"However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" 1 Peter 4:16-17
We are family. There's no other way to put it, and I really think that it's about time that we start to see each other in the light of family.
I had a dream a few weeks ago that I've been thinking on occasionally, and it seems that it was gently nudging me in the direction of family. I was by myself, getting ready to go to a family reunion. I remember being a little excited and a little nervous- you know how reunions are. I got there, and I didn't know anyone. Yet, I spent time going around and visiting with everyone like we had known each other for forever. As I was doing this, going around and visiting with everyone, two brothers walked in, and I remember being excited to see them- because I actually knew these people. They started visiting with people too, and the atmosphere of the reunion was one of joy. Everyone was just so happy to see everyone else. When I felt like it was time for me to leave, the two brothers came up to me and we all decided to leave together, and we talked about how wonderful it was to see everyone at the family reunion. The thing about these two brothers? I know them in real life, and there is no way that we are related- even our ethnicity is completely different.
Every time I think on this dream, it really sets me to thinking! As summer is upon us, actual family reunions are going on quite a bit, and people take time out of their busy summers to get together with relatives and reminisce and see what each other is up to these days. Thinking along these lines, if we are all part of one great big family of God, doesn't it stand to reason, that every time we go to church, it should be like going to a family reunion? How much sweeter would our worship be if we looked at each other as brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles? And family elders?
There is something unique about getting together with family. I was thinking about this not that long ago as well. I was thinking about some of my cousins who I haven't seen in probably ten-plus years, and yet were we to get together, there would be an instant camaraderie. We wouldn't have to spend time getting re-acquainted, we would just be so delighted to see each other and pick back up right where we left off all those years ago. Family reunions are just so different from, say, school reunions, where everyone goes because they are curious about each other. Family reunions are united by one very different factor- and that factor is love.
Love is what connects us, and for those of us who have asked Jesus to be a part of our lives, we each have the exact same love flowing in our veins. We also have the same DNA- the DNA of Christ swirling about in our bodies, so in that regard, we truly are family, aren't we? Think about how much more wonderful our times together would be- our Sunday mornings- if we could look at each other with the love of family. Family love is unconditional (or at least, it should be), no matter how much a family member messes up, we still love them. We may not like what they do, and often times families will come together to try and gently correct bad behavior, but that love never wavers.
So why is it, if we are the "family of God", that we do not behave the same way with each other?
What had me thinking about this again this morning was the fact that we had our mid-week church service last night. We missed church this past weekend because we were visiting family, and having a wonderful weekend relaxing. And yet we missed our church family. Even though we only missed one service, getting back last night just was wonderful and something sweet- to spend time worshiping with our church family again was delightful. And it should be like that every time we come together, it should be like a family reunion- an atmosphere charged with love for each other- a love that knows no boundaries and no limits.
Because isn't that what love is? The ultimate love was shown to us on the cross- a limitless and boundless love that spans the centuries even today. Love and family go hand in hand, and I think that if we could see each other in the light of family members, and break down any of those walls we have built up, we could accomplish so much more as a church.
Love and family begins with us! So many people don't go to church today because they hear the stories of fighting going on within the church, and they would just rather not deal with it- they see it as hypocrisy. We need to start first within our own bodies and love each other as family- and then we need to reach beyond the church walls and love each other as family as well. In my dream I was family with people who were obviously of a different ethnicity as me- we were brothers and sisters, just as we are brothers and sisters with each other- regardless of the walls where we choose to worship. When we stop arguing with each other over matters of semantics and technicalities, and just learn to love as family, why, we will be an unstoppable church in the matters of love.
It was love and compassion that drove Jesus to do all of his miracles! When he healed someone of a disease, it was because he had compassion for them.
"When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick." Matthew 14:14
"Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him." Matthew 20:34
"Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Mark 1:41
A church filled with compassion and love will be the church that will change the world. A family, working together as brothers and sisters can change the world if we could only start to see each other as brothers and sisters!
Many, many years ago there was a song that was sung in church that said "I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God." I know I'm glad today- and I'm thrilled to have brothers and sisters beyond measurement- and I love each and every one of them.