Once upon a time, a young man named Sam Clark went off to college. While there, he met a young lady named Betty and they were soon married. By the generous grace of God, Sam and Betty Clark had many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, generation after generation of offspring and their numbers continued to grow. As their numbers increased, their geographic spread grew greater and soon you could find members of the Clark family all over the world.
With so many people in the family of Sam and Betty Clark, it comes as no surprise that they didn’t all agree on everything. But one particular squabble was handled in a unique way by the Clark family: car preferences. In the world of Sam and Betty Clark, most families – even most extended families – had only one preferred car manufacturer. The Joneses and Smiths loved Fords, the Peters and Jefferson’s loved Toyotas, it was said that a tribe somewhere in the Atlantic loved Kia, and so on. If someone in a Ford-loving family became convinced that Toyotas were the best, he had to leave his family to join a Toyota-loving family. But the Clarks were different. The Clarks believed they could be a family without having to impose one particular car preference. Individual family groups within the broader Clark family might hold to a particular preference, but they got along with the families that had a different preference and the families that included various preferences.
Each year, the Clark family would assemble for a large family reunion. At this meeting, family members would share common concerns and address pressing family issues. From time to time, arguments would break out about car preferences but the family always remained committed to unity even in the face of disagreement.
If you look at the history of the Clark family, you will see times when one side or the other was dominant. For a while, the Ford lovers were in the majority. Then the Toyota lovers had their day. The Toyota lovers had been dominant for the last few generations and it became generally accepted that the Clark family was a Toyota-loving family, even though they continued to welcome Ford lovers. But then something began to change. To the surprise of many, the Ford lovers began to grow. They were still the minority, but they were a growing minority and they did not mind letting it be known that they loved their Fords. Many Toyota lovers became concerned at the growth of the Ford lovers and tension began to build within the Clark family. Many Toyota lovers and many Ford lovers continued to show and to say that the Clark family ought to remain neutral and that the family members should continue to love and live alongside one another.
After a while, the tension reached a climax when one group of Toyota lovers decided that enough was enough, the Ford lovers had grown too much, had gained too much influence in the family, and had been too bold in the declaration of their love for Fords. This group of Toyota lovers came together and wrote a proclamation for the Clark family. In summary, it read: “We Clarks don’t mind Ford lovers. We know them, we have had them as neighbors, we even had a Ford-loving friend once; but we Clarks have historically been Toyota lovers so we are bothered by the attempts of Ford lovers to take over the family. Therefore, we want all Toyota lovers to rally around us and join us in our movement to take back the Clark family for Toyota lovers!”
This group of Toyota lovers earned immediate respect because many who joined the group were well respected patriarchs in the Clark family. The Clark family had never been run by a single individual or group of individuals, but nonetheless the opinions of these men carried significant weight and influence. Many Toyota lovers quickly joined the group and identified themselves as part of the Clark family as it was meant to be.
Because of the creation of this group, the Clark family was no longer one big family full of individuals who disagreed but continued to sit down together at mealtime. It wasn’t enough to acknowledge that there were Ford lovers and Toyota lovers within the Clark family, the group believed the Toyota lovers should form a distinct identity and movement within the family and they called themselves the Toyites. If you were not one of the Toyites, you were viewed with suspicion and anything you said to the family was viewed as inconsequential, if not controversial. Only the Toyites should be able to speak for the family. Only the Toyites should be allowed to present what it really meant to be one of the offspring of Sam and Betty Clark.
Today, the Clark family stands at a crossroads. They can choose to go the way of the Toyites and continue to harden the factions within the family. They can choose to be a family that chooses to be exclusively Toyota lovers or exclusively Ford lovers. Or they can return to their traditional practice of embracing Clarks whether they are Ford lovers or Toyota lovers. The future of the family hangs on which way they go.