Church is Family

Excerpts from “Church is Family” by John N. Day in Modern Reformation. After Day writes that the Bible uses family terms to describe the church and its members (God the Father, brothers and sisters in Christ, household), he tell us what this means for the external practice of our faith:

These aren’t just empty words; they mean something. Part of this meaning is certainly that it recognizes our differences and stays together anyway-not just by tolerating one another, but by actually seeking to love one another. If church is family, we cannot live and grow by promoting division: that’s not family, that’s dysfunction. As the apostle Paul says: “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Gal. 3:26). “Sons of God”: there’s that family again. And one of the chief consequences is this: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ” (3:28). It breaks down all those barriers.

But look how we continue so commonly to build churches based on divisions-even if it’s called good business practice and marketing sense-instead of around our identity as family. We have churches divided by race and subculture (when usually it’s not a necessary thing); we have churches divided by generations or various preferences of worship and style; we have churches that divide over almost anything and everything. Is that what (good) family does?

Yet in how many of your “blood” families do you have only one generation of people-one age group? That’s impossible. In how many families do you have only one perspective on how to dress? How many of us-in our own small families-have different interests? For example, I prefer outside work, my wife prefers inside; I don’t particularly like slugs and spiders, but one of my daughters loves slugs and my son loves spiders. How many of you like different foods or think that things should be done in different ways (the proverbial toilet seat up or down comes to mind)? How much more, then, in our churches?

If we have our differences (which we invariably will), we must try to understand each other, accept each other, treat each other with respect (as we would want to be treated). If we have a problem, we have to learn to work it out: to be kind to one another, to forgive and be forgiven. For with family, you’re stuck.

How many churches are truly characterized by this mindset and actually seek to live this out? In how many do you sense the genuine warmth and spirit of those who not only call themselves “brothers and sisters,” but who actually live like it? Too often instead you find things cold and uncaring, plastic-faced or two-faced; and too quickly to quarrel and divide. Oh, that our churches again would recapture this affection-not in pretence, but in truth! Because family cares-and shows it.

I am reminded of a verse which the Holy Spirit has used this past year as a guiding light in times of misunderstanding and hurt feelings within the body of Christ. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, meekness, humility, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:12-13).

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