Bob Dylan’s “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest” had an intriguing line: “It’s a home, not a house”, an ode re. the devil and temptation really. Frankie listens to the character “Judas Priest” and ends up in a brothel – which is merely a house. I think even professing Christians have often ignored, forgotten or explained the devil and demons out of their conscious thoughts – rather than studying Jesus’ Own thoughts/words/interactions with them.
In any case I misquoted this Dylan lyric for years remembering it as “It’s a house, not a home” because that is what my own growing up experience was in a quite broken, fragmented family. There were some moments of unity to be sure, but a great deal of deep individualism and self-interest beyond much else all too often.
The fact is that also describes much of “the church” on earth and for the most part always has. But like obsession with the devil (equally a train-wreck as what I’ve just noted above) one can be so self-obsessed any of us can forget that a home is as much about our interaction and treatment of others as it is theirs with us. Read that again. Wherever you go there you are. A fairly constant misery comes down to self because it’s yourself you can never, ever escape though you may well deny your own propensity for sin and self-serving motives, decisions and actions. I repent of these pretty well daily as I must!
The photo I used here is home to of one of the most amazing, good families I know. They are (like you and I dear reader) sinners, though people of faith in Jesus. They’re longtime friends I am blessed to know and link with. All the ups and downs of life lace through their individual and shared family experience in this big and welcoming rural house outside of a very small town in the Midwest of the U.S..
Oh there are plenty of families all over the world like theirs, but in the colder climes (such as those in the pic) and also warmer areas of our world there are fractures so deep and chasms wide enough that seem to keep distance a marked enduring thread through many families. That has been my own experience in listening, reading, touring and certainly shared by others reading this.
I found genuine, honest, self-giving people who became far more a family to me, then to my own eventual marriage and family than many of my friends ever have. Grace. And yes, commitment on my part as well as theirs.
I worry for those who just give up looking for such relationships due to hurt -real, imagined or a mix of both. Hurt will be a part of 2021 just as it was 2020 and every year from the beginning of Adam and Eve’s journey. Cain and Abel’s story ended too soon.
I would ask you to please don’t make the mistake of not facing up to your own part of why you end up with a house as opposed to a true home as it is as much your responsibility as it is the rest of the family’s. This balance is often ignored.
“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, “None is righteous, not even one”, “Forgive and you shall be forgiven”, “As much as it lies within you be at peace with all”. The truth is that these are forgotten, ignored words and advice often railed against, run from. This is why like Frankie Lee who paid more attention to the devil than his own conscience, ended up playing a game. It’s a game, a false act any and all of us can play. It was Dylan’s imaginative lyric of a deceiver which led to the other’s self-deception and consequent living a false life in the end. First line of the lyric? “Well, Frankie Lee and Judas Priest they were the best of friends”.
Since my own family disintegrated due to illness, poverty and adultery, my parents divorcing when I was nine years of age and with an endless set of lessons about how self-interest above all others destroys rather than heals, creates -true- community and indeed echos the Words and Truth of Jesus Christ in relationships -rarely have I expected Dylan, the family whose home I picture here, my own home or anyone else’s life to be some sort of pristine, sinless, grace-filled utopia. It isn’t a possibility this side of heaven. That is as mythological as the concept we can self-source grace… which has but one Source, and He alone is God.
What I and many have learned -even among the homeless, dirt-poor people of color, refugees, prisoners and other “undesirables”: there is a righteous, holy and just Savior Who knows how a house, tent, underpass or even jail or prison cell is only a home when the occupants learn and practice His love in relationship to Him and one another.
Other than that, even a rich person’s mansion is simply a shack which like all else, will leave one cold as death inside the human heart -without warm relationship to the One Who alone causes the heart to beat.
Things to consider along the journey?
As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn