We give the idea lip service—the church is the family of God. When we gather and sing songs and pray, we gather with our brothers and sisters. Yet, can you claim you know the people worshiping next to you as well as you know your brother? Is your house open to share your life with them and theirs to share their life with you?
One of the riches we find over and over in the Bible is that by coming to Jesus and his church we come to a new family. Hopefully our physical family can come with us as believers as well, but even if they don’t—even if they reject us for our faith—we have a new family and a new home. We share one Father who has called us his own and truly we are. We share one Brother who has received the world from “father Abraham” and he shares it with us. Older men are to be treated like fathers, older women like mothers, younger men like brothers, and younger women like sisters. We belong, and it’s something new, something wonderful, and something eternal.
Yet…does it feel like family???
How many families start their day going around, shaking hands, maybe reading name tags, and saying “nice to see you” to a face they haven’t seen in a week or two? How many families open their doors to visitors and leave them sitting awkwardly in a chair while life just buzzes on around them? How many families gather on a Sunday or a Wednesday night once a month to conduct business according to Robert’s Rules of Order?
Granted I will give you that in a family the older men and younger men still argue with and frustrate each other over the various styles of racket/noise/music/whatever! Families do fight…but healthy families fight well and their fights don’t lead to splits, but rather in some weird way to growth of character and the strengthening of family bonds.
Most churches don’t feel like family, when they should. And if we’re going to recapture the force of family, we have to start first with our relationship to our Brother and our Father.
For that let’s ponder Hebrews 2:10-3:14…
If God is our Father and Jesus is our Brother, then we are sanctified sons of glory (2:10-13). When God makes us a part of his family, it is receiving a new identity. He pulls us from the mire and stench of the run down orphanage we thought was “home.” He cleans us up, combs our hair, and gives us new clothes (Colossians 3:12-17). He places us in a new home—his home—and gives us a new purpose in life, a purpose to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). We have an older brother who has been there for an eternity longer than us, yet he happily calls us his brothers, indeed he suffered and died to make us his brothers, and he shares with us his inheritance.
Maybe there is some echo of the mire and loneliness from which we came, but now we belong to the Father, to Jesus, and to each other.
If God is our Father and Jesus is our Brother, then we have no more fear of death (2:14-15). Let’s admit it—yes we all die, but if we’re “normal” we don’t like to think about it and it scares us a little (or a lot). From the sense of eternity God has placed in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) we know it was not meant to be that way, but as part of the curse we still face it. Death. In our state of sin it should scare us with the finality of judgment and the lack of hope. But Jesus has destroyed the one having the power of death, and if we belong to Jesus then he has delivered us from the slavery called fear of death. After all—the best and most beautiful this life has to offer is just a taste of what will come, just a glimpse of a country we only now see at a distance (11:11-16). Death may mean a temporary separation from our still-living true brothers and sisters, but it is also that doorway through which we meet Jesus face-to-face and fully become glorious sons. After all, “You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies” (1 Corinthians 15:36).
If God is our Father and Jesus is our Brother, then we have Jesus’ help in times of temptation (2:16-18, 3:7-14). Temptations are powerful, and sometimes painful—especially so when we fail and our sin grieves us. But Jesus—our big Brother—has faced every type of temptation we face, though without sin. Still it is enough that he knows our struggle and he knows our weakness and he is able to identify with temptation’s strong pull. So we can draw near the throne of grace with confidence and find mercy (4:14-16). Our Brother intercedes for us and our Father has provided a way out so no temptation must overtake us and we can rise up under it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
And part of how our Brother and Father help is through giving us the gift of church—our own home filled with part of our eternal family here in our experience of history. As the family called church we take care of each other and watch each other’s backs by exhorting “one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Proactive accountability—we don’t simply confront each other after we have sinned, but we lift each other up, bear each other’s burdens, and strengthen each other to steer each other away from sin as the bombardment of temptations come.
If God is our Father and Jesus is our Brother, then we have a new home (3:1-6). God created us to need companionship, for “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). We all have this innate and embedded need to belong, and it is good. But in a sinful world what will we belong to? What will we identify most with? A broken home? A social club? A university? A place of business? A Facebook? Or will it be God’s house, not only to which we belong but also which we are? When a Christian meets with others as church it should be an experience in which they feel most at home, most accepted, and most loved. No Christ-follower should ever have to wonder, “Do I belong?” The answer should be: “Yes, absolutely, yes you do!”—even if we look different, talk different, smell different… “Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”