I grew up in a family of four. But for a long stretch of years, someone else – a stray kid or two in need of a place to stay – was usually around.
We got involved with an international organization strong on idealism. Each year it placed high school kids from overseas with families in the United States, and American students with overseas families.
Occasionally a placement didn't work out, and the organization would often park the students from those problematic situations with us while seeking a new host family.
I had a vague notion that from the adult point of view, all this cross-cultural activity had some grand purpose – perhaps sowing the seeds of international understanding or laying the groundwork for world peace. Whatever. Just being 14 was hard enough for me, without any idealistic add-ons. Besides, whatever the parade of young strangers marching through our home did for world peace, would there still be enough hot water for my shower? And a sweet roll left for me at the breakfast table?
Yet, a few lessons in unselfed love must have rubbed off. Even then, I asked myself, "Does it really matter who gets the last piece of pie?"
To put it another way, even the smallest of moments could be invested with a larger love. A love that went hand in hand with what my sister and I had been learning about Jesus and how he treated others.
Not everybody who stayed with us was Christian. But Jesus' life was the reference point for just about all we thought or said or did. We even spent part of each morning at breakfast reading Bible passages laid out in the Christian Science Quarterly Weekly Bible Lessons. Anyone who didn't want to miss out on the sweet rolls inevitably got fed spiritually as well.
And in that meal was the lesson in a larger love, an unselfed love, summed up in Jesus' words: "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.... This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you" (John 15:9, 12).
What a standard! How could anyone love as he loved? His love transformed character, restored hope, disclosed the unbreakable link between each of us and the Father, even cleansed sinners.
Could any of us love another as he loved us? No, not entirely on our own. But then, there's no such condition as "entirely on our own." Because the Father is never absent in our lives. Because Christ, the spirit of Love, is at hand to show us how to love. The capacity of each one of us emerges in response to Christly love. And that pours forth ceaselessly.
It takes the form of following through on quiet resolve to heal a lonely heart. In patience that never runs dry, a listening ear that never awakens a critical tongue, forbearance that never morphs into irritation, forgiveness that endures.
The concept of family echoes the relationship we each have with the Divine. God is the one true Parent, the Father and Mother of all. We are His children. Christ is His ongoing message of love. Whether one feels safely wrapped in a close and caring family unit or adrift and alone, the overriding relationship is the one with the divine Parent, who is Love. It sets the tone for all our relationships.
A passage from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, sums up the implications of understanding our relation to God: "With one Father, even God, the whole family of man would be brethren..." (pp. 469-470).
There is a larger love for the family – whether it's in a home or in a world. We're here to embody that larger love as Christ Jesus did. We can succeed because God is never absent. Because we're God's children. Because God's Christ is forever voicing to us the message that we're loved and empowered to love as the Master did.
Then healing happens. The idea of family survives, and even grows stronger.
Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel.