When it comes to family ties, especially those that have been severely strained and even broken, you can't always figure out each and every part of what went wrong. Sometimes, you've just got to cover it with a whole lot of love instead.
-From Ch. 8 ("Family Ties") of Jesus Journey
Reading through chapter eight in Trent's book brought back memories. Unlike many of the readers of Jesus Journey, I've had the privilege of meeting and getting to know all the members of the Sheppard family.
In fact, I was actually working with Trent when the 'nappy burial' ceremony described in chapter eight took place. (By the way, just in case you're wondering, a 'diaper' is called a 'nappy' here in the UK.)
I never could really understand why these two incredible, talented, charismatic, and godly brothers were having such a hard time understanding one another—I was part of sharing in some of that pain, and it was painful. So it is encouraging to read Trent's reflections this many years later and to know that he and his brother Tré are in such a good place, and that their friend Rod Smith's input made a positive difference in their lives.
How does all this connect with the humanity of God embodied in Jesus?
Sibling rivalry is as old as humanity. For example, we have the story of the first siblings in the world, Cain and Abel, and their relationship going terribly wrong (Gen. 4). Then there is the complex family dynamics in Jacob's household, particularly the rivalry between Joseph and his brothers who wanted him dead and finally sold him into slavery (Gen. 37). Jesus would have grown-up reading these stories, and perhaps even thinking about them as he dealt with unique family dynamics in his own home.
Maybe Jesus and his brother or cousin had to share food and clothes, and sort out whose responsibility it was to do particular household chores. Siblings have a way of getting under your skin, and Jesus surely was confronted by these day-in and day-out facts and frustrations of life.
The question I asked myself as I read through this chapter is this: how did Jesus deal with these live-wire family situations as both son of Joseph and Son of his Father in heaven?
I have a twin sister and a younger brother. We are a very close family but at times family ties haven't been easy. I won't go into details but this chapter really challenged me.
What would Jesus do in my situation?
As Trent explains we don't know much of the details of the interaction between the risen Jesus and James. In that sense, we are denied 'prescriptive solutions' to family problems because of this absence of information.
But what we can be sure about is that Jesus was no exception in having to deal with the struggles and demands inherent in family life.
Remarkably, these struggles were part of his own journey toward maturity—and therefore he is able to help us when family relations become difficult and we don't know what to do.
Today's guest post is by Philip Powell: Philip is the Training Director at www.jubilee-centre.org in Cambridge, England. He was born in Chennai, India, and has lived in the UK since 1998 (when he and Trent first shared an Indian meal together!). Philip has traveled to more than thirty countries speaking about global justice issues. His master's degree is in International Relations, and Philip has years of experience doing advocacy work at the United Nations and the UK Parliament.
Image credits: Chelsea Hudson