I am a man of many talents. I can be many things at once. Simultaneously, even.
I am a husband of the most wonderful woman who has ever walked this planet. At the same time, I am the father of three of the most amazing children of this generation. And while doing both of those, I am also the son of an awesome man and his awesome bride of nearly sixty years. It’s an honor to be related to them.
In other words, I’m part of a family. It’s an odd family, really, though I suppose most families can make a claim of that sort in one way or another. Ours is a very diverse bunch.
This Thanksgiving, we had – sitting side-by-side at the dinner table – the (successful) campaign manager for a very liberal politician and a (successful) football coach with unrepentantly conservative political views. We had passionate proponents of the social gospel sitting with evangelical bible thumpers and next to others whose credo is, “eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” and still others who preach that any road is a road to whatever god you want it to be.
When we gather for a meal, we share the responsibility for giving thanks. More than once, I’ve watched some folks cringe as others prayed; I’ve done it myself, and I’m quite certain that family members have cringed when it was my turn.
But none of that gets in our way of being family. Grandma and Grandpa are the matriarch and patriarch of this clan, and the clan knows it. They have knowingly raised a bunch of “rugged individualists,” and they’re not ashamed of it. In this family, if you’re family, you’re family! Deal with it. There is nothing you can do to revoke your family status. One of the family divorced his wife, but she’s still family. She comes to the campouts and the gatherings, and she’s well and truly loved.
We’re family because, whether by birth or by marriage, we all have the same father and mother. We don’t need to agree to certain conditions to be family. We don’t need to believe the right things, join the right groups, vote in a particular way. We’re family because we have the same father.
I have another family: the Family of God, sometimes known as The Church. In this family, we all have the same Father (though the mother part has me scratching my head). I’m part of that Family because I have Father God as my Father. In this case, I was adopted into this Family, but His commitment to me is no less than the commitment of my biological family.
Similarly, I don’t need to believe the right doctrines, follow the right traditions, hang out with the right people in order to be part of that Family. I’m family because I am a child of the same Dad as the rest of the Family.
I’m part of another family too, a third one. I’m part of a local fellowship of believers, a local church congregation.
I would suggest that the same rules apply in this family as in the other two: I am not a part of this family because I believe the right doctrines, follow the right traditions, hang out with the right people. I’m part of the family because the guy who leads us does a pretty darned good job of fulfilling the role of a father in our family. It’s odd, because he’s a young man, young enough to be my son, or the son of many of the leaders among this group. Yet it’s clear: he’s the father here.
He’s not a hireling, selected and contracted by some committee in order to fulfill the requirements of a job description. He’s a father among us because God has placed him in our midst and given him a fathering anointing. He’s a good leader, and he’s growing to be a better one, but that doesn’t change his calling as a father among us.
In the natural, biological realm, it’s not possible to be a father unless you’re a male, and your children – if you have any children, are younger than you by a fair bit, usually by decades. In the Spirit, there is no male nor female, that’s not an issue.
The other isn’t an issue either: I don’t need to be older than others who see me as a “father” in their lives. I usually am (partly because I’m older than most people I hang around with, I suppose), but that’s not required. Paul told Timothy that his youth didn’t disqualify him.
I have come to believe that families gather around fathers. Religion gathers around beliefs, doctrines.
This is a big deal because unity is a powerful thing in the
But I guess we have forgotten that “unity” and “uniformity” are not the same
thing. of Kingdom God
If you and I have relationship because we’re in the same family, because we look to the same father, then there’s nothing you can do that has to separate us. But if you and I have relationship because we believe the same things, then when one of us does something as small as question a belief, then we can no longer maintain our relationship. One of us has to go.
That is not the way of the Kingdom. We don’t accept or reject people because they conform to the right beliefs, the right doctrines. We don’t cease to be family because someone hangs out with the “wrong sort” of people. Heck, Jesus was famous for that. Messed up the religious folk in his day too.
We're in the middle of the "Holiday Season," when families gather together. So let’s be family. Let’s not be religious. Let’s love each other because we have the same Father, not because (or if) we have the same beliefs.