A few years ago, one of my deacons asked me during “Family Month” at Trinity to bring the Word of God to the intersection where he lived. “What does God have to say,” he asked me, “about blended families?” These are families in which there are children by some other union. What does the Word of God have to say about blended families?
When it comes to the contemplation of marriage into such a family, I know what people say. I’ve seen people afraid of building a relationship because of what somebody else has said. A daddy with a mind by Mattel will tell his son, “You don’t want to marry into that instant family. Now you think real hard before you do something foolish. She already has a baby by somebody else.”
This demonstrates the victimization and further alienation of a woman who has already been messed over by one boy and is now being forsaken or passed over by another boy who can’t think for himself but, like Oedipus, has to work out or work through some unresolved issues with his daddy. His daddy says, “You don’t want to marry a woman who already has children,” and he listens not to his full heart but to his empty-headed daddy who thinks that a woman with children is all right to sleep with but not to build a life with. “You can make love to them, but you can’t make a life with them.” This is what I mean by “a mind by Mattel”. These are people who think women are toys to be played with but not persons with whom to share life.
I know what people say about marriage into such a family. Some women feel that if the first relationship doesn’t work out, they are doomed to a long list of transient friends who come in and out of their lives or who say that they are committed, and stay committed to being friends, but frown on being husbands. I know what people say about those families where there is a child or children from some other union. I know what people say when it comes to contemplating marriage into such a family. But what does the Lord say? Is there any word from the Lord?
A Home Where God is Honored
I submit to you that not only does God have a lot to say on this subject of blended families, but that among the first things God says is, “Yes, I understand because my Son was part of such a family. I have a whole lot to say about such families. Look at the home where I placed my Son, and hear what to say to the church about blended families.” The home where God placed his Son was a blended family: Jesus had four brothers and several sisters (Matthew 13:55-56). God was Jesus’ Father; Joseph was the stepfather. “The home where I placed my Son,” says God, “is a home where I was honored.”
“Every year,” says verse 41 of our text, “the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover.”
Going to the house of God and worshipping with others were expected family activities in Jesus’ day. Notice that the verse says “every year.” There was no question such as, “Well, do you think we ought to go to church this time?” “I don’t know; you know, the Capernaum Bulls are competing against the Palestine Trailblazers for the NBA (that’s the Nazarene Basketball Association) championship. And I was thinking, maybe we ought to let the boy see the game this year. You know, all his friends will be watching it.” There was no, “Honey, over at the Galilee Mall they’re having the Super Sabbath Sale, and I was wondering, would you mind if I miss the service?”
Every time the saints met, the family went. In fact, they were so used to Jesus being with the other kids that they had traveled a whole day before they missed him. His home was a home where God was honored. And church wasn’t something that started when the boy became old enough to understand and make a decision for himself. You know, some of us have become confused. You don’t give Junior a choice about going to school. Why do you give him a choice about going to church?
Verse 21 tells us that Jesus’ parents took him to the temple to observe the religious custom of circumcision when he was a week old. They positioned him in the precincts of the holy from the time he could be carried outside of his house. His home was a home where God was honored. They listened to what Simeon said about their son. They heard with awe what Anna said as she praised God for his presence. His home was a home where God was honored.
If you are going to build a home for a blended family, it seems like the first thing God is saying is that there is some good news if you make your home a home where God is honored.
A Home Where God is Central
The home where the Son of God was placed was a home where God was central. The relationship that both of these adults — Joseph and Mary — had with God was intact and in place before the baby was born. In fact, before they became physically intimate, they had a solid relationship with God. (If we could master this one principle, we could significantly reduce the risk of HIV infection.) God was central in their lives; God was central in their home.
Look at Luke 1:34, where Mary said to the angel, “I am a virgin. How, then, can this be?” Matthew 1:18 tells us that “Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they were married she found out that she was going to have a baby by the Holy Spirit.” Verse 25 says, “But he had no sexual relations with her before she gave birth to her son.”
Joseph, you will remember, was trying to figure out a way to get out pf this sticky situation–and it was sticky! His woman was pregnant, and they weren’t married. And he knew the baby wasn’t his. What would people say? What did people say? You know they talked about them. Some folks still don’t believe that Holy Ghost story. “Well, I don’t mean any harm, but I’ve seen brother Judas hanging around there an awful lot.” “Not the trustee?” “Umm-hmm.” “And Peter’s mouth ain’t no prayer book, honey. Have you heard him cuss?” “But you know Rev. Andrew is the quiet one, and you’ve got to watch those quiet ones, baby.” “Umm-hmm!” “You got the right one, baby.” “Umm-hmm!” Folk talked about them. And Joseph was trying to find a way out that would not disgrace his lady.
