If know me, you know this – I love my family! We love and bicker when we’re together. We cheer and critique each other. Nobody can get under my skin more quickly, nobody can hurt me more deeply and nothing gives me more joy than my families! Yes, I have two families; those with whom I am connected by blood relations and those who are part of my spiritual family. This means I enjoy a double blessing.
Yesterday, after the pastoral prayer at church, I was emotionally wrecked. The sorrow of my Mom’s critical illness and a few other stresses left me ready to crumble. As I walked from the pulpit, big Nate opened his arms and pulled me into his chest as if I were a little boy. His daughter and daughter in law extended their arms, too, and I found myself in an embrace of loving concern. I’m not the really ‘touchy feely’ kind of person! But, I found that embrace a precious gift; a non-verbal expression that spoke love to me. Prior to the service, Garry and Phil joined me in my office to pray with me and for me, offering support. For the rest of the day, I was comforted by the knowledge that I had a family, a community, that cares.
The Scripture uses familial language to describe the Church. In Ephesians we read that God “predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—” (1:5, NIV) Before time began, He purposed and planned a new community and called us to be part of it. Jesus told us that our deep love for one another would be the distinguishing mark that would uniquely identify us as His people. John calls us ‘brothers and sisters’ repeatedly and says that our love for one another grows out of God’s love for us. What a powerful truth. I observe it in people all the time. Those who are loved and given secure relationships as children become trusting loving adults who are able to form attachments to others that are mutually enriching. Those who are raised in insecurity are wounded, suspicious, and quick to offense and defense!
I pray that our church, just one small part of His Church, will continue to develop as a real family. Yes, the process can be messy. Misunderstanding arise. Different expectations stress the ties that bind us together. Dysfunctional people pour their pain into the family and without great grace we can be split apart. Then, too, we must be aware of the Evil one is always working to divide, to turn secondary issues into major ones, to fan the flames of jealousy into a bonfire of destruction. But, the Father of love is greater. The Word calls us to enter actively into the family!
“What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are.” (1 John 3:1, The Message)
“For this is the original message we heard: We should love each other. We must not be like Cain, who joined the Evil One and then killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because he was deep in the practice of evil, while the acts of his brother were righteous. So don’t be surprised, friends, when the world hates you. This has been going on a long time. The way we know we’ve been transferred from death to life is that we love our brothers and sisters. Anyone who doesn’t love is as good as dead.” (1 John 3:11-14, The Message)
Don’t go life alone. Cherish the community called – the church. Invest the time required to make it a real family. You’ll be blessed and a blessing.
Here’s the word from the Word, a prayer for His family.
“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.
And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21, NLT)
The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is His new creation
By water and the word.
From heav’n He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her,
And for her life He died.
Elect from ev’ry nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth,
Her charter of salvation
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy name she blesses;
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With ev’ry grace endued.
The Church’s One Foundation
Stone, Samuel J. / Wesley, Samuel S.
© Public Domain