This is what Paul taught the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 2:19-22). As Christians, we are “members of the household of God”. The term “household” means family (cf. 1 Timothy 3:4-5, 15; 5:8). These verses tell us two things: 1) Family matters, and 2) We are a family. Jesus was the first to teach this when He spoke of the greater family of God (Matthew 12:46-50). It is a greater family in at least three ways:
We are a family in the Lord.
It is a spiritual family (Galatians 3:26-29). God is our Father and we are His children. That makes us brothers and sisters in Christ. We are united by the same faith and the same baptism by which we were united to Christ. We have the same Savior and the same Lord, Jesus. We are all one in Christ (cf. Ephesians 4:1-6). What matters is “if you are Christ’s”.
Our family in the Lord is not determined by nationality, social status or gender. You must be born again of water and the Spirit (John 3:1-8). Having become God’s children in our obedience to the gospel of Christ we ought to love one another as family (1 Peter 1:22-25). One of our members expressed this to me recently when she said, “I love this church because it is my family.” Our common faith and common love are what binds us together and makes us a family in the Lord.
We are a family even when we are apart.
Families want and need to be together. When one leaves the family, it breaks our hearts and we want them to come back home. When some often miss family functions and don’t spend a lot of time with the family we miss them so much and long to have them with us more. During this coronavirus pandemic we have not been able to meet together like we normally do. It makes us sad and it reminds us that we are a family together or apart.
Tony and his wife, Elizabeth, were separated for several weeks when he was hospitalized with Covid-19. He was in ICU on a ventilator. His life was in grave jeopardy. Elizabeth was not allowed in the hospital. This was one of the most difficult times in their life. I told her about a mission trip I took to Africa without my wife. I would be gone from her longer than ever before and I would be farther away from her than ever before. Before I left for the trip, she bought us both necklaces to wear. On the pendant hanging from the necklace it read: God be with us together and apart. Now, many years later we still wear these necklaces. Our common love and common faith are greater than whatever time and distance might separate us.
This is what we see in the church of Christ from its beginning. At first, they were constantly together and took care of each other as a family (Acts 2; 4; 6) but then were scattered by persecution (8). There was a famine in Judah, but the church in Antioch came to their relief (11). When Paul was in Ephesus he wrote to the church in Corinth and reminded them of their oneness and the communion they shared in Christ though they were separated by the Aegean Sea (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). You see this family tie expressed over and over again by the writers of the letters to the churches of the New Testament (e.g. Romans 16:1-16; Philippians 1:3-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4; 1 Peter 4:8-11, 1 John 4:7-11).
Our bond of love, common faith, our family in the Lord is greater than persecution, famine, whatever distance separates us, prison doors or walls, and is greater than any pandemic and whatever it might do to us, our country, our world or our churches. You have demonstrated that already in so many ways: 1) In how you are reaching out to encourage one another with your cards and notes, the kids’ drawings and posters, your calls, texts, emails, and watching our livestream videos, getting together on ZOOM, the caravan visitation, and with our drive-in worship. 2) By your prayers for one another. Our elders recently giving us a list of things to pray for each day, our Prayer Warriors ministry receiving prayer requests almost every day, members praying online and on the phone. Someone just told me recently, “I pray for you every night”. Prayer lifts, encourages, changes things and people for good. 3) The way you serve one another. Some are bringing communion kits to those who need them, others are shopping for those who can’t and bringing them food, still others are making masks and providing supplies like sanitizer. All of these things you are doing has resulted in numerous cards and prayers of thanksgiving, tears of love and joy, and many new smiles upon the faces of our family.
It is true, both together and apart, we are never alone in the family of the Lord. Remember, if you are discouraged, hurt, scared, in need that we are a family.
We are a family forever.
Our family is greater than death and time. We are the only forever family and we are all headed for a great family reunion someday (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). We are going to spend eternity loving the heavenly Father and getting better acquainted with one another. We will meet spiritual relatives we never knew we had. It will be a great time when the family meets at the Father’s house for a family reunion that will never end.
We are no ordinary family but a family in the Lord, together or apart, a forever family. What kind of family member are you? Are you a part of God’s family? Have you been born again into the family of God? In the family of God, you will find a sense of belonging, acceptance, a sense of identity and security. You can say, “This is where I belong. This is who I am. This is my family.”
Robert Dodson is the Preaching Minister for the Northwest Church of Christ.
6059 Azle Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76135