Then God told him, “Joseph, descendent of David, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived” (Matt. 1:20). God was central in his life. God was central in their home. And that says that if you have a blended family, you have a head start if the Holy is headquartered in your home. Parenting children who are not your own is made easier when God is central in your home.
I cannot count the numbers of church members who have shared with me how “Big Mama” or “Muddear” always had enough food to feed what seemed like all the extra children on the block. She could take in all the strays and always had enough food and love to go around. When you look to the Lord as the provider of food, as the source and supply of love, love abounds. When God is central in the home, grace and mercy are much-cherished lessons. When God is central in the home, forgiveness becomes far more than some abstract concept; it becomes a lived reality day by day. When God is central in the home, trust becomes the tapestry that binds disparate lives together.
One of the preachers at the Hampton Ministers Conference reminded us of a true story. He told of a tour guide from his church who was taking a group of African Americans to West Africa to learn about their roots and heritage. They saw Senegal, Dakar, and Goree Island. They saw the slave forts and the Soumbedioune Market in Dakar (a large arts-and-crafts market). They saw Sierra Leone and Abidjan, and after leaving that sprawling city with its magnificent skyscrapers and unbelievably wide streets — the main streets in Abidjan are about as wide as our interstates — they went out into the bush to visit some people who lived very close to nature.
These bush people were allegedly master weavers. I say “allegedly” because when the African-Americans came upon them to watch them weave, the tapestry they were weaving was unbelievably ugly. There was no symmetry. The colors were a hodgepodge, mixed up and mixed in. There was no design, and the pattern made no sense. As a matter of fact, it really looked slipshod. Some of the people cut their pieces at different lengths so that they were sloppy and uneven. The tapestry looked a mess.
One of the church members asked, “Why are they wasting their time on that mess? Why don’t they just throw that one away and start all over again? Maybe they can get the next one right.” The tour guide translated and whispered this outsider’s question to the one in charge of the weaving. The one in charge looked up, smiled, gave a command in their native language, and, at the command, the workers flipped the weaving over — and there was the most beautiful, breathtaking work of art you could ever hope to see! The underside looked awful, but the top was awesome.
And that’s how God works trust into the tapestry of the blended family. Many times what we see from the underside looks a mess, and we wonder why we’re wasting our time, why we don’t just give it up and perhaps start all over or admit we blew it and walk away from it with integrity. But that’s just how we see it from the underside. From the other side, God shows us that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord, who keep God central, and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). When God is central in the home, trust becomes the tapestry that binds disparate lives together.
A Home Where God Is in Control
That home was a home where God was honored; it was a home where God was central; and it was also a home where God was in control. Joseph did what the Lord said to do because God was in control. Mary yielded her life to the Lord because God was in control. Jesus knew what He knew (from that home) to such an extent that He could amaze the Jewish teachers. He was raised in a home where God was in control.
In a home where God is in control — I don’t care what the configuration of your blended family — I’ve got some good news for you. If you listen to the voice of God and not to what the people say, you’ll be all right. In a home where God is in control, if you worship at the house of God like the Lord’s parents did every time they had an opportunity, if you model and teach the will of God so your children and your stepchildren can talk with their teachers about important issues of life, then you won’t have anything to worry about. Everything will be found and kept in divine order because God will take care of you.
“Be not dismayed whate’er betide” — “Joseph! Joseph! They’re talking about your wife.” It doesn’t matter. God will take care of it. “Mary, the other children are looking kind of funny at that child with that other father.” It doesn’t matter. God will take care of it. Ever since the days of chattel slavery, black families have had all kinds of obstacles to overcome and stereotypes to live with, with marriage ruled out as an option and loved ones sold away at will. But it does not matter; God will take care of you.
Children, if you are in a blended family and they talk about you, remember they talked about Jesus. Hold your head up! Put a smile on your face. Step tall! Walk proud! Don’t you hang your head down. Throw your shoulders back and say, “God will take care of me because I’m His child.”
From Good News! Sermons of Hope for Today’s Families, Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.; Edited by Jini Kilgore Ross. (c) 1995 Judson Press, Valley Forge, PA, 19482-0851 128 pages, $11.00. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Judson Press, 1-800-458-3766.