I love this time of year, though I give my wife a hard time about decorating! The holiday season is a time of joy, laughter, and family. During the 63 days from Halloween to New Year’s Day, families seem to gather more often than any other time. While that can be a joy it can also be painful. Maybe your family
- Is broken
- Drinks too much
- Is separated
- Is divided
- Doesn’t understand
How do we handle our own flesh and blood when they do not understand the decisions we make? How do we deal with the issues that unfold after we make a faith decision in Jesus or a renewed commitment? Last year you brought the booze now you bring a Bible. Last year you started a fist fight with your cousin now you are more patient and kind. Last year you laughed at and told the most awful jokes and now you refrain. When you are trying to the do the right thing for the first time, family can muddy the waters.
What do you do when family hurts?
The Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, so His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go to Judea so Your disciples can see Your works that You are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he’s seeking public recognition. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” (For not even His brothers believed in Him.)
As you begin to read this you might think they are being helpful. But those last words reveal the true nature of their intent: poking fun. The brothers of Jesus did not believe in Him, His ministry, or His message. Though Jesus was the oldest, the others didn’t seem to care or give the respect normally expected in that culture. Read those verses again and let them drip with sarcasm and spite. Imagine they are laughing as they say it. Maybe you have felt this sting before. Maybe you have stung someone across the family table before. How do you respond?
Jesus told them, “My time has not yet arrived, but your time is always at hand. The world cannot hate you, but it does hate Me because I testify about it — that its deeds are evil. Go up to the festival yourselves. I’m not going up to the festival yet, because My time has not yet fully come.” After He had said these things, He stayed in Galilee.
Hold your ground. Jesus stood firm and was not going to be sucked into the fight. The brothers were picking at Him, but he remained calm and carried on. When your family does not understand the decisions you are making, be patient. Hold your molehill, just don’t make it a mountain.
Express yourself. Often when family hurts we run away. In the heat of the moment, we speak poorly. We say things we will regret later. Jesus expressed Himself but did not let His emotion overwhelm. He explained, briefly, His position. Before you get into a family moment think through what you are doing and why you are doing it. Sometimes family simply doesn’t get what you are doing. They may not agree, but how you comport yourself makes the difference.
Do not take the bait. Siblings have a way of baiting one another. They drop phrases and words to try to get you to react. When you find yourself in these moments resist the urge to retaliate or condemn. It would have been easy for Jesus to have “gone off” on all his brothers’ mistakes and misfortunes. He could have told them all about the poor choice of this festival and that they didn’t really care about the meaning. Do not jump on your family. You quit drinking, they did not. You quit your exploits, they have not. You have chosen Jesus, they have not.
Be with your family. In the end, Jesus went to the festival. He spent time with His family, though they did not understand and made fun of Him. Your family is your first mission field. Be positive and engage your family. Avoiding because of a new commitment comes off snotty and reduces your chances of conversation later.
The holiday season is filled with wonder and joy. As God broke into the world and engaged us as Immanuel, may we also break into our families and engage them with love and mercy.