Some of the greatest families that I know love taking care of other people.  The Cobbs, the Davidsons, the Orozcos…I can’t begin to count the number of times I have been invited into the lives of these families.  Or the number of wonderful things that I have shared at their tables.  Things like corn bread casseroles, dinner rolls, sweet potato pies, sweet tea or hot coffee, and conversations.  And I’d rather not try to count the number of pounds that I have gained in the process.

But for these families, taking care of others is never at the expense of the love that they have for each other. The love that they have for those outside of their family is an outpouring of the love that they share, and the expression of that outward love strengthens their love for each other.  Of course, they’re not perfect…all families have difficult times.  But the healthier families that I know seem to understand that if they aren’t doing the good, hard work of loving each other, they won’t be very effective at loving those outside of their home.

I do know families who try to love others while neglecting each other.  Sadly, most of the families that I know of that fit that description are those of professional church ministers (see footnote).

This is a trap that we easily fall into as a community.  We want so badly to do something amazing for God.  We want to be impressive.  I can’t tell you how many times we have stressed ourselves out trying to figure out what we are supposed to do, what we should focus on, what our mission should be.  Sometimes we are so idealistic that we can drive ourselves to cynicism…towards ourselves.

As a side note, there is a great deal of irony in being both idealistic and cynical.

But the reality is that we will never be able to live into the mission of God until we are able to live as the people of God.  Building each other up, carrying each others burdens, being devoted to one another in sisterly/brotherly love, or however you want to say it.  Jesus said it this way: by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

This is the evangelism strategy that I couldn’t learn from a sermon.  This is the soteriological truth that I couldn’t learn in a seminar or Bible class.  But without realizing it, I did learn it from a few great families.  That is one of my favorite things about the Kingdom of God.  It has a way of showing up where we aren’t looking for it.  Even while I was sitting in a pew trying to hide from the Kingdom of God, it found me.  And it was because of families like the Cobbs, the Davidsons, and the Orozcos…because of the way their love reached out beyond the borders of their family, drawing others into the joy of the Family of God.

May we be a people who are drawn deeper and deeper into the love of God.  May we know that even as we experience the pain of separation from God, from each other, from the Earth, even from ourselves, that we are all made in the image of God and therefore have within us the beautiful spark that mends.  And may we be a people who sees the reality within reality that we are the Family of God.

(Footnote:  I am not trying to assign blame, just expressing a pattern that I have seen.  I’m also not saying this is every minister I know.  What I am saying is that churches often have unrealistic expectations for their staff, even if they don’t intend to.  And church staff often have even more unrealistic expectations for themselves, which can be a reflection of their church’s expectations, their upbringings, and even fear of their own inadequacies…something that was likely the case for myself as a minister.  I am also becoming more concerned about the expectations we have of our nation’s teachers, but that’s another post entirely.)