[This post is part of the Becoming a Missional Family series.]
This is a guest post from Jon Wymer, lead pastor at York Evangelical Free Church. You can see his “impious theoblogical musings” at ProfaneFaith.com.
Who does our family spend time with? Who should we hang with? I’ll be up front and say for me this question smacks a little bit of isolation (maintaining distance from most people) and authority (controlling your environment). This is probably one of those issues most of us don’t think about until it is staring us in the face in the form of a dilemma.
A sleepover with Satan or friends with blessings?
I will give a disclaimer that my kids are currently 4 1/2, 2 1/2, and 6 months old. So we have yet to face issues such as “a sleepover with Satan” or “evangelistic dating.” Clearly we can benefit from thinking ahead on this.
It seems at first blush that the easiest answer would be to fall back on WWJD. What would Jesus do? What did Jesus do? But Jesus didn’t have a family. We have to come to grips with that first, because this is a question that parents care about more than anybody else.
Jesus didn’t have kids. But he did have a family. How did he define his family? In Mark 3:34-35 he says, to his own mom and brothers no less, as he looks out over a crowd eager for teaching, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
Tightrope in the tensions
What are some of the tensions in making these choices?
- Will the controlling dynamic be entertainment (what is fun), insurance (what is controllable and safe), or mission (what is a blessing to others)?
- How do we handle safety and blessing when they seem to contradict each other in real situations, particularly involving our kids?
- What percentage of our family friendships will be deep and more spiritually or personally satisfying, and what percentage will be wide and more blessing and serving others?
My wife and I have benefited tremendously from three specific couples who we have developed deep friendships with. We no longer live near any of them, but still remember those times with fondness. In the context of relationship, our marriage was encouraged and expanded.
Perhaps our family friends should be determined less on the basis of our family and more on the basis of familia Dei.
Jesus certainly seemed to think so. Maybe there is not as much tension between “safety” and “mission” or between “deep” and “wide” as we think. Jesus obviously chose the mission over safety, but sometimes he did intentionally get away because it just was not his time yet.
One way forward is to intentionally foster deep meaningful friendships, while keeping an openness within those relationships for others to join and take part at the level they are interested. Don’t think of friendship in terms of exclusivity or control, but in terms of playing out the drama of being the familia Dei.
We have had a mantra in our family for many years now regarding friends. If we can not see clear ways they are a blessing to us, or clear ways we are a blessing to them, then we need different friends. It is simple but it has worked for us.