My Big Fat Christian Family

“We’re loud. We argue. We’re in each other’s lives and business.” A line from a popular movie or a description of my big fat Christian family?

This past week-end, in the midst of the myriad of on-line discussions about Anne Rice’s decision to quit being a Christian (but not stop following Christ), I took time out to watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding (again) with my daughter.

Toula Portokalos narrates the story about growing up Greek in America, finding her own path, falling in love and introducing her non-Greek boyfriend to her family. It occurred to me that the Portokalos family serves as a wonderful example of what it should mean to be the church in America.

The Portokalos family was different. They dwelled in America but everything about them was Greek. They stood out from their neighbors as different. Really different. They weren’t always understood or appreciated but everyone knew what was important to them – their heritage and their family.

For the Portokalos children, it was frequently a strain to be so set apart. They longed to assimilate, to blend in, to be “normal”. They struggled to find their own paths and to be accepted within the context of this crazy collection of characters called family. They didn’t always appreciate what they had.

Toula tries to explain to her new boyfriend what her family is like: “And my whole family is big and loud. And everybody is in each other’s lives and business. All the time! Like, you never just have a minute alone, just to think, ‘Cause we’re always together, just eating, eating, eating! The only other people we know are Greeks, ’cause Greeks marry Greeks to breed more Greeks, to be loud breeding Greek eaters.”

The Portokalos family served as an outpost of Greek culture – committed to their heritage but living all out for the future of their children in the midst of opposition from within and without. What prevailed was the force of family.

Every believer I know struggles at some time or another with the Big Fat Christian Family into which we’ve been adopted.

We’re loud. We argue. We’re in each other’s lives and business. Sometimes, it’s hard to get a minute alone just to think. We’re not always thrilled with the crazy collection of characters God asks us to embrace and call family. Sometimes all we can see are the imperfections. Sometimes we just want to run off and deny our heritage. We don’t always appreciate how much we’ll lose if we do that.

And it’s not the stuff of comedic movies. There is serious pain, deep hurt, gaping faults. I have wounded and been wounded myself within the family of God. I’ve sometimes wondered why He doesn’t wipe us out and start over (not like He doesn’t have THAT capability).

And I confess sometimes I thought I could create my own branch of the family – one that lived out the faith without the faults. But then, I passed a mirror.

People who become Christians actually have a greater challenge than the Portokalos family. Converting to Christ is like suddenly becoming an immigrant in the midst of a land you used to call home. There’s nothing easy about it. It’s a process – a life-long sometimes arduous process with opposition from within and without.

The church needs to be very much like the Portokalos family – different, set apart, hard-working, respectful of others but passionate about its identity and its heritage and its children.

Some of the church’s children will struggle in the midst of this Big Fat Christian Family. The church (us) needs to be patient, loving, willing to stand firm on unchanging truths but committed to all those who call on the name of Jesus Christ. We should not shoot our wounded.

Growing up in Christ is not always a straight line. There are unexpected twists and turns but in a family we bear with one another, carry one another’s burdens, encourage, exhort, argue, forgive, move on.

The thing about the Portokalos family that is different from many of us in the church is that they KNEW their heritage, they UNDERSTOOD their history, they SHARED their stories and their language, and they LIVED their heritage unapologetically.

Christians need to KNOW CHRIST. We need to know His stories, speak His language and live our heritage boldly even where there is opposition from within and without so that when our children are tempted to walk away and deny their connection to us, they eventually decide there is too much crazy love to lose in forsaking their Big Fat Christian Family.

Above all else, we need to remember that this is HIS church. Jesus is the head of the body, the author of our faith, the firstborn, the cornerstone and in HIM all things hold together. The church is not an institution but an organic, living, breathing work of Jesus Christ.

Know Jesus. Listen to Jesus. Follow Jesus. Live for Jesus. Obey Jesus. Love Jesus and love those Jesus loves so the branches of this living family tree will blossom and bear fruit that will feed hungry souls seeking a home and a harbor.

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13 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Anonymous says:

    If we are made in his image, then shouldn’t the following paragraph read differently?

    Know Jesus. Listen to Jesus. Follow Jesus. Live for Jesus. Obey Jesus. Love Jesus and love those Jesus loves so the branches of this living family tree will blossom and bear fruit that will feed hungry souls seeking a home and a harbor.

    More like this…..

    Know Yourself. Listen to Yourself. Follow Yourself. Live for Yourself. Obey Yourself. Love Yourself and love those Yourself loves so the branches of this living family tree of humanity will blossom and bear fruit that will feed hungry souls seeking a home and a harbor.

    On another note…..

    As humans, we are the only beings on the Earth that are destroying it. Other animals don’t destroy it in any way…Isn’t it up to us to reconnect with Earth so as to protect it’s very existence thereby protecting our lives and the lives of everything else on Earth? Isn’t that where everything starts? How arrogant is it that we humans think we are so superior as to assume that words in a book are exactly the way it is supposed to be?….Did God create Earth or is the other way around? Do all humans believe everything they read and hear???

