Lately, I’ve had a couple of opportunities to clean up my house. We’ll call them opportunities because I would otherwise hate the necessity of vacuuming, dusting, etc. I had to clean up for special guests—one of those deals where you have to make sure there are matching towels in the bathroom, even though it’s entirely unlikely they’re going to be using that particular bathroom. I hope you can tell that cleaning is not my favorite thing in the world, nor do I like to pretend that I care about whether or not my bathroom towels match. There are some times that I don’t mind cleaning up for people who are coming over. Generally this is because I have a good relationship with that person. I know that there is mutual love and care, so I want to put out some effort to have them in my home. But these are also the people who are least likely to care that I’ve cleaned up the house—they’re coming over to see me, not the vacuum tracks in the living room rug!
This got me to thinking about a question I once heard asked in a Bible study: How many people are there in your life that you’ve given “fridge rights”? That is, how many people in your life have the freedom to come into your house and just open the fridge and take what they want and that wouldn’t seem rude? There’s always somebody who would open the fridge whether they’re welcome to or not. This is more a question of how many people are comfortable enough with the established relationship that it’s OK for them to dig around in your fridge. These are the kinds of friends who are worth having. I have a few of these people in my life—and I think of them as family. Now, it’s hard to tell people this is your “family,” since there is no actual blood relationship, so I often describe my extended family in the sense that the ancient Romans did—the household.
This is an important idea for me, because these are important people in my life. They’ve encouraged me in tough times, celebrated with me in good times, and just been present in the in-between times. But they’re more than that. These are the people who shape me every day. They’re not content to let me stay where I am in my growth, in my faith, or who I am as a husband, father, friend, and follower of Jesus. That doesn’t mean they beat up on me—I don’t get dropped for push-ups when I fail in these relationships. I am held accountable, though. The household idea is brought home further for me by what I read in 1 Peter 4:17: For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God.
The people who have “fridge rights,” the people who are part of my household, we also have a mutual responsibility to each other. We take care of each other and challenge each other. In a very different way, we clean house. Do you have these people in your life? It’s much easier to surround yourself with people for whom you make sure the bathroom towels match. You keep it surface level and superficial and everyone believes that the clean, matching towels equals a good life. It’s much harder to let people dig around in your life (and fridge) and have access to the stuff that might need to change. You just might wind up with someone who doesn’t care if your kitchen and bathroom are clean, but who cares about what happens to you.