We were supposed to gather as an extended family a couple of weeks ago to celebrate our family members who had birthdays in February. Due to illnesses and schedules, our celebration was postponed the morning of the party. We haven’t gather together since Christmas, and I am very much looking forward to seeing everyone. We are a diverse, loud, busy, funny, and particular bunch. But we are family.
I haven’t always lived close enough to “home” to join my extended family (my family of origin +) in these celebrations. I missed out on many years of birthdays, so it is a joy, now, for me to spend just a few hours every few months with all of them. We don’t always get along swimmingly, but we’ve been able to offer, to one another, the grace and forgiveness that the Lord gives to each of us when the waters get choppy and feelings get hurt.
Families are messy. They are our “growing up safety zones” within which we do our best messing up. We learn to set appropriate boundaries. We learn to love well. We learn what it means to support someone; what it means to do your part and to pull your weight. People change over time, and our families give us a front row seat to watch how God can change peoples’ hearts and lives.
The same thing is true of my spiritual church family. It is an investment of myself and an acceptance of others related only by our spiritual rebirth into God’s family. We are a diverse, loud, busy, funny, and particular bunch. But we are family. This is where God teaches us to love others well. Jesus set the example for us of reaching out to those on the edges. Taking care of the vulnerable, orphans and widows. Meeting people, wherever they are in life, and loving them to make better choices and to seek God’s redemption.
For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. John 13:15
Some folks make the mistake of calling tolerance of sin or enabling of sin love. Jesus didn’t do this. He convicted people’s hearts – he didn’t condemn them to death. He offers salvation – he didn’t come to be served. He placed people’s sins before them in His great light with such love so they could clearly see their need for a savior. Only He could bring eternal life to all of us who are fallen. The salvation He offers us is a gift. We must choose to accept the salvation He has to offer us or to live apart from God for eternity. It is simply our choice.
When my church family gathers each week, we celebrate HIM. We come together to worship our savior. We have accepted His gift and rejoice in our salvation. We support and encourage each other on to love and good deeds. We meet together regularly, sharing our lives; the trials, the illnesses, the victories, the fears, the grief, the joys, the truth. Learning to live authentically before others is risky business. It makes you vulnerable, yes, but it also makes you approachable and trustworthy. Accountability with other brothers and sisters of our faith, helps to ensure that we have some safe boundaries that keep us on the path toward God. Opportunities to serve others like Jesus did, give us a path to increase our faith and let us work out our salvation through His sanctification process.
Being an active member of a family is a joy. Believer, you are called to participate with your spiritual family as a vital part of the body – the bride of Jesus Christ. Doing so, allows God to pour out His blessings on you as you’ve never experienced before. Regardless of whether you’ve never been a regular church member, or you’ve been attending church every Sunday all of your life, GOD HAS MORE FOR YOU! Press in close to Him. Listen for His voice and watch for His guidance. See He is doing a new thing! Come and celebrate!
Be encouraged. Press on.