There is a very real sense in which one becomes a part of a family, when one becomes a Christ-follower.
There is a beautifulness to this truth. There is an imagery difference between being welcomed in to a family and being welcomed to a new job. Or to a new professional organization. Or to a new Bunco group, PTA, sports team, neighborhood, school…..the list of “groups” we can belong to is long.
But nothing quiet invokes the same images, thoughts and feelings that being a part of a “family” does.
I’ve been blogging through John Frame’s Systematic Theology, published by P&R Publishing. I am so grateful for the copy they gifted me with; this has and continues to be an enjoyable, thought-provoking experience. You can find my first post in this series at this location: Theology Is…. I’ll list my other posts below, and I encourage you to check out P&R Publishing, where you can read more about this book and purchase it (currently on sale!). You can find their page here: P&R Publishing
This week, I’ve been reading and thinking my way through Chapter Six: The Family of God
This is an idea that, actually, I think of often. There are many–myself included–who struggle with the concept of family, for whatever reason. Sometimes, the hard things of this world penetrate our idea of what family looks like. I know this struggle quite intimately.
And, for some, that struggle bleeds into a warped view of who God is, and what it means to be His son or daughter. Maybe their earthly image of the person in the role of “father” makes the idea of God as Father something to back away from, instead of running headlong towards. Or, maybe fear of abandonment and rejection that one may have experienced in their early families causes that same person to avoid the risk of being part of this God-ordained family.
But sometimes, precisely because of these same struggles, a person may find the truth that being a Christ-follower also means becoming the son or daughter of God to be settling.
And they may run straight to that analogy and brace this “family” with a white-knuckled grip, because of the grace and mercy they have found therein.
It is the embodiment of Psalm 68:6(I typically reference ESV in my writings, but I find the NIV language here to be significant and, according to Frame, accurate”:
God sets the lonely in families…
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
He sets the lonely in families.
He sets the lonely in families.
He sets the lonely in families.
But, you see, it isn’t just any family. It’s a family where the patriarchal role is filled by one who is sovereign and holy. Whose grace, mercy and compassion reaches down and adopts us to be His own. Who will never abandon or forsake. Who will never leave us. Whose discipline is always, always, always for our good, even when it stings. And, who loves us deeply enough to give His son as a sacrifice for our sins, so that we may become His children, alongside this Son whom He resurrected to life–and through that act, bestows upon us the gift of eternal life, in His presence.
Truly, there is no greater love.
And so sometimes, we run to that because the longing is so deep for that gift of grace and mercy. We run to it, and we fall in it, and we marvel at what God has done.
And we are grateful. I am grateful.
Behind and beyond that, is the gift we are given of actual family here on this earth, in the form of fellow Christ-followers. Brothers and sisters, who come alongside us and share both our deepest griefs and our deepest joys.
However, we are still sinful beings. And, in our human sinfulness, we at times hurt each other. And those moments are so very painful–just ask any church member who has found themselves the object of church gossip. Or any pastor who has been hurt by a loud, boisterous critic. Or any Christ-follower who is broken-hearted over a lost friendship with other Christ-followers, beyond reconciliation. These moments are often intensely painful–maybe more so than when they occur outside the Christ-family–because our sense of family within the church among Christ-followers is so deep.
Worst still are the times when church becomes a not-safe place. When church becomes a store-front proclaiming the gospel, yet a backshop filled with dark things. I have known that situation as well.
But when we are obedient both in worship and action, and when we place our worship on the one true God, then the safest place of refuge we should be able to find, is the church. And when we come together in communion at His table, the unity found there should also be the place to celebrate our deepest joys.
Do you know why? Because church is practice for when we are called home, to our true place of citizenship…among our brothers and sisters, before the throne of our God.
Frame illuminates this relationship a bit when he writes:
“Brother is the most common way of referring to a believer after Jesus’ resurrection. The term distinguishes the believer from the world (1 Corinthians 5:9-11)…The name brother (which, of course, includes sisters) is a precious title, indicating fellowship in the holy family.”
So we must be cognizant of this. We must be aware that the imperfect people who sit beside our imperfect selves in the pews of our churches, who have claimed the role of Christ-follower as we have ourselves, are our brothers and sisters. That is a precious title. And a gift that we give–and receive, both from God and from those alongside us.
I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that Frame also takes a significant look at the “God as a feminine entity” viewpoint in theology, as well as the critique that some have against the normative use of masculine language when referencing God. He argues soundly against both stances, and backs up his argument with logic and research that makes sense to my brain. I’ll not belabor that here, mainly because this is not something that I have ever struggled with. I can’t fathom thinking of God in feminine language usage; that’s not to say I’ve not thought about it, or contemplated the idea. It is just that I have, and I have landed soundly and firmly on the same side of the debate as Frame, after looking at scripture. However, if this is something you would like to do more thinking on, and are curious as to Frame’s thoughts on the subject, then this article by Tony Reinke, which references Frame’s thoughts, may be a good place to start: Desiring God.
Other Posts in This Series: