I have been saying for several years now that the primary reason for most church conflict in worship, practices, and even biblical interpretation is our attempt to read about a New Testament church family that was essentially a house church, and make it fit our institutionalized traditional church. Paul had two primary pictures of what he understood God wanted his church to be. The first is a body, which he describes in detail in 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, and the other is a family (see 1 Tim.5:1-2). Both are beautiful metaphors for unity, interdependence, and love, but the family image is all about relationships. It’s a sad irony, that we have to convince church folks about the importance of spiritual, loving relationships, and it’s viewed by many as an extra-curricular part of “doing church”. Something they may or may not have time for. God’s people are family, bound by love, and driven to help each other “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
But, the truth is, we don’t act like a family. Maybe there’s just too many years of seeing the church as an institution for many to break out of that mold. The proof is in our expectations. Family expectations are simple! We love one another and support each other any way we can. We recognize that in a family, we don’t always get what we want. Some times another member of the family has a greater need than I do, and they – for the moment – must come first. If we were truly family, we wouldn’t say some of the things we say.
Here are five things you’ll never hear said around the family dinning table:
- Dad, can you do something to make this family more exciting?
- Dad, I’m not going to help pay the bills for our family, but I’ll kick in a little if you want to support a missionary!
- Dad, if we can’t sing songs that I want to sing, then I’m going to a new family!
- Dad, I don’t need to listen to you! After all, what have you done for me lately?
- Dad, we have got too many family things to do! We don’t have time to love each other!
Compare these to the words of the prodigal: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your child.”
Remember the Dad’s reaction? He shouted for the robe, ring, and sandals to be brought for his returning son, and declared it to be time for a BBQ!
That’s what kind of family we belong to!