Tuesday, March 18, 2008

brothers and sisters

I was sitting in church last Sunday, feeling sick (I had some fluey thing), sitting up the back fanning myself with a program (it was well over 30 degrees in there), and observing everyone vaguely through a cloud of dizzy achiness.

Thoughts drifted through my head: hmmm, that hawaiian shirt is awfully bright ... that is one cute baby ... there's that old guy again, he's lovely, but boy can he talk, I hope he doesn't corner me after the service ... how can anyone look so beautiful when they're 8 months pregnant? ... I think the drummer's got his timing a bit off today ... those new people look intellectual and stand-offish, wonder what they're making of the sermon on God's judgement? ... I like those shoes, but I couldn't walk in them ...

Suddenly it occurred to me, as the hawaiin-shirted guy walked past me for the third time: hey, he's my brother! (which is not a reference to a popular music ballad, wikipedia notwithstanding).

I might not know his name (even though he comes every week), I might not be all that keen on his taste in polyester, but we're both part of God's very large family, and he's as close to me as the brother I grew up with for 18 years.

Which means what? That I should treat him as well as I treat my own brother? I guess it depends how well I treat my brother. And I have no doubt that I, like most of us, could do better at that.

But I can't imagine a close family member in hospital or prison, and me not visiting; sick or depressed, and me not praying; in need of food or shelter, and me not helping to provide it; celebrating a great event, and me not rejoicing.

Which means I have a lot of thinking to do about how I treat the other members of my family.


Rachael said...

I can't agree more, and I think it has big consequences for the way we think about our children. As I've been reading more and more 'motherhood' books, the continual focus on 'my children' and 'my family' has left something wanting. I haven't thought through it properly, but I think that as we join the body of Christ our whole family is redefined. Jesus says (when he mother and brothers come for him because they think he has gone mad) that it is those who do God's will that are his mothers and brothers and sisters (Mark 3:34). Just as that guy in the Hawaiian shirt is your brother... is he not also your children's uncle? or their brother? What does that mean about how they relate to your children or how you relate to theirs?

This is not to say we should do away with the nuclear family (we oughtn't) nor that we should let anyone and everyone be in positions of responsibility for children (some ought not to be), but I don't think we take this aspect of the body of Christ seriously enough.

Haven't come to any conclusions yet... but am chewing the cud.

Jean said...

Sorry, Rachael, never replied to this - you brought up some great ideas and I didn't know what to say because I haven't thought about it!! I'll have to think about this more. But I think you're right that we welcome our children into a larger family.