I just finished reading A. J. Jacobs‘ book “It’s All Relative.” I love how Jacobs immerses himself (and his family) in a topic. He lives it, researches it, and writes about it with a humorous perspective. I reviewed his book “Drop Dead Healthy” in 2015. In “It’s All Relative,” Jacobs uses the world genealogy trees to show how everyone is related to everyone else. Then he throws a “Global Family Reunion” for all his relatives.
Reading the book did two things for me. First, it got me back on my family tree research after a couple of years of disinterest. Second, it made me think about how we are all relatives in the family of God.
The Bible clearly tells us that we are all God’s children. We often translate that to mean that we are all brothers and sisters of each other. And we treat each other like brothers and sisters: bickering and fighting because of jealousy and struggles for power. A. J. Jacobs suggests, instead, that we are all cousins. That relationship, once removed, allows us to be more civil and kind to one another in the human family.
As Christians we have certainly never won any prizes for our ability to get along in the family. I am more critical of Christians I disagree with than I am of non-Christians. There are some people I would kick out of the Christian family entirely because I think their stance is in no way a Christian one. I am more likely to practice Christian love and acceptance for someone who is an atheist. They seem more my neighbor than some brothers and sisters in Christ.
But maybe if I saw them as cousins, instead of brothers and sisters, I wouldn’t expect them to have the same “correct” views as I do. I might be more tolerant of differences in cousins.
Loving people, especially people with whom we disagree, is hard. It takes God-power because we can’t do it on our own. But if I think about everyone as my relatives, as part of my family in Christ, then I need to make more of an effort. God calls us to love everyone, and it isn’t a suggestion. It’s a commandment.
Mark 12:28-31: One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”