A Family for Everyone
January 3, 2016

A Family for Everyone

Passage: John 1:10-18
A Family for Everyone – John 1:10-18 Back when I was a child, when people spoke of family, there was one constant image: a home with two parents, perhaps one or more siblings and a family pet. This image was reinforced through advertising, television shows and through our schools and churches. Maybe this was not your experience but it seemed to me to be what society expected family to be. As we grew to adulthood we were encouraged to form relationships with the opposite sex and to plan for marriage and a family of our own. It was expected that we would follow in our parents’ footsteps on a preordained path for life. We were told that the stability of the society depended on our choice of the so-called traditional family model. This model was so entrenched into our church life that for some branches of the Christian church, marriage was and still is considered a sacrament and therefore treated with the same reverence as Baptism and Holy Communion. Today, however, we know and understand that family is so much more than what we would like to imagine it should be. Families appear in many forms and configurations. The challenge for the church and for us as believers is to redefine what we mean when we say family. Whether our personal situation is one of that traditional marriage between a man and a woman with 2.2 children a family pet or is that of a single person with or without children or is something different again, what is more important than the visible face of our situation is what lies at its heart. The first family spoken of in the Bible is Adam and Eve. For the Hebrew people, they represent the intention of God to create us to complete one another and to bear children so as to continue to populate the world. Yet there are aspects to this first family that have been overlooked or minimized throughout history. One of the key elements is that this relationship between Adam and Eve was never one in which one partner dominated the other. Eve was given to Adam to be his partner and helper. Life was not designed for us to go it alone. Life is meant to be shared. People in a family are meant to partner with each other and help each other; sharing burdens, joys, responsibilities and encouraging each other in this journey called life. And so, in a very real way, family can be defined as people who are willing to partner with each other, to help each other and to share life. For some of us that will find its expression in a relationship which we call marriage; for others, it will find its expression in a relationship of mutual friendship and support; for others it will find its expression in a solitary life yet one that is shared in a group experience with friends. All of these expressions and many more are valid forms of family. For many years I have listened to the struggles of people who have been hurt and even devastated by the family into which circumstances have placed them or into which they entered through a relationship of their choosing. And I have come to realize that while we still may cherish that traditional form of family and perhaps even long to be part of one, we also need to allow ourselves and others to find and cherish a positive experience of family. So what is at the heart of family? Family is a relationship, a community in which there is love, the love spoken of by Paul in 1Corinthians 13: Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends. And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:4-8, 13) Family is meant to be a relationship of acceptance and support where needs are met. To believe that family is about domination and power is to miss the central point of the creation of family by God. The intention of God is for us to live in mutual respect and acceptance of one another. Each one in the family is to be mindful of the needs of the other and seek to be supportive to one another. Each of us has gifts that we bring to life and each of us is encouraged to share those gifts for the good of all; but we can only do that when we are in relationships where we are supported and allowed to develop to our potential. The wider world in which we live will give us more than enough grief and rejection. Our family relationships need not be another of those places. Certainly this is not an easy thing to accomplish for we do not always feel like being supportive of those whom we call family; and sometimes we even find it easier to be cruel to those in our families. But if we are to reach our potential and enable others to reach their potential, we need to remain conscious of how we live with one another and strive to be more consistently supportive and accepting within the circle we call family. Through this commitment, we will do our part to ensure that help each other to feel secure and safe – physically, mentally and spiritually. But this is not the only family we can experience. In fact, God goes so far as to tell us that each of us who have faith in him is also part of another family, a wider family, the family of God. And to become part of this family does not depend upon the circumstances of our birth or our success in forming relationships in the world. John found this to be the most wonderful news for in Jesus God receives us all regardless of how the world may receive or reject us. Each of us is valued in the eyes of God and each of us is loved by God. That is why we are called in the Scriptures brothers and sisters in faith. And this is a family that we choose to be part of; this is a family that we come to because we share a common love and a common vision and a common hope. And everything that I have spoken of with regard to our other family relationships applies here as well. We are to love one another with the love that Paul spoke of in Corinthians and we are to be accepting of one another and supportive of one another without seeking to dominate one another or exercise power over one another’s lives. Of course we know that we still haven’t got that right. We still make our mistakes but the important thing is that we keep trying and praying to God to help us get it right. And so I encourage you this day as we start a new year to strive to make both the family you live with day by day and the family that God has given you in faith places where all feel loved, accepted, sustained and secure.