Strengthening Family Ties

©2009  Mollie Pearce McKibbon

(first published in The Winchester Press “Shepherd Talk”)

Family-Picnic-Silhouette

It’s almost my little sister’s birthday.  Of course, neither of us is little now.  We’re all grown up with our own families, but sometimes I like to think of her as she was when we were growing up together.

I had straight brown hair and was horribly shy.  My sister had blonde curls, two dimples and a bubbly disposition.  Naturally, I was jealous of this fair-haired interloper, but as the years passed she grew on me.  Now we live over 200 miles from each other and I don’t see here as often as I’d like.

I know we had arguments when we were younger, but nothing that left any scars.  Once we had a tug of war over a doll and pulled off one of its arms.  Another time, I thought she was a bit too eager to take over my room while I was getting ready to leave for college.  Otherwise, we got along fairly well.  She was my maid-of -honour at my wedding and I was her’s.

We both doted on our baby brother.  He’s no baby anymore, but we still think he is kind of wonderful.  Naturally, we tease him.  We tell him he was the apple of our parents’ eyes and spoiled rotten, which he was.  When we all get together, we have a noisy reunion, which usually includes a boisterous board game or two.  We have had our arguments and hurt feelings, but we’re family.  We make -up and when we’re in need of comfort or moral support we know where to turn.

We were blessed with generous, loving parents.  We are all trying to emulate their example with our own families.  Our parents were not paragons of virtue.  They had their flaws, but they loved us unconditionally and we knew it.  This was our inheritance, the best of family ties and we’re trying to pass it on to the next generation.

Sadly, not every family has this legacy.  Some families are left with an inheritance of emotional pain or even indifference.  Some family trees are tangled and snarled with ongoing quarrels, severed relationships and secret shame.  Often these family ties are more like anchors that inhibit personal growth.  Sometimes they are like open wounds that fester.

I think that it is comforting to note that the family stories in the Bible are not about perfect parents or perfect children.  Instead, they are stories about real people; people who made mistakes and needed forgiveness as we all do.  Even with loving parents like those in the story Jesus told of the Prodigal Son, we can mess up and have to set things straight.  Having a good family relationship takes effort and time, as well as the willingness to say, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

Jesus made it very clear that we must love one another in his commandment to his disciples.  Anger, abuse, and disdain are certainly not loving attitudes.  Jesus went on further to say, “If , when you are bringing your gift to the altar, you suddenly remember that your brother has a grievance against you, leave your gift where it is before the altar.  First go and make your peace with your brother, and only then come back and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23, 24)

Peace has been on our minds since Remembrance Day and peace should begin among family members.  This includes our Christian family membership as well.  We will not always agree with what our brothers and sisters in Christ believe, say or do, but we should remember to treat each other with love not anger, kindness not abuse, and respect not disdain.

None of the things we do in worship will mean anything to God as long as we harbour such hard feelings against one another.  We are made by God in His image, adopted brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ and con-inheritors with Jesus of the Kingdom, because of God’s love for us.  Therefore each of us is responsible for truly loving one another.

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