One of the most amazing pictures God gave us of the church as He planned it, is that it is his family and that we are all brothers and sisters in the body. Paul told Timothy he hoped to come to him soon but in case he waited for a time he was writing him instructions on how to behave himself in the household or family of God, which is the church of the living God. One of the greatest problems we face today and to some degree in every other time, is that too often the church is seen as an organization, a club or some kind of institution. The result is that when we become part of a church family we are disappointed about something that happens or fails to happen in the church and then decide we will just take our membership and go somewhere else and join their group. What if we did that in our families? Can you imagine a new member of the family, perhaps through being married to one of the family members leaving a family gathering and saying to her husband or his wife, “I didn’t feel loved and accepted in this family today so I’ve decided to not return. I am going to do some research on families in the area and decide which one I will join.” How would you react if your son or daughter called you after such a family meeting to give you the information that they had decided to look around to see if they couldn’t find a family they felt better as a part of?
After the year of dealing Covid, let’s face it tons of people are deciding to look around and are questioning whether or not they will continue as part of the church they have been a part of for some time. I do understand. It is so easy to feel like you have been mistreated or ignored or even that no one really cares about us. I am certain that a part of the whole thing is the times we have been away from meeting together and even when we do meet, people are wearing masks and are afraid to get very close to anyone else for fear of either upsetting them or making unwanted contact. The result is that far too many feel like they are not accepted, loved or wanted in the family any more.
Think about a couple of things right now please. First, family matters. It is vital that every member of the family feel loved, accepted and very much a part of the family. Anytime one feels somehow different from the rest of the family it is easy to get extremely discouraged and down. Yet we are all equal parts of the family we are in. If the family isn’t functioning correctly, it is much my responsibility as anyone else’s to do what I can to make it right. If one of the grandchildren called me up tonight to say, “Papa, my wife or my husband, doesn’t feel loved and accepted in our family.” Do you think for a moment that I would say, “Well, that’s their problem.” Or, “Maybe they will find a family somewhere else they like better.” Not on your life. I would be doing everything in my power to reach out to that one that felt unloved or unaccepted to let them know how much I love and appreciate them. I realize that there are times when a person just will not allow themselves to fit into a family. But that isn’t the norm and it isn’t true with people who want to be a part of the family. In God’s family he tells us that there are no big “I’s” or little “you’s”. We all are equal parts of the body. Remember Jesus telling the apostles back in Matthew 23 to do what the religious teachers told them to do but not to follow their lives because they said and didn’t do. He challenged them not to call anyone “Rabbi”, “Master”, or “Teacher”. He said we are all brothers and sisters. When the church makes distinctions between people, whether based on race, age, education or anything else, it fails to be the family God wants us to be. When God is our Father, Jesus is our older brother and the Holy Spirit is given to us to lead us as His family members.
What if, instead of thinking of the church as something to accept or reject, to place membership in or be part of the family, I saw the church as fellow brothers and sisters who were trying hard to be the ones God called us to be? What if I realized that every single member of the church was struggling with problems and issues of different kinds and are carrying a heavy load all the time and that they needed me to show them love just as I need them to show such love to me? What if we stopped thinking about the church as the staff or the elders and started thinking about every member as part of my family? What if I thought of every person that visited as a perspective daughter in law or son in law? Don’t you think we would all be about making certain we showed them love and acceptance every time I saw them?
We are living in a difficult season. People are hurting and feel needy. May I challenge us all to be that Christian who is constantly looking for someone who is alone and make my way to them to talk, to listen and to show care and compassion. It will change us and it will change the lives of others around us. Let’s face it, there are no perfect families. There never has been and I don’t think there ever will be a perfect family or perfect church. If you read the New Testament letters to the different churches it is obvious they had serious problems all around and yet God loved them and pleaded with them to love and encourage each other. Let’s do it!