It is interesting to see a child in his rebellion would burst out to his room and shout, “I wish I was not born in this family.” We shake our heads in disbelief how such a child can utter shut a thing. We may comment that only the child knows and truly understands how fortunate he is. Indeed, it is the case for most of us. Some families have become incomplete as time passes, some have become broken due to various mistakes and unrepented sins, and some may be intact but feel distant from each other. We all long for deep relationships and we don’t seem to feel it in our own families because we may have taken for granted how blessed we are and thus forgotten to treasure each other.
And for us who have now become Christians, another interesting thing has happened. We have become part of a new family, not physical, but a spiritual one. Not naturally but by adoption through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph 1:5). This does not negate our physical families but our adoption in the family of God gives us meaning all the more on how we should treat each other both in our physical families, and more importantly in the household of God – the church. As what pastor Jojo Chua usually say: “What’s true in the physical is even truer in the spiritual [paraphrased].”
This has become more concrete in the past weeks in our church — Living Word IT Park. We have received news of a member that has died, members who are sick, members in need of prayers, comfort, and support. The church as a family can never be more tangible in times like these. It is in these situations where we see people, even those who come to support, empathize/sympathize, and even simply to pray without ceasing. It is encouraging to see that even we do not personally know each other (some even do not know each other’s names), we are committed with one another, and with the common bond in our faith in Christ Jesus. We have seen what the apostle Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 displayed in the life of our church.
But as most of us already know, same with our physical families — life in the church is not a walk in the clouds. Relationships are not always agreeable. There are times when divisions happen (1 Cor 1:11-13), because of immaturity (1 Cor 3:1-2), jealousy (1 Cor 3:3), different preferences (1 Cor 3: 4-7), pride/boasting (1 Cor 4:7), arrogance (1 Cor 4:18), shameful sins (1 Cor 5:1) and even tolerating them (1 Cor 5:2), and disagreements which can become evident even outside the household of God (1 Cor 7:1-8). True in Paul’s time as his letter to Corinthians shows, and still true even in our time, with our technological advances. All of these to our shame(1 Cor 15:34).
Though we are saved and justified by our faith, we are still being saved and sanctified because we still struggle with sin in this life (Romans 1:15-25). This may well be the cause of the tensions in our relationships. But God has not left us orphans for he has given us the Spirit of Christ (John 14: 16-18). The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead and dwells in us (Romans 8:9) is the same Spirit that distributes spiritual gifts as he wills (1 Cor 12:11) for good works, and the same Spirit that gives good fruits to enable us not to walk in the desires of the flesh (Gal 5: 16-26). With this great gift, we may be able to stir one another to love and good works (Heb 10:24) in the family of God.
Relationships are difficult, more so family relationships. This is because of the time and effort we give, and we are afraid that we might get hurt because of who we are and what we might do. It is understandable and we are not to live in naivete. But we must look beyond ourselves and understand that only in the context of a family that we can grow and practice the good works God has planned for us (Eph 2:10). As pastor TJ has said that in this church-family environment that we are able to practice the “one-another” commands in the scripture (to name a few: Rom 12:10, 1Cor 12:25, Gal 5:13, 6:2, Eph 4:32, Col 3:9, 1 Thes 5:11, Heb 3:13, Jam 5:16).
Moreover, the unity as members of the family of God serves as a witness that we are true followers of Christ Jesus (John 13:35). This is what Jesus desires in his High Priestly Prayer in John 17 for his Church, and what Scripture constantly admonishes (Rom 12:10, 1Cor 1:10, Eph 2:14, Col 3:13, Phil 2:1-4, Heb 10:24-25) since we are prone to division and discord. We do really need be constantly reminded that we may be in one accord with one another because we tend to forget and be selfserving (Phil 2:3, Gal 6:2-3). Disagreements will come but it must not lead to sin (1 John 2:1). Mature Christians should be patient with those who are immature (Eph 4:2, Jam 1:19). Likewise, those that are young in the faith must strive to maturity (Eph 4:13-15, Heb 5:12-14, 1Pet 2:2-3). The harmony that we practice will then serve as defense and a proof to the unbelieving world of our faith and that we are truly children of God. It may then, by God’s grace and mercy, encourage others to come to faith as well.
We are born into this world individually and born to each of our own families. Yet, in the same way God has saved us personally, and God has called us to a family, his family. We now, together with one another, have a great privilege that we are able to call him “Father” (Rom 8:15).