and friends that they decided that he must be out of his mind. In some cultures, skipping a family meal is almost unforgivable. Eating three square meals a day is on the same level for some families as following the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule. Because there was such a large crowd, his mother and brothers could not even reach Jesus. You can imagine how their anxiety level would have been spiking.
In the midst of family anxiety, Jesus had a very clear idea of who he was and what he was called to do. This gave him the courage to say no to his family, when they were trying to stop his important work. He said the shocking phrase: “Who is my mother? And who are my brothers?” If we said that with our families, they would not likely be pleased. They might say back to us, “What are you talking about, Ed and Janice? We are your family. We were there at your wedding thirty-eight years ago.” Jesus went on to memorably say “ My family, my mother , brothers and sisters are those who do the Father’s will”. Family for Jesus is bigger than just the physical nuclear family. Jesus dearly loved his nuclear family, but he had to remind them that even our family cannot come first in our lives. This is not an easy lesson to learn, because we love our families so dearly. Our prayer for those reading this article is that we may learn to celebrate the gift of family in a way that still allows us the freedom to say no, to set healthy boundaries.
The Rev. Dr. Ed and Janice Hird, BMus. (BSW, MDiv, DMin)
-an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News
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-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.
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