And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. – Saint Paul
During this holiday season, many of us are looking forward to having family around a table for a meal. This meal has to potential for great joy and great sorrow. Great joy because when families gather there are shared stories and experiences. There is the possibility of great laughter and warm affection. The memories of Christmas past and the hope for Christmas future.
But great sorrow because since we are all broken human beings, we bring our brokenness to that same table. Unresolved family wounds can threaten to disrupt the warmth of the meal with an unwelcome chill. There are elephants that come to dinner at almost every holiday meal. And by elephants, I am referring to topics that are at the table that everyone hopes no one will bring up.
There are probably as many off-limit topics as there are families, but I would just remind you of three that seem to be common these days: Politics, faith, and egos.
This year around our table there will be those that voted for and defended Trump. But there will also be those who voted for Biden and marched in protest of Trump. And there will be some who didn’t vote for either. There will be those who celebrated the overturning of Roe v. Wade and there will be those that are still morning that Supreme Court decision. There will be those who defend and champion traditional family values and those who believe those traditions need to be jettisoned sitting at my table.
Maybe we should inform everyone that there will be no politics discussed during the holidays. But is that a healthy way to deal with the elephant in the room? As host of the meal that is happening in my home, should I insist on a moratorium on political discussions?
I will not make such a decree, but I will personally abide by this truth: relationships are more important than politics.
Would someone please pass the gravy?
Another topic that might divide us is faith. There will be two Southern Baptist preachers sitting at opposite ends of the table—my father and me. But there will also be two people that I love who do not consider themselves Christians. And there will be people that I love who are practicing a non-evangelical form of faith.
For many people, there is very little daylight between their faith and their politics. And because faith is very personal and subjective, when our faith and politics are overlayed, it feels very personal if one of those is challenged. But here is the reality: Relationships are more important than faith. Because without a relationship there can be no viable faith.
Would someone please pass the cranberry sauce?
Then add to this mix unchecked egos and things could get ugly—like grandma’s sweater. There will be people whom I love sitting around my table that enjoys being teased about almost anything. It is their love language. And there are people that will get defensive at the slightest suggestion of someone putting them in an unflattering light no matter how light-hearted.
Wounded egos will be sitting at the table—including my own. One of the best balms for those wounds is to learn to laugh at me. To laugh at me, with you.
Arguing without listening to the other person about these sensitive issues is an indicator of an inflamed ego. The compulsion to have the last word in a disagreement is a sign of an enlarged sense of self-importance. The lack of curiosity about why a person would hold a position that is different than my own is the mark of an ego-dominant person.
Arguments always require two stubborn people. If you are in a tug-of-war over an issue, there is always a surefire way to end the war. Let go of the rope. So, I remind myself that relationships are more important than winning—at anything.
Would someone please pass the pie?
This holiday season I wonder if God’s presence might be experienced in all relationships. What if our walk is Spirit-filled but in a quiet, unassuming way? What if we committed to loving every person sitting around our table with the same love given to us by the God who is love? What if we modeled compassion, patience, and silence?
When someone around the table says something that triggers us, what if we prayed the prayer Jesus prayed when he hung on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Or even “Father, forgive them, for they know EXACTLY what they are doing”?
What if we committed to offering the guests in our home and around our table a love so deep and wide that it causes them to wonder about the source of that love? What if we asked authentic questions about the heart and souls of those around our table? What if we said, “I love you and am so glad you are here.” What if we said that in our words and with our countenance? What if grace were something more than what was said before we ate our prime rib?
Love God and love those around the table. For it is in relationships that faith, hope, and love can flourish.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end. (1 Corinthians 13 MSG)
I will tell you what I want for Christmas this year, I want to live out the truth of those words about love around my table.
Would someone please pass the wine? Communion wine, that is.
What a great post. Thank you so much and may you have a quiet and peaceful gathering this year.