There's this old saying: "you can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family." And it's true; friends, we can choose for their strengths, the things we like about them, and we don't have to choose people we don't like or that annoy us. When someone stops behaving as a friend, they often cease to actually be our friend.
Family, not so much.
To accept our families, we must accept all of their flaws; that weird way mom cuts a pork roast before she cooks it, Dad's odd collection of hoozie-whatsits, Grandmother's penchant for putting zucchini in EVERYTHING, and of course, crazy uncle Bob, and all the unmentionable things he does. Our family is our family no matter what; nothing we do can make them not family. Even if they do not behave as family, even if they behave in a way we wish would make them strangers, they are still family and will continue to be so.
And the Church is our family.
This goes against basically everything we do these days. If we don't like somebody at our church, we avoid them. If we don't like the sermons or the music or a decision, we leave. If we don't like someone on staff, we change jobs or ask them to resign or gossip them out. If we move to a new town, we "church shop." If we feel embarrassed by another pastor or denomination we write "open letters" and share them all over Facebook.
We're so passive-aggressive. (insert self-aware facepalm here)
But Jesus' Church is much bigger than our little denominations or even our individual congregations. Many of us have gotten into the bad habit of church- or pastor- or congregant-bashing; the world we can love in spite of its flaws (they don't know Jesus, so we can excuse their behavior until they do), but our own family needs to shape up (because they know Jesus, they should know better!). And it's annoying, because let's face it, there are times I really don't like those nutters who follow John Piper, or those creepy snake handlers, or those Southern Baptist misogynists who won't ordain women, or those crazy Presbyterians who fancy themselves the "frozen chosen," or the ultra-liberals or the ultra-conservatives or the people in my own denomination who use too much liturgy or not enough or the people who only sing old hymns or the people who only use modern music or the people who
I mean, they're SO judgmental!
But they're still family.
Maybe the Mark Driscolls or the Steven Furticks or the Al Mohlers or the Rob Bells of this world irritate me. Maybe their theology has issues, or they seem too popular or too compromised or too condemnatory. But ours is a gospel that puts grace and mercy first, and just because they judge others doesn't mean that I have a right to judge them. Yes, I'm careful what ideologies of theirs I embrace (I must still be wise), but in the end, I don't know everything either and so I must be careful what and whom I condemn.
There's this tradition where I come from called a "garbage plate." Basically, it's all kinds of different foods thrown together on the same plate; hot dogs, macaroni salad, couscous, ketchup, fries ... anything you want. It's when you ask "what's for dinner?" and the response is simply "yes." You'd think that this would be exceedingly nasty, but in fact, they can be quite delicious. While it's true that I can choose which part of the family I spend the most time with, but we have a really big, diverse, mental, messy, odd family of so many shapes and flavors that we're bound to have a few we don't like, we don't think are worth having around, or we'd rather would just not be flavors at all. But we can be better together if we choose to be. We need to be careful about our attitudes towards the crazy uncles and weird cousins and even the strange habits of brothers and sisters.
Because they're family, and even if we don't like them,
we can still love them.