    In the beginning, I believe humans were trying to make sense of their surroundings and they found that if they told everyone else that one entity was responsible, then the whole community would be controllable. Anarchy begins with no order. Anarchy is responsible for the loss of human life and I think we have an innate wisdom to protect life at all costs. Ours as well as others.

    I don’t believe that this deems me an atheist. This makes me a person who lives within the rhythms of Nature, and not Man or a man-made belief system. No matter how much Humans try to control, alter and divert Nature/Earth, Nature/Earth ALWAYS has her way!!! This, I believe, is what “Jesus” was here for, this simple lesson that was misconstrued so much. It is such a shame that this has happened.

    Yes, I do believe he was here. There are too many people around the Earth, who didn’t know of each other until rather recently, who had similar stories handed down over the centuries. Yes, I know I said earlier that people believe too much of what they hear….I also believe when something is consistent it has more of a chance of being true. (No, I still don’t think that the bible and other writings are consistent and I believe that the beginnings of them are fraught in way too much controversy to be taken as seriously as they are.)

    In closing, one of the most important and life saving sayings that I have experienced in this life is “Love/Treat others the way you want to be Loved/Treated”…with that, all will fall into place….!!!

    Blessed Be and Peace,
    Nanette

  2. Cheri says:

    Lori,

    I love the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and I love your post. It is packed full with wisdom and truth . . . never doubt that you are His mouthpiece in a crazy world.

    I’m sorry I’ve been AWOL lately. I’ve missed dropping by for several of your posts. The book should be at the publisher within the next few days, so I’ll be around more often.

    Be encouraged,
    Cheri

  3. Nanette, I do believe we were created in God’s image and so each of us bears His fingerprint – thus giving all life value. I believe we are to care for the earth and nurture it.

    I differ from you in that I believe God created the earth and humans, not the other way around. The consistency of stories across cultures is one evidence of that. The order found within nature, the intricacies, the patterns, the beauty, the power – all, to me, point to a higher power – an intelligent being.

    And, I believe that an intelligent Creator would desire to communicate with those He created – the Bible says that God has done that through nature, through scripture and through Jesus.

    I also agree that we should treat others the way we want to be treated – also a Biblical concept. I love the respectful way you expressed your opinion here even though I can see we have our differences.

    I stand by my paragraph as written but I love the peaceful gentleness with which you communicate your views. Please come by again!

  4. Thank you, Cheri, for your faithful encouragement. I fully support your devotion to writing and completing the book! I’ll still be here. May God bless many broken spirits through your story.

  5. Karin says:

    Thank you for your excellent post! Such wisdom from the Lord and you are sharing it in a practical, easier to understand way. Blessings!

  6. Such encouragement goes straight to my heart (and not my head). Thank you, Karin. You are in my prayers.

  7. Karen says:

    I’ve always known that the Church of Jesus Christ is a family, but it has never been more vivid and real to me than it is after reading your post. I could relate to every word. Isn’t it amazing how God takes something like My Big Fat Greek Wedding and turns it into a poignant message in the mind of one of his special scribes. Great job, Lori.

    It is also the perfect follow up to your last post.

    As for the anonymous comment (Nanette) above – the one piece of the comment that actually relates to Lori’s blog post (where she rewrote the paragraph replacing ourselves with Jesus) – Nanette is misunderstanding something. Humans are made in the IMAGE of God – we are not begotten of God. Jesus is the ONLY begotten son of God. Begotten of God and created by God are two different things. I just happened to read this in MERE CHRISTIANITY by C. S. Lewis last night:

    “When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers, and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam… What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God; just as what man makes is not man. That is why men are not sons of God in the sense that Christ is. They may be like God in certain ways, but they are not things of the same kind. They are more like statues or pictures of God.”

    I think this sufficiently explains why we cannot replace Jesus with ourselves in Lori’s paragraph referenced by the anonymous post (Nanette).

  8. Thank you, Karen, for the feedback and for the observation on Nanette’s comment!

  9. Carmen says:

    Good post! This family thing is not without its bumps and bruises, and yet we are to prefer each other…just like a family does. I love your analogy to My Big Fat Greek Wedding (awesome movie!). I also enjoy your writing style. It’s very endearing!

  10. Okay, Lori. You really need to add some social share buttons, because I often want to share your posts but it is difficult from my iPod without the buttons:). I don’t comment often, but I love your writing and look forward to finding it in my google reader. This one was awesome as usual!

  11. Wow, thanks, Kelly. Is the share button on the right side not enough? Should there be one on every post?

  12. LOL! I’m on a huge desktop today and it is right there – I don’t know if it was just a dot on my ipod (which I normally use to browse through my reader), or if I was just being a blind idiot:), but at least I know what to do now (and I see it’s in the posts now and love that too – easy to find. Thanks!

  13. It’s not the big fat Christian family that bothers me, it’s the cannibalists who take over from time to time. Galatians through and through. Yet the word says to repent for their behaviour lest I commit it too… Ugh!