Is your refrigerator like ours starting to fill up with invitations to all kinds of spring and summer events for those you love? I am concerned about a recent trend I am observing in not only our culture at large but within the body of Christ. This involves a greatly reduced attendance and involvement of God’s people to important events in the lives of their family, friends, and fellow-church members. Sadly I can say, as a full-time pastor, that often it is the most involved in ministry who demonstrate the most indifference to family functions and milestone moments. I love my church and my calling, but we must improve in this area of attendance! May I bluntly say that this is not like Christ-who by the way opened his public ministry by attending and filling a need at a family wedding. Later in Philippians 2, Paul admonishes us to follow in His footsteps by selfless sharing:
Ph 2:1-5 “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”
WHY you and me should be at the following events:
- It allows each of us to affirm the value of education and applaud the effort of the students in our lives.
- It portrays the value and recognition of finishing to younger children in our families and churches.
- It positions us to be there to support financially and spiritually the next step of training, career, or ministry they are about to take. (This leads to continued relationship despite the change in location or position.)
2. Baby Shower (I am taking my wife’s words on this one.)
- It is a meaningful setting to express to a first-time mother genuine love, joy, and sacrifice that will never be forgotten.
- It affords especially ladies the place to offer emotional support for the newbie mother who is navigating the high and lows of hormones, insecurities, and unknowns.
- It involves shared games, gifts, and laughs that lighten the tone and build anticipation of the new child being added not just to the home but to the family and church at large.
- It offers an opportunity to be there for the beginning of a new, formal relationship with the in-law family represented.
- It enables us to invest prayer and financial support into a young couple who is probably is not perfect but seeking to, at least in part, honor God with their future.
- It often allows the testimony of Jesus Christ and His church to be palpably sensed by the lost. (I assume if Jesus is going to show up for every wedding in His name, His church probably should as well.)
- It assists folks in shedding some of their most vulnerable and intense tears not in bitter isolation but in the context of love, grace, and support.
- It provides a chance for the Gospel to be not only preached but affirmed by the tangible support of tender, truth-filled believers.
- It helps us transition with the bereaved into their new “norm” instead of awkwardly or abruptly trying to play catch up later.
If we do not attend the above events and others like them, how are we going to obey Paul’s command in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” I know life gets hectic and leisure time is a rare commodity as individuals and families, but I remind you that ultimately we are battling increasingly sophisticated and selfish tendencies in Christianity. We do make time for not only what but who is important to us-the question is does the who include more than you? There is a collective testimony that every person who catches the import of this post can and should have part.
One of the things I most respect about generations my senior is their genuine respect and reliable effort to go to events like these. For example, my Grandpa and Grandma Snode were renowned for being in attendance at the lion’s share of family events for the “deserving and undeserving,” “neighbor and across-the country,” as well as the “believer and the heathen.” The treasure of their approach was sadly lost upon me for the most part until my Grandpa Snode’s death. As I stood at his calling hours, it boggled my adolescent mind why there was such a line of well-wishers wrapped all round the inside and outside of the funeral home and spilling out into the warm, summer-evening sidewalks. I mean I really loved my grandfather, but…but…so did these people! In reflection upon that moment, it became clear to me that the collective comfort that my grandmother, family, and even I were receiving was the direct result of my dear, deceased Grandfather’s decision to be there for others in their important up or down moments of life!
The longer I live the more I realize that with our “unavoidable busyness,” we are losing the priority and privilege of being there for each other. Why should this trend concern you? I believe a Swedish proverb may answer that question most succinctly, “Shared joy is double joy; shared sorrow is half sorrow.” God has made us to be relational beings. No matter how much we try to schedule it out of our lives, we need each other. In the big moments. In the insignificant moments. This spring and summer as you look at your refrigerator or calendar, will you discard the excuses? Will you bask in the glory of making this event-ridden season not about you but others? Others have and will do the same for you.
So the dilemma is how do we know which event to go to-we cannot be everywhere for everyone. The answer ultimately is not how “Christian the wedding will be” or how “like able the mother is.” It is not how comfortable we are or how empty or full our calendar is. It is not even about “how much will they notice my presence or absence.” Here is the simple but challenging question to ask: “Do I represent Christ’s love and truth to this engaged couple, grieving family, glowing mother-to-be, or graduating student?” If so, be as much there for their special event as truly is possible!