A few years back, I worked with a small people group that lived in the Himalayan Mountains. There were only about 300,000 of them, and they were scattered across several valleys. As I studied their language, I started to notice that things they would say crept into my everyday vocabulary. I would catch myself saying things like, “Oh, that’s very convenient,” which in America we will say occasionally, but when I lived there I said it ALL the time. Another piece of language that I’ve picked up is the way that I refer to people. When I lived there, if people were close friends they always addressed each other as family. If you were about the same age, you called each other Brother or Sister. If the person you were talking to was older, it was Aunt or Uncle. And if the person was much older than you, it was Grandma or Grandpa. (Side note: don’t mix up the words for aunt and grandma. They will notice.)
Because the people group is so small, you can travel out to villages where you’ve never been before, refer to someone as Uncle and be like family almost instantly. Most likely you would be accepted into their home, given a place to sleep and given a bowl of whatever strange thing they were having for dinner. It was the greatest hospitality I’ve ever seen.
Even now that I’m on the other side of the world from those people, I still catch myself referring to friends as family. I’m always telling my two-month old “Here’s Aunt Molly” or “Smile for Uncle Ross,” even though we aren’t kin. My poor kid will grow up so confused because he already has about two-dozen aunts and uncles.
I was thinking about this the other day and was reminded of the early Christians, who seemed to have this same kind of relationship with each other. Everyone was a brother or a sister, an aunt or an uncle, or if they were much older, a grandma or grandpa. This closeness actually caused persecution by the Romans, who saw “brothers and sisters” getting married and levied incestuous claims against them.
What I loved about those small Himalayan villages is the way they understood the concept of brothers and sisters, a concept that I often forget, even as a Christian. My prayer for you today is that you remember our brothers and sisters in those Himalayan villages, the persecutions they face, and the opportunities that we have to help.