Weird Relations

The holidays are coming, and with them, the relatives.

For most of the year, we get to choose the people we hang out with. My close friends are my friends for a reason. I admire them, enjoy their company, trust them with my struggles and celebrate their successes. Usually, they meet a need in my own life—I have birding friends, gardening friends, “deep topics” friends and friends who provide an unending source of encouragement.

Relatives, on the other hand, just… are.

Sure, we pick our spouses. Parents, siblings, and extended family, on the other hand, we are stuck with. They just sort of come with the territory. We may enjoy some of these relations, but every family has at least one weird aunt, uncle, parent, whatever.

You know who I mean. The one you would love to exclude from Thanksgiving dinner, if only you could figure out an acceptable way of doing it. The one who drinks too much, is too loud, wears plaids with stripes, or their belt three inches above their waistline, and manages to embarrass everyone else at weddings, birthdays, and any other (especially public) gathering. I’d give you examples, but, well, some of my relatives read my blog.

While I can’t give you permission to stuff said person into a barrel and send them off on the outgoing tide, I have come to realize something that might make the whole situation a little more palatable.

I think these people exist to make us more holy. Nicer. More patient. More forgiving. More like Jesus. If the Bible teaches a class in sanctification, then these folks are the lab.

It’s easy to be gentle if no one ever yells at us. It takes no maturity to hold our tongue if we agree with everyone. The only way we will ever grow in the fruit of the Spirit is to be subjected to times when we’re uncomfortable—when we have to put up with those we really don’t like.

In a very real way, church serves the same family function. We get to pick our church, but no matter how many we visit, we’re never going to find one where we like everyone. There are always going to be those abrasive personalities. And that’s a good thing. Proverb 27:17 talks about “iron sharpening iron” —the idea that we work out our sanctification in the context of other people.

The next time you are annoyed by someone around you, forced to smile while Aunt Claire fishes celery strings from her back molars or Uncle Bob describes (once again) the graphic details of his hemorrhoid operation, remember that the Holy Spirit is at work in you, producing fruit that will last. Remember, too, that to your other relatives, that weird relation might be you!

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