Jesus asked, "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" Then he pointed to his disciples and said, "Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!"
-- Matthew 12:48-50
We probably don't need the American Psychological Association (APA) to remind us, but the stress we tend to experience at home, in the workplace--and even on vacation or Christmas--can test our job performance, health and relationships. In fact, whenever families gather--for just about any reason at all--tensions can peak. Sometimes it's because of intrusions into precious personal space, like when the in-laws spend the night (or week) in a house that's already too close for comfort. There's also that outcast teenager who perceives their older relatives as judgmental, critical or demanding. And let's not forget those pleasant Thanksgiving dinner table conversations about relationships, politics and religion.
As stress expert Elizabeth Scott, M.S., rightly observes, "Many a happy holiday has been found by groups of people who have decided to celebrate with friends instead of family."
If this hits close to home, you're in very good company. Jesus--the Son of God--was also often misunderstood by those closest to him. Even his own brothers didn't believe in him at first. It's in Mark's Gospel that we read this familiar observation from the Savior:
"A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family."
Jesus understood this stress-filled facet of the human experience long before the APA released its survey. "In this world you will have trouble," He assures us. So with this in mind, maybe we should approach the issue differently. How much better would things be if every Christ-follower adopted a humble servant's attitude and put the interests of others--even their family members--before their own?
Jesus answered this question through his own example. First, he willingly surrendered the royal privileges of being God's only Son. He entered the world in the most modest of circumstances--a birth among farm animals in a filthy stable. When he grew older, he learned to make a modest living with his hands as a carpenter. And finally, his ultimate act of humility was to suffer the death of a common criminal to personally pay the price for the misguided ways we've lived our lives and mistreated others. It was a selfless mission that our Creator had planned for him at the foundation of the world.
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve," Jesus explains, "and to
give his life as a ransom for many."
As Christ-followers, we're not exempt from conflict. But Jesus assures us that through God, all things are possible--even pleasant family get-togethers during vacations and the holidays. So with Thanksgiving and Christmas still months away, let's now consider the words of Psalm 122:8 with fresh eyes and a humble heart:
"For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, 'Peace be within you."