Andrew: Loving Those We Know the Best
Matthew 4:18-22; John 1:35-42
First Baptist Church · September 14, 2014
This past Monday, a giant among Baptist laypeople died when Truett Cathy passed away at the age of 93. As many of you know, Cathy became famous as the founder of Chick-Fil-A.
Beyond becoming a billionaire from chicken sandwiches, Truett Cathy was a profound person of faith. We all know about the Chick-Fil-A decision to close on Sundays and many of you are familiar with the camps and retreat centers that Cathy helped found under the overarching name of WinShape which is a compound word built on the idea of Shaping Winners for Christ among children, youth, couples and families.
But beyond all of this, Truett Cathy was also incredibly dedicated to his home church which was First Baptist Jonesboro, Georgia. Did you know that for over 50 years, he taught a Sunday School class for thirteen year old boys there. In fact, for years, Truett Cathy fed his entire class dinner one night a week at his very first restaurant which was called The Dwarf House.
This decision was birthed out of his own family experience. You see, Cathy’s own father was a very distant part of his life. While Cathy’s parents remained married throughout his childhood, his father was never more than a background figure who rarely spent time with him, never told him he loved him and did very little to be a shaping influence on young Truett’s developmental years.
During that same time, a man named Theo Abby became Cathy’s Sunday School teacher. He showed interest in him, invited him to the lake with his own family and became a second father to him. It was Abby who showed Truett Cathy his love and God’s love in a way that Truett’s father never did. It was also the example of Theo Abby, who convinced Truett Cathy to become a shaping influence on not only his own children but also on the lives of others who would become extended family. It was Abby, who birthed in Truett Cathy the idea, that the best legacy we can pass own to our family is the legacy of faith that comes through relationships, love and time spent together.
Let’s be honest for a minute. Family relationships are incredibly difficult. Being flesh and blood doesn’t always translate into instant warm and fuzzy feelings. In fact sometimes, being flesh and blood has the exact opposite effect. As a result, it can be very difficult for us to love those whom we know the best just as it was for Truett Cathy’s own father.
It can also be very difficult for us to share the love of God with our family. Sometimes this is true because of long seeded differences of opinion, hurt feelings or family squabbles. Sometimes, even when we have good relationships with our family, sharing faith with our own can still be challenging as we fear coming across as condescending or holier than thou.
This is also true in our other deep relationships. I am speaking here of those people who may not be flesh and blood but who play an intricate and intimate part in our lives. These are the people we consider to be family and sometimes are closer to than our own family.
Yet, what Truett Cathy’s example and what the disciple Andrew remind us of is the simple yet basic truth that there is no better legacy that we can leave with family than a legacy of faith. (It’s Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men, S. Truett Cathy, 2004, pages 10-12)
Did you know that among the disciples, there were three sets of brothers? Peter and Andrew, James and John as well as Matthew and James the Lesser were all brothers. This fact, leads to the assumption that it is very likely that in all three cases, one brother had a in leading the other brother to know and embrace Christ and discipleship.
In the case of Andrew, we know this was the case. Peter may have ultimately become the leader of the disciples. But, according to the passage from the gospel of John that we read a few moments ago, Andrew was the first of the two to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. As a result, again, according to the text, one of his first actions was to go, find his brother and invite him to do the same. In a simple, straightforward way, what this decision of Andrew reminds us of is that loving our family members must include sharing God’s love and that this mandate is equally true for those members of our family that we struggle to love.
Again, as I alluded to a moment ago, this is much easier to talk about than it is to live out. As I say this, let me also be vulnerable and be clear that I know this from first-hand experience with members of my own family. Almost all of us in this room have family members or friends who seem like family who have little interest in faith. Without question, this reality leads to countless difficulties for us. We struggle with what to say, how to say it and when to speak about our faith. We also wrestle with sharing Jesus’ love while being clear that we love them even if they persist in unbelief. It is complicated, it is difficult and it is tricky. And, the truth is that sometimes if not most of the time, it is far easier to speak and to share about faith with those who are strangers than with those whom we know the best. In turn, sometimes, what we do is simply ignore this aspect of these relationships deciding that it is easier to avoid conversations about Jesus and faith than to have them.
Let me caution us not to come to this conclusion. Again, those are that most tricky to reach for faith are our family members. Yet, they are also the group of people with who we can have the most success. After all, we cannot ignore the living example of the disciples and the three sets of brothers that we find there. We also have a living example of this right in our very presence today for many if not the majority of us in this room are here today because at some point someone we are related to saw sharing God’s love with us as one of the best ways of showing their own love.
At the same time, let me challenge us to be creative and to recognize that there are countless ways to continually put Jesus in front of our family members. I do think there is something very real about our fears that we can fracture family relationships by being too pushy with our faith. But, direct, confrontational conversations are certainly not the only way to pass along God’s love. If our family members are readers, give them a good book that has a faith element to it. If our family members love music, buy them a great cd from a Christian artist.
As someone who loves sports, I have become a fan of the idea of the books of author Ed McMinn. McMinn is a retired pastor who for the last several years has been writing devotional books built around various colleges and their athletic teams. Each book contains 75-100 daily thoughts that include a passage of scripture, a story from that particular school’s sports program and a thought for Christian living. What a great gift for the person in our lives who loves their team but who has yet to respond to the love of God.
My point is that we should never let our fears stand in our way sharing God with those we know and often love best. We are their best hope for faith and there are countless ways we can show our love and God’s love while also being sensitive.
At the same time, let me give a bit of a parenthesis here. Let me remind all of us that we must be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day and leading family to faith doesn’t happen overnight either. But, the hopeful thing is that we never know where the Holy Spirit is at work. God through the Spirit is often at work in others’ lives as we can never imagine. And, often things that we said long ago continue to be tools that the Spirit uses to work in others’ lives.
Finally, let me help us say this morning that Andrew also reminds us that when we are secure in who we are, we can help those we love to be all that God wants them to be. Not only did Andrew lead Peter to faith, but, perhaps even more profoundly, he also seemed comfortable with Peter becoming the leader of the disciples. If you look at the gospels, while Andrew was the first to follow, he was not in the inner circle with Jesus as was his brother Peter or James and John. Even more interesting is the fact that Andrew’s name is listed followed by the description “Simon Peter’s brother” as if to suggest that his only identity and value was found in who he was related to rather than based on his own merits. Yet, in spite of all of this, there is no evidence that Andrew through a pity party or had any issue with this.
What this all suggests is that Andrew had evidently stopped trying to be someone. As a follower of Christ, he had already found his identity and his self¬¬¬-worth. He was God’s child, he was a follower of Christ and knew God loved him. This security freed him up to support his brother, whom he loved, in achieving greatness. Rather than competing with Peter or wasting his energy trying to top Peter, he graciously played his role while evidently helping Peter to play his on.
This is a pivotal family dynamic question for all of us. Are we secure that in Christ we are already someone and that we are loved? Are we freed up to help our family members and those that we love most to achieve their dreams? Or, is our constant battle and continual focus centered on proving our own worth?
Someone once asked Leonard Bernstein, the great orchestra conductor, an interesting question. They wanted to know which instrument is the hardest to play. Bernstein’s reply was second fiddle. “I don’t have any trouble finding folks to play first violin,” he said, “but no one wants to play second fiddle. Yet, without that instrument there is no harmony.”
Harmony in our own souls is found in the same way. Loving our family always means being committed to sharing God’s love. And, loving our family also means being secure enough in who we are so that we can help them discover who they are in Christ too. Amen.