That family member

We all have that family member. Be honest.

Before I provided even a single sentence of context for the previous statement, the image of someone from your family jumped into your mind. That’s because we all do, in fact, have that family member.

The eccentric one who marches to the beat of their own drum. The uncontrollable rebel who refuses to follow the rules. The single black sheep (or more often than not, the white sheep) that sticks out in the crowd. The crazy one who is game for whatever shenanigans are suggested.

Perhaps you’re reading this thinking, “No one in my family is like that.” Congratulations, it’s probably you. For better or worse, there are times when I’m that family member for my family.

Before you get too offended, please understand that I’m not assuming that being that family member is necessarily a bad thing. Actually, it’s normally these family members that we are drawn to.

They often have very magnetic personalities, and their ability or even need to color outside the lines is exciting and exhilarating. Oftentimes, they are the favorite uncle or the crazy cousin who, once they walk through the door, the party has officially started. All that stated, there are times when, knowingly or not, such individuals create trouble for the rest of us.

One of my favorite movie characters of all time is Cousin Eddie from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” Cousin Eddie is the epitome of that family member. Cousin Eddie rolls up uninvited to the family Christmas gathering in a beat up old RV, parking it right in front of his cousin’s upper middle class residence.

Throughout the movie, Cousin Eddie has his own sense of style. He rocks what he’s got, and he’s comfortable and confident in his own skin. He’s a good-hearted, good-natured guy, but he doesn’t always see or consider the consequences of his actions.

As he is out shopping with a family member, he drops huge bags of dog food on delicate light bulbs that have just been placed in the cart. He empties the contents of his RV’s chemical toilet into a storm drain. And in the climactic moment of the movie, Cousin Eddie kidnaps his cousin’s boss in order to force him to apologize for a wrong he has done to the family. While his intentions are good, his actions are harmful.

What strikes me as interesting is that at no point in the movie, through all of the various missteps that Cousin Eddie makes, did anyone have the good sense or the grace to approach Eddie and explain to him that his actions were inappropriate and less than helpful.

More often than not, we see this same trend in our own families. We fail to speak up when that member of the family is acting in inappropriate ways. We do this for a host of reasons. We find it entertaining and don’t want to stop the fun. We are sensitive to their feelings and don’t want to hurt them. That’s just who they are, and we don’t think it is our place to tell them what to do or how to act.

But how much chaos and damage could we mitigate by stepping up and speaking the truth in love? Would not the most loving thing to do be to speak up for their benefit and ours rather than allowing them to get us and others in trouble and allowing them to become the punchline of someone’s joke?

I know we’re all having a hard time adjusting to our current realities. As the consummate extrovert, every fiber of my being wants to ignore the urging of the government and the CDC and re-establish our regularly scheduled gatherings for the church, gather for lunch with friends and family or just go walk around Walmart.

As a person of faith, don’t I believe that God is bigger than this virus? Sure, but I also believe God wants me to use my God-given common sense to avoid putting myself, my family and my congregation at risk unnecessarily.

Further, as a person of faith, I am compelled to respect and cooperate with the government so long as it doesn’t put me at odds with what God has asked of me.

As an American, don’t I have the freedom to pursue life, love and happiness? Sure, but I should be careful that my pursuits don’t put the lives of those I love at risk, which would result in sadness for many.

In I Corinthians 10:23, Paul writes, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”

With all grace and love, I beg you, my brothers and sisters, my family and friends, don’t be that family member. Look beyond your own preferences and priorities to the needs of others in the community. Don’t pursue your rights and freedoms to the potential detriment of others. Follow the wise counsel provided by those who know more than we do.

If you have family and friends who are acting in inappropriate ways, graciously and lovingly speak out. And please don’t judge the whole family based on our crazy cousins. They don’t speak for the rest of us.

The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at Send comments to [email protected].