In this issue of Holiness Today our focus touches the concerns of family: Being family, helping families, and cherishing families in the Body of Christ. When I think of family, St. Paul's words come to mind: "Make room for us in your hearts" (2 Corinthians 7:2a).
I once heard a definition of friendship by Elbert Hubbard that said: "A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you." In a similar vein, some would say a family knows all about you and still loves you.
Unfortunately, that is not always the case. In those tragic situations where dysfunctionality reigns, family may not always be there for us when the chips are down and we are at wit's end.
Few other social institutions have come under attack more than the family. Scarce resources, mounting pressures, and a myriad of other forces seem to combine to extract the very life and vitality from the family. Juggling time, schedules, and finances exact a toll on family life, often leaving it gutted of memorable significance.
The absence of family members, especially a parent, whether through loss or personal decision, lays even greater strain on the surviving parent. When children or siblings are lost due to illness or accident, the gaping hole laid open by their departure impacts both parents and surviving siblings.
In an era when even the definition of family is up for grabs, real resources are necessary for those endeavoring to lay claim to blessing, guidance, and direction as we seek God's grace and favor upon the grouping in which he has established us.
The Psalmist wrote, "God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing - but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land" (Psalm 68:6).
In most of us is a family-shaped space. This simple observation suggests the following:
- Individualism may showcase personal qualities, strengths, and characteristics - but family teaches us tolerance, patience, compassion, and humility.
- From the earliest days of human existence, God has ordained family as the setting in which mutuality, community, and communion with God should take place.
- Neglecting the obligations, responsibilities, and privileges of family mutes one's personal testimony regardless of how "spiritual" it may sound.
- Our preferred definition of family is typically nuclear, where both parents and children exist in community. God, however, "sets the lonely in families" in order to bind them to the other in mutual respect, appreciation, and servanthood, that we might learn holiness and righteousness in community.
Family is about making space in your heart for the other. Such space is sacred because the object that occupies it is set apart, be it spouse, child, friend, or family member.
I often ponder questions such as, "How much space do I take up in my own family? How much space have I opened, unreservedly and unconditionally, to those whom God has given place in my family?" The apostle Paul's words should ring loudly in our hearts and minds as we make room for family in our hearts.
David J. Felter is editor in chief of Holiness Today.
Holiness Today, July/August 2012