Family reunions. Some families have them, and others do not. For those families that do, some reunions are good while others are ones you wish you could block out of your memory. Some are reunions that are filled with love and acceptance, others filled with anger and hatred, and then there are those that are a mix of both. For the first time in over 40 years I am currently attending a family reunion, and it’s been a blessing being able to see and connect with relatives I haven’t seen in years, as well as some I’ve never seen before. Does your family have reunions? Are they good ones, or are they ones you would prefer to not be invited to?
In a family meeting held earlier this evening, one of the things addressed was regarding how the family is growing, and as it’s growing how the younger generations are not appreciating the importance and heritage of the family and its reunions. In a brief conversation later this evening, a follow-up of sorts to what was discussed earlier, someone made a couple comments that got my attention. The first thing he commented on was the main reason our reunions got started, and then he addressed the responsibility each of us have.
One of the main reasons given attributing to the start of these reunions started when my grandpa and his siblings were young, when their parents, my great-grandparents, had them all rehearse scenes in the Bible. As a result, they became very close, having unconditional love and acceptance for one another, and this was a reason he gave for how these reunions got started. I’m sure there was more to it, some of which we may never know, but this was one of the things this person attributed to these reunions.
Regarding the responsibility each of us have, it was simple. This person commented that each of us have the responsibility to train and instill within following generations an appreciation of the family and its heritage, and as a result the reunions and family heritage will continue throughout the generations.
When I think of what this person said, I can’t help but see the same within the family of God. There is a heritage within the family of God that extends back to the early Church and the life, death and resurrection of Christ. It’s a heritage of unconditional love, grace, and forgiveness, both that which has been given to us through Christ, and that which is to be the heart and character of each one of us that takes on the name of Christ. It’s a heritage full of life, freedom from sin, reason and purpose for life, and a blessed hope of eternal life without sin, sickness, sorrow, or death. The heritage afforded us through Christ is greater than any we could ever hope to have or gain in this life. This is a heritage more valuable than life itself, and it is up to us to not only guard and nurture it in our life, but to also invite others to partake in it for themselves by wholly surrendering their own lives to Jesus as well.
For those of us who have become partakers of this spiritual heritage found in and through Christ, it is our responsibility to train and instill within the hearts of our children an appreciation and passion for that which we gain through Christ, and Christ alone. It is up to us to pass down to the generations that follow us an appreciation of that which Christ did for us, becoming a conduit by which the spiritual heritage we have can be extended to those that follow us as they surrender their own lives to Jesus. Each person, each child, must make that decision on their own, but if we fail to train and instill these things into the hearts and minds of our children, then they will have a decreasing appreciation for the spiritual heritage we have in Christ and will one day no longer have it for themselves, much less transfer it to their descendants. We see this happening in the world today, especially in America. Christians have basically taken things for granted and didn’t guard the spiritual, Christian heritage of this country, and now we have a country that has drifted far from Christ, and in many ways, have become enemies of Christ and everything about Him.
When I was thinking about all of this, another thing crossed my mind that is an epidemic within church circles, something that has done more to drive people away from Christ than to Him. Often, well intentioned people or parents will focus on training others in how they are to live, forgetting to instill within them not only a love and appreciation for Christ and what He did for them, but more importantly the need to develop and nurture a personal relationship with Christ. Relationship with Christ is where it all begins, but many times we forget about that and focus on all the other stuff. Relationship with Christ is not based on the absence of laws, rules, and commandments, nor is it based on obeying laws, rules, and commandments. Relationship with Christ is based on a love for Him and an appreciation of what He did for us, paying the penalty of our sins and making eternal life with Him available through His resurrection.
Growing up I remember hearing people talk that Christians don’t do this or that, and without really addressing the why’s people became resentful because they couldn’t see the harm in some of those things. They began to view Christianity as a life filled with do’s and don’ts, a life of legalism. As a result, there has been a significant exodus of sorts of people from Christianity, some of which returned to embrace a form of Christianity that is opposed to any rules, laws, or commandments. The problem wasn’t with the do’s and don’ts. The problem was that they had not caught the spirit behind many of those do’s and don’ts, and as a result all they saw was legalism. They didn’t know how that many of those don’ts were there because people before them had been saved from a lifestyle that included those things, and out of a love for God and a desire to honor Him in all their ways, they refused to allow those things to be a part of their life. It wasn’t the list of things that was so wrong, but it was the neglect to train and instill within those that followed them the reason and the spirit behind them, and as a result what was right and good for some became legalistic for others.
If we are to continue the spiritual heritage we have in Christ to those who follow us, whether they are our children or others that look up to us, we need to start by instilling within them a love for Christ and a deep appreciation for what He did for us 2000 years ago. If we fail to do so, then we will fail to give those who follow us any reason to embrace the spiritual heritage we have, much less lead others into it. If those who follow us don’t have a deep love and appreciation for Christ, then they won’t reflect that in their life and how they live, and if they do then it will be more out of obligation or because that’s how they were taught to live, which could lead to being legalistic. Remember though, if you do your best with God’s help to train and instill within others a deep love and appreciation for Christ, then it’s not on you if they choose to go in another direction in their life.
Do you have relationship with Christ? Are you in the family of God? Then it is up to you to nurture and protect that spiritual heritage in your own life, and to promote it within the hearts and minds of those who follow you through a personal relationship with Christ. Do your part to continue the spiritual heritage you have become a part of in Christ.
John Johansson (Pastor John)