Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14
Family events often have built-in tensions: relational expectations, food preferences, windows of time to watch football, behavior of children, political and religious discussions, to name a few. Some people tiptoe around with their words so as not to step on anyone’s toes, others barge in like a blind bull in a china shop, hurting feelings indiscriminately. Like the plastic cover on grandmother’s couch we need respectful interaction, not fake, to increase peace and joy.
Fortunately, there are family peacemakers who create an environment of acceptance and harmony without harming everyone’s ability to be themselves. We can contribute to the peace effort by being good listeners. We show respect by not dominating the conversation with our impressive intellect or refraining from a rambling exposé of our most recent exotic trip. Instead, empathize with a cousin who just left rehab. These annual reunions are not about us, but about those who are hungry for something more than bread pudding, indeed the Bread of Life, Jesus.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:35
The goal is not for tension to completely disappear, for this is a good outcome of being real. Like a good movie, authentic families will have some conflict composed of drama and comedy. But, in an awkward moment we can make someone feel special by affirming their good traits. If we are the one on the end of an embarrassing childhood memory, we can laugh at ourselves. Humility does not take itself too seriously, but takes the Lord very seriously. Be a tension reliever, not creator!
Lastly, model for those who do not know the Lord, how to love the Lord and others well. Your holiness is a humble expression of Christ’s character. You know better, because you know God. So, extra grace is required since you have tasted the grace of God. Furthermore, there are some relatives who are mere infants in the faith, thus they require long suffering and direct responses. Yes, make the Christian brand attractive with your smile, service and sensitivity. Your family will experience some degree of tension during annual and seasonal gatherings. In the process, show them Jesus in your life.
So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault. You’re certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God’s work among you, are you? Romans 14:19-20, The Message
Prayer: Heavenly Father, during our family gatherings use me as a peacemaker, not a peacefaker.
Related Readings: Psalm 34:14; Romans 15:2; Ephesians 4:29; 2 Timothy 2:22