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Us Is Bigger Than Family

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Surprisingly, the Bible has little to say about family directly. Scripture assumes something bigger and more comprehensive than the individual or the individual's family. The "Me Generation" and much of human history, assumes the value of "me first"—my needs, my achievements, my well-being. Rugged individualism views personal sacrifice as" paying the price" so that I accomplish my objectives, even within family relationships.

Jesus, the suffering servant, already paid the price. He is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. In his actions and identity, we hear the call to serve others including our families. In fact, love requires us to serve: "Greater love has no one than this that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends" (John 15:13-14). "Love one another as I have loved you," Jesus says to his disciples after washing their feet and sacrificing the prestige, status, and honor of a rabbi to become a servant (John 13:14-15, 34-35).

One of the most profound directives is the word from Paul to the Christians in Philippi. Apparently they were caught up in strained relationships, complaining, competing, and arguing with each other. To this conflicted church, Paul writes, "Have this mind in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God . . . emptied himself, taking the form of a slave . . . he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Phil. 2:5-8, my italics). We are called to individual self-sacrifice for the good of the whole community. The Christian life, the Christ ideal is about "us." It includes my nuclear and extended family. Can I let go of myself for the well-being of the family and the larger community?

Terry Hargrave says, "Us likes ballet." Sharon Hargrave, his wife, responds, "and 'us' likes an old-timers baseball game." Each is referring to the sacrifice they frequently make for the needs and well-being of their marriage and family.

Individual sacrifice means having the mind of Christ who emptied himself. It means taking the form of a servant. Sometimes it means leaving a large prestigious, high compensation, high-demand law firm to be part of a "family friendly" firm. Sometimes it means putting a high profile career "onhold" to be a stay-at-home mother or father for young children. It can mean limiting hours at work (and overtime pay or special recognition) to be more available to the family as a whole. It can mean dramatic measures like taking early retirement or turning down a promotion. And it can mean simple things like declining an invitation to socialize outside the office.

We may be called to give up some leisure, to go beyond our comfort zone in a new venture, to make a geographical move, or to stay put so that the family benefits.

There are so many different ways to "lay down one's life." Pick up a towel and serve. Have the mind of Christ. Empty yourself for others.

Terry Hargrave left a high profile tenured teaching position at a major university so he and Sharon could move back to their home town. He taught in a nearby community college, and they provided active care for a mother who had a long-term, debilitating illness. For them, "us" takes care of each other.

So, "love one another." "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life." "Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ". "Us" will rejoice and be glad.

For more from the Hargraves, read Loving Your Parents When They Can No Longer Love You and The Essential Humility of Marriage.

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