Weddings and funerals bring out interesting family dynamics. Seemingly mature adults are reduced to the level of squabbling toddlers. Decades of perceived insults and injuries rise to the surface and “That’s not fair!” rings through the air. Sometimes literally. Sometimes through hurtful remarks. Sometimes through passive-aggressive behavior.
I thought about this as I read this beautifully written essay, Love the Sinner, by Bernadette O'Brien. Consider this paragraph:
“You can’t blame me for hating my mother-in-law—if you knew what she’s done to my family….” “How could anybody condemn us for expressing the fullness of our love for each other, just because we haven’t had a little ceremony and exchanged rings?” “The Joneses are simply unbearable—if we do talk about them behind their backs, it’s all true, anyway!” “It doesn’t hurt anybody if I look at pornography.” Excuses for sin are always some kind of rationale to explain why the sinner ought not to be punished. The focus is still on the character of sin as an offense, even as the offense is “justified” and the defendant pleads to get off scot-free. But God is not really “hurt” by sin; He is almighty, supremely happy, perfect, and unchanging. No, the grief of Jesus Christ during the Agony in the Garden was in seeing how man, whom He loves so much, insists on enslaving himself, maiming himself, murdering his own soul in a frenzy of insane self-hatred (for that is what it is, even if man does not realize it), in spite of God’s always-available mercy, and His never-ending love.Clinging to a grudge is a refusal to love. Refusing to love is a refusal of God. Refusal of God is sin. I know it always seemed like Mom loved him best. I know she is so self-centered that she never gives you the time of day. I know he is a braggart and an incessant name-dropper. I know that she is always looking for ways to criticize you. The list goes on and on. Oh it is hard, especially within families. Family relations are messy. Some relatives are as easy to love as soft, cuddly puppies. Loving others, however, is like snuggling a porcupine. That's ok. Just because we don't embrace the porcupine, doesn't mean we have to hate him. We respect those sharp quills and interact as they allow.
I am praying for the grace to love both the puppies and the porcupines. I know some relatives think I am a porcupine. I will do my best to soften my quills. I hope they can love me anyway.