A Family of Cousins?

Vantage Point

I was struck by Rev. Jerry Dykstra’s comment on his family reunion that they were all one family even though they were very different (“We Are All One Family,” March 2008). It says a lot about him that he admits he continues to learn to both accept and embrace God’s unified family and a broader body of Christ.

I grew up in Miami and have been a member of the Christian Reformed Church since my teenage years. My pastor and his wife had an open-door policy with all the teenagers at our church. Most of the kids came from single-parent homes. The pastor and his wife were our de facto parents and family. They opened their lives, their hearts, their home to all of us unselfishly. They openly shared the love of Christ with everyone who came through their doors. I haven’t run across many folks like them in my life. They understood what it means to have a world-and-life view that encompasses the love of Christ.

I’m sure it was hard for them and sacrificial at times, yet they genuinely loved all of us because they loved Christ. They were instrumental in encouraging me to go to a Christian high school and then on to Reformed Bible College (now Kuyper College) and Calvin Seminary.

We have a proud heritage and a strong theology in the CRC. I’ve seen the denomination make great strides since my youth in bringing together God’s family. Yet I wonder how well

we continue to move forward in truly opening our hearts and lives to those around us who need the good news. At times even I have felt displaced in the Christian Reformed community.

I still get asked questions that make me wonder which direction we are going. Yes, I know “they” eat different foods. They may not necessarily like ham buns, and they consider it “lunch,” not “supper.” Yes, I know they are a

different color. Yes, they like to share their life story (they’re not afraid of and don’t care what you think about them), and yes they go out to eat on Sundays and may even play ball.

They prefer blue jeans to a suit and tie. They may come to church only once on Sunday, and their kids may not go to Christian schools. They may not tithe. Can we still call them brothers and sisters in Christ, or are they just cousins? You know, the ones in the family whom you tolerate out of necessity but don’t really accept as full family because they’re a little different. Do “they” even feel welcomed in our churches?

How inviting are we really? Who will enfold them and make them feel and believe they are truly part of our family?

About the Author

Rev. Henry Perez is associate pastor of education and diaconal ministries for Kenosha (Wis.) Christian Reformed Church.

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