Today I am providing the “Gospel Wednesday” vignette since Paul spent the better part of his weekend (when he normally writes) with my family in a last-minute, “I-can’t-believe-everyone-is-moving-away” mini vacation in the mountains.
Vacation reminds me yet again just how messy and unpredictable life becomes once children join a family. As tiny people are added, the potential for chaos is exponentially increased. Ten years ago our family gatherings used to be a fairly calm and relaxed gathering of six adults and two children. Now they’ve become the loud (are children ever quiet??) and cluttered (have you ever seen a vacation house outfitted with all the accoutrements for two babies and three toddlers?) gathering of six adults and nine children.
Sometimes I noticed a wild, desperate look creeping into my parent’s eyes as they sat among the mayhem. “Flee!” I imagine their mind is screaming at them, “leave these crazy people and run for your lives (or at least your sanity!!)”
And yet, they never do. For which I am very thankful.
Adding people to any group can introduce a level of unwanted discomfort. It’s easy to believe that life would be better if I was only responsible for interacting with a few, select, not-crazy, not-weird, not-difficult people. Shut the door, lock it and throw out the key.
But God’s family isn’t at all like that. God invites EVERYONE to join his family—the only caveat is that you have to recognize yourself as a sinner (Mk 2:17). He adds people from “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5; cf. Rev 7:9) and sometimes he adds them in droves (Acts 2:41). He adds introverts, extroverts, young people, old people, hipsters, academics, farmers, Midwesterners, New Yorkers, democrats, republicans, stay-at-home moms, career women, the physically broken, emotional abused, mentally unstable, the rich, the poor, the ones on welfare, the ones worth millions, liberals, conservatives and everyone else for whom I decided not to write a descriptive phrase : ) Talk about chaos!! Can you imagine a family vacation with all those people? Sheesh.
And yet, this is God’s plan, his ideal. He wants us to live in unity with each other. Live at peace with our neighbors. Love one another. Serve one another. Encourage and build-up one another. The gospel has brought together a community of people who, though unimaginably different in every other way have one uniting belief and hope.
Don’t shoot the messenger, it is the Gospel’s fault. It is Gospel truth.
That guy with the lumber-sexy beard, skinny jeans and organic smoothie full of greens and chia seeds is my brother. Yeah. That guy. And all the other people that I would naturally shy away from, those are my parents, my nieces and nephews, my grandparents and my siblings. God said, “Here! Love these people because I love them ! (Jn 13:34) Treat them as family because they are my family! (Mk 3:33–35) Live at peace with them and help them (Rom 14:19), using the gifts and abilities that I gave to you (Eph 4:16). Be my hands and serve them with kindness and sincerity (Jn 13:14–15). Display to them the daily grace that I shower on you. Let your identity be shaped by the gospel first so that you don’t shun or avoid those believers who don’t fit your mold. In short, be like me.” Hear the gospel say that if you are willing to leave your genetic family for Jesus’s sake, you’ll get all different kinds of brothers, sisters, mothers, and, yes, even more children! (Mk 10:29–30)
Family is what makes my “family vacations” crazy. They upheave my carefully constructed plans for ease and rest. When that happens it’s easy to become judgmental or unhappy. But, just like my parents remain, surrounded by all the noise and activity of family, and just like they extend themselves to serve and love their frazzled children and frenetic grandchildren, we as believers must commit ourselves to sincerely engage with the believers that God has placed in our spiritual family.
Now, I don’t want to paint with a dismal brush. Children, and family in general, bring wonderful periods of joy and laughter during vacations. Those moments are happy and refreshing . They are moments where we just appreciate being together. This too has helped me think of life in this giant spiritual family. There are times when being with various members of our spiritual family is wonderful and uplifting. Gospel service during these times is invigorating. But then, there are also those times when we’d like nothing more than to ignore the presence of fellow believers. It is sometimes inconvenient that God has chosen to make some people spiritually related to me. But one thing we can’t do is just pretend that we don’t see them (much like those times when I am not allowed to pretend that my 18 month old is not crying in hunger from the confines of her crib.) Those people are family, and we never turn our backs on family, just as Jesus didn’t turn his back on us or them (1 John 3:16–18).
Now, I will say this, at the end of each day on vacation, when all the children go to bed and silence descends from on high, we adults do get to enjoy a precious few hours of peace. We sit and bask in the tranquility of sleeping children.
So, if I’m following the analogy, maybe that’s what heaven will be like : )