Thursday, March 31, 2011

Church is a Voluntary Family

Relationships with other people are an essential part of every person’s wellbeing.  Friendships, particularly close long-term friendships, have the power to help shape those who are involved in them in positive ways.  Many of my closest friends are women who were a year behind me in seminary.  Our shared calling, education, age, interests, and living in a dormitory setting – these helped to bring us all together.  It was our choice to develop our friendship with each other, and a continued choice to stay friends now that we have graduated.  This was an easy choice to make, but a choice nonetheless.

Families are also a source of important relationships that also can shape us in positive ways.  Yet, you do not choose your family.  I did not get to decide who my parents or siblings would be.  For good or ill, families that are biologically determined are not of our own choosing.  Sadly there are broken and abusive families in which some people have to choose to have limited or no relationship with family members for their own best health.  Even if we cannot biologically choose our families, how we live into those relationships is our choice. 

Church families are somewhere in between a biological family and a group of friends.  Like friendships, we choose to be a part of this group.  Like biological families, we do not choose the other members.  This makes for an interesting dynamic, and opportunities for great growth.  If we limit ourselves to only interacting with people of our own choosing, then we would lose out on all that we can learn from (and teach) many other people.  Yet, the freedom to join or leave a church is one that makes this a volunteer family - no one is forced to be here.