As the old saying goes, you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone. Or, in my case, gone for 4 months.
It is a big change to live back at home when you’ve lived at school for a while. Universities think about their students’ needs and try to make residence fairly comfortable. Ready-to-go food, on-campus coffee shops, an individualized class schedule, professional writing/career support, fun activities planned by student life initiatives, and much more, are all available at our fingertips. At university, you tend to be your number one priority.
However, this is not reality.
University is a unique place where your needs come first. But individualistic, self-focused living was not how God intended us to live. Look what happened when Eve started only caring about her own personal desires—it was the end of the world as she knew it. I’m pretty sure we will not face such severe consequences as Eve did, but our hearts can become easily hardened if we excuse our disobedience.
Coming home brings about many, usually undesirable, responsibilities. It may be chores, making your own food, caring for siblings or other relatives, having a curfew, or generally having to submit your personal routine to the authority of your family’s schedule. This may seem like a trivial problem, but I know from first-hand experience that freedom, once gained, is hard to give up.
It is easy to get into the mindset that we, as students, deserve independence and that, as “adults,” our former duties are not our responsibilities anymore. Yet, Galatians 5:13 (NIV) reminds us that we should not misuse our freedom, but that with it we should “serve one another humbly in love.”
Jesus is the perfect image of humility. He made himself a servant though he was a king, even to the point of washing his disciples’ feet. Following in his footsteps, may we lower ourselves to honour our loved ones.
Similarly, Romans 12:1 states that true and proper worship is to “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God…”. Our bodies are not our own; they belong to God. Living the Christian life requires us to die to self and to serve others. In this, we use our bodies in ways that glorify him. Jesus commands us to love our neighbours as ourselves, second only to loving God (Matthew 22:36-40). Worship involves sacrifice, and when we love those around us, especially when it is hard, we display true worship.
God doesn’t just want us to tolerate our family, but to give them priority over ourselves. Paul charges the Philippians to value others above themselves (2:3). Because God loved us first, giving up his only son so that we may live, we have no reason for not loving him through loving others in return.
Loving those closest to us can sometimes be harder than loving strangers, but the importance of this love is stressed in the Bible. 1 Timothy 5:8 goes so far as to say, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” It seems that caring for our loved ones matters a lot to God.
Paul makes it clear to the church in Corinth that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). This means going out of our way to help out our family because we know that they were made in the image of God. Whether that is doing something without being asked, extending words of encouragement, or simply carving out time to be with family, simple acts of kindness help us to fulfill the command to “[b]e devoted to one another in love…” (Romans 12:10a).
Recognizing that serving others is a way of serving God helps us to avoid showing affection begrudgingly. God doesn’t desire for us to be robots of service, but vessels from which his mercy and grace flow. Although tasks around the house are often routine, it’s important to stop and think about how even the smallest tasks of adoration can point the world back to the God of love. It is important to consider how we can use our skills, abilities, and time to serve our family and, vicariously, our loving Father.
Our studies are important, but the people around us matter so much more. Becoming an adult and maturing does not exempt us from living in community. As Christians, let us remember that we are to be known for our love. God has blessed each of us with family as a glimpse into what his love for us looks like. Let us honour the relationships God has given us, and use the time we have at home to live out our faith.