Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tensions

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him (2 John 10).

I had to separate my children this afternoon. I’d gladly narrate some amusing story about what happened, but I honestly don’t know what happened. They were in the basement, I was upstairs. I know what they told me, and their stories are amazingly dissimilar.

But maybe it doesn’t matter. The plot is all too familiar: crying breaks out . . . accusations fly . . . reprimands are spoken (at elevated volume) . . . protests are made in response to the reprimands . . . the combatants are sent to different corners to cool off. I don’t think that I ever truly addressed the problem, nor did I effectively coach my children in dealing with it, whatever it was. I just got them away from each other and restored peace to the house.

That happened in the early evening. Interestingly, earlier in the day I had spent a few hours at Presbytery meeting. For any non-Presbyterian readers, the Presbytery meeting involves lots of Presbyterians from lots of different churches in an area (Greater Atlanta) getting together to accomplish the work of the Kingdom, or something like that.

After a few hours at Presbytery I need to be sent to my room. I seem to do better there. I hate to admit that. I want to serve the larger church, take my place in the family and be a good presbyter – but those meetings irritate me, and things are so much easier in my own corner of the ecclesiastical house. The real issues that disturb us as God’s family won’t be dealt with that way, but it’s the simplest formula for peace it seems. One party holed up over here, another over there.

I puzzle over the words I read in John’s short letters in the New Testament. No one spoke more about love and loving each other than John. And no one was quicker to point the finger at errant Christians and dismiss them from the family. Love each other, but don’t tolerate deviant teachings and the people who spread them (see 2 John).

Family life is full of tensions – and by that I do not mean strained relationships. I mean two worthy objectives or aims that make opposite demands of us.

Parents need to spend time with their children . . . and they need time with each other alone. But there’s only so much time to go around.

Kids need careful supervision . . . and they need to learn independence. Don’t smother, and don’t be cavalier.

Grown children must establish healthy boundaries with parents and in-laws . . . and yet they are to honor mother and father.

And in God’s family, we are to name the name of Jesus and love each other. And yet, those who name the name of Jesus often have very different ideas as to what the name means for us and what it means to be identified by that name.

Perhaps healthy family life is marked not by the absence of tension, but by a capacity for living in the tension. People who can’t tolerate the ambiguities and tensions won’t stick around to be faithful to their spouse and to raise their children. The trick is being in the tensions without becoming tense. Human anger will never bring about God’s righteousness (James 1:20).

So how are you doing with the tensions of family life today? Are you ready to come out of your room?

Prayer:
Gracious God, work in my life in such a way that I grow in my capacity to love all the members of your family. And at the same time make me bold for Truth. Make me humble to learn from others, and confident enough to challenge them as well. Help me to venture from the safety of my room to take my place in your family. Amen.

1 comment:

Robin & Casey said...

Excellent message! Sometimes my capacity for living in the tension is small but I am quickly learning how to stretch it out!