The "Family" of Faith
I put this on myself to communicate Biblical vision clearly, but I fear that one of the primary Biblical ways of visualizing the vital preciousness and cohesiveness of God’s Church. The local expression of this is the “assembly” of those called out of darkness and into His Kingdom of light (2 Cor 4:6, Col 1:13, 1 Pet 2:9).
We are also described to be members of God’s Body, with Jesus Christ as our Head, and all the members playing an important role as part of the Body in accomplishing eternal things for Him (Col 1:18 “And He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 1:24 Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church”)
The description that is growing foreign to the ears of Millenials and younger is that of Christians being part of the “Family” of God. We are “adopted” in as “sons” (Eph 1:5), meaning that all true believers in Christ are united through Him, and fellow heirs of His promises. I grew up in a stable nuclear family, and churches I served at used “familial” terminology based on verses such as the ones below:
Matthew 12:50 “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Ephesians 2:19 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household”.
1 Timothy 3:15, “you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
5:1-2, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”
From the time I came on as pastor at Elk River Baptist Church, I have sought to emphasize these spiritual realities to those of us who are just beginning to know each other, yet are bound to one another out of a mutual commitment to fellowship and bringing glory to God. I want them to know how all-encompassing this reality is to how we live for Christ: Showing hospitality, meeting needs, mutual encouragement, difficult exhortations, discipline, sacrifices, deep fellowship, and so on! We have yet to discover all that is involved with truly treating each other as “family”! John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” 15:17 “This is my command: Love each other.”
In churches where this is not effectively communicated or internalized (which I suspect ALL), you have conflicts of interest that lead to divisions, whether great or small. Pastors may say something that leads others to be offended, and if there is not enough of a spiritual bond in the Lord, people may get up and go, either to another church assembly that doesn’t seem to offend so much, or worse, they may retreat to a place where they will never be offended again!
FAMILY is meant to stick together, by definition. And this is where the corruption of my generation has infiltrated the deepest recesses of Christian community. Satan has attacked the very definitions of the first institution God created: “Family”. Today’s “blended families” often show very little in terms of personal sacrifice on behalf of benefitting the group, but rather displays a level of narcissism that leads to the parent-child relationship being “cancelled”, along with a retreat to the “safety” of like-minded “friends” on social media screens. The very illustration meant to invoke an understanding of longevity, love, and commitment sometimes accomplishes the exact opposite effect!
Long gone are the days when believers automatically joined the church down the street. Even denominational loyalties, theological convictions, and worship styles are not as important as they used to be. More and more often, church shoppers are prioritizing political and social convictions. The church shopping process itself involves a kind of spy-craft, with phrases like “social justice” or “the sanctity of marriage” seen as stealth signs of belonging to one side of the aisle or the other. I’m not minimizing the need for convictions on social issues, but I am highlighting how social categories that were simply assumed in the past, have now made its way into the forefront of societal debate!
The very fabric of our institutions are now unraveling at the seams, and Christians today have to be willing to take a stand on the very definition of biblical categories, promoting and modeling the beauty of commitment to a world that has lost its grasp of the basic foundations of life. I for one will continue to stand for the biblically-defined family, both biological and spiritual, embracing the splendor that those roles entail! Joshua 24:15, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."
Psalm 34:3, “Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.”