05-25-2014 Family-ness: Systems Theory

Welcome officially to the Summer heat wave season.  I tried to explain to a friend of mine that 90 degrees in the Illinois humidity is a different kind of heat altogether than the 90 degrees he's familiar with in the dry climate of New Mexico, but he just chuckled.  I can't wait for him to come visit during the Summer sometime and have his mind blown...

This week in our service, we made it a point to celebrate the accomplishments of two different sets of people in our church family--our graduates (since this is graduation season), and our veterans (since this was Memorial Day weekend).  

The first group is moving from one phase of life to another, and we wanted to affirm their hard work and pray for their ability to prepare a strong foundation for themselves when entering into the next phase of life--whether that be moving on to high school, to college, or into the "real world" after a lifetime of education.  For all of these students, the next phase will have its own share of "culture shock," but that can also provide them a motivator for taking the time to stop and think about what kind of a person that they want to be in their new environment--and how to work to be that person.

The second group has been willing to put their lives and livelihoods on the line to serve and protect their fellow Americans, as well as citizens of other lands that they may never even have heard of before entering the military.  There are a lot of motivators that keep you going as a soldier (patriotism, a sense of responsibility, moral outrage at genocide, etc.), but my uncle shared one with me on Monday that resonated with me--the realization that what you do affects the guy next to you, and that if you don't do it, you're putting his life in jeopardy.

We talked a little about that sort of thing in our message this week, looking at family relationships--whether in your home or in your church family--as systems, rather than just relationships.  Everyone in the system matters, and everything that you do (or don't do) affects everything and everyone else in the system.  That stray word (of encouragement? of criticism?) that you didn't think twice about may have changed the life of the person you shared it with, even if you never even noticed.  

Several times in Scripture, a basic pattern of behavior is commanded--a pattern that actually works, when we do it as an interconnected system, where everyone does their part:

      Submit your heart to one another as if you were submitting to Christ.
      Love the one submitting to you as Christ loved the church He was willing to die for.
      Respect and obey the people trying to love and train you.
      Respect and love the people you're expecting to obey and respect you.

It's a system that works great when we do it, and fails miserably when people fling it to the wind and say, "They don't deserve my __________," and focus more on meeting our own desires than on meeting their needs.

But then again, no one ever said to do it because they deserved it or even needed it--we're supposed to do it as an act of worship to the God who certainly deserved it...

If left to our own natural impulses, we'd just do what the rest of the lost and broken world does about this sort of thing--we'd protect our own hearts from being hurt by those we love and we'd demand stuff that we think we deserve from others... and then feel fairly put out when those tactics doesn't work out the way we wanted them to.  But we were called to bring something different to the world... to be something different in the world.

So how can you and I live this out better in our own families this week?