The Church as Family

07 Aug

“A happy family is but an earlier heaven.”

The family you come from isn’t as important as the family you’re going to have.”

“A family is a unit composed not only of children but of men, women, an occasional animal, and the common cold.”

A dad is a fellow who has replaced the currency in his wallet with snapshots of his family.

Being one of nine children, I’m used to hearing remarks about the size of our family. Once when my father had taken four of us to the grocery store, a woman asked him, “Are these all your children?”  “Oh, no,” he innocently replied.  Seeing the look of relief on her face, Dad said with a twinkle in his eye, “The other five are at home.”

Herbert Prochnow tells of a little girl who wrote in an essay on PARENTS: “We get our parents at so late an age that it’s impossible to change their habits.”

A family is more than a collection of human beings who are blood kin.  A family is more than the sum of its parts.  It is a living, shaping, powerful unit that teaches us our most important lessons in life.  It teaches us who we are, how to act, whom to relate to, and what is important in life.

A healthy family

1. communicates and listens

2. affirms and supports one another

3. teaches respect for others

4. develops a sense of trust

5. has a sense of play and humor

6. exhibits a sense of shared responsibility

7. teaches a sense of right and wrong

8. has a strong sense of family in which rituals and traditions abound

9. has a balance of interaction among members

10. has a shared religious core

11. respects the privacy of one another

12. values service to others

13. fosters family table time and conversation

14. shares leisure time

15. admits to and seeks help with problems.

In her best-seller, What Is a Family?, Edith Schaeffer devotes her longest chapter to the idea that a family is a perpetual relay of truth.  A place where principles are hammered and honed on the anvil of everyday living.  Where character traits are sculptured under the watchful eyes of moms and dads.  Where steel-strong fibers are woven into the fabric of inner constitution. The relay place.  A race with a hundred batons.

  • Determination.  “Stick with it, regardless.”      
  • Honesty.  “Speak and live the truth – always.”            
  • Responsibility.  “Be dependable, be trustworthy.”      
  • Thoughtfulness.  “Think of others before yourself.”  
  • Confidentiality.  “Don’t tell secrets.  Seal your lips.”   
  • Punctuality.  “Be on time.”      
  • Self-control.  “When under stress, stay calm.”            
  • Patience.  “Fight irriatability.  Be willing to wait.”       
  • Purity.  “Reject anything that lowers your standards.”
  • Compassion.  “When another hurts, feel it with him.”            
  • Diligence.  “Work hard.  Tough it out.”

And how is this done?  Over the long haul, believe me.  This race is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.  There are no 50-yard dash courses on character building.  Relays require right timing and smooth handoffs – practiced around the track hour after hour when nobody is looking.  And where is this practice track? Where is this place where rough edges cannot remain hidden, must not be left untouched?  Inside your own front door.  The home is God’s built-in training facility.

People are blind to what they really need. They need family, and they need religion. Period. There is such an incredible strength in family, and religion gives you respectability, responsibility and a reverence for life.

During a visit to the children’s Bible class, my preacher friend looked into their serious faces and asked, “Why do you love God?” After a moment a small voice came from the back: “I guess it just runs in the family.”

The Church: A Radical Community

Letter to Diognetus (AD 125): “Although they live in Greek and barbarian cities alike, as each man’s lot has been cast, and follow the customs of the country in clothing and food and other matters of daily living, at the same time (Christians) give proof of the remarkable and admittedly extraordinary constitution of their own commonwealth. They live in their own countries, but only as aliens…they busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, but in their own lives they go beyond what the laws require. They love all man, and by all men are persecuted…

Letter to Hadrian (AD 125): “The Christians know and trust their God…If any of them have bondwomen or children, they persuade them to become Christians for the love they have toward them; and when they become so, they call them “brother” without distinction. They love one another…If they see a stranger, they take him into their dwellings and rejoice over him as a real brother; for they do not call each other brother after the flesh, but after the Spirit of “”God. If any among them is poor and needy, and they do not have food to spare, they fast two or three days that they may supply him with necessary food. But, the deeds which they do, they do not proclaim to the ears of the multitude, but they take care that no man shall perceive them. Thus they labor to become righteous. Truly, this is a new people and there is something divine in them.”

(Mark 3:32-35)  “A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” {33} “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. {34} Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! {35} Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.””

When the first Christians were made part of the New Testament church, begun on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, they knew hardly anything of Jesus and nothing at all of the “church.” Yet, immediately, they were thrust into a fellowship of other believers – a radical, consuming community which supplanted every other loyalty.

They “devoted themselves” to meeting with a relative strangers (Acts 2:42). They sold their possessions to support one another (Acts 4). They met daily with their new friends to worship and commune in each other’s homes (Acts 2:46). They even rejoiced together when suffering persecution and ridicule!

All this had a revolutionary impact on the families, businesses, and friendships of these first Christians. Old loyalties were exchanged for new ones. The church became almost overnight the primary “reference group” for its members.

In the New Testament, the church  commands the primary allegiance of disciples. No other group of people is allowed to take precedence over God’s people.

Even family ties were subordinated to the family of God. Families of origin were put at risk and even broken:

(Mark 10:29-30)  “”I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel {30} will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.”

(1 Cor 7:12-15)  “To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. {13} And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. {14} For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. {15} But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.”

This radical sense of community was true of the first century church. Is it true of the church today? Is it true that many other loyalties compete with our devotion to the body of Christ?

Old-school way of thinking:

John Donne, 1633, Holy Sonnets: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less…Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Modern way of thinking:

“I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain; its laughter and its loving I disdain…If I never loved I never would have cried…I have my books and my poetry to protect me; I am shielded in my armor. Hiding in my room, safe within my womb, I touch no one and no one touches me. I am a rock, I am an island; and a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.” (Paul Simon, 1965, I Am A Rock).

All that mattered in 1st Century was being in Christ

(Gal. 3:26-29)  “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, {27} for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. {28} There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. {29} If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

1 Comment

Posted by on August 7, 2017 in Church


One response to “The Church as Family

  1. Bette Jo Mashburn

    August 7, 2017 at 11:52 am

    Loved this lesson on Family.



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