The Father wants a family! If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a dozen times. Over the years, it’s been a theme that has come up in various talks, retreats and conferences. It refers to the idea, or more pointedly, the truth, that God the Father wants son and daughters.
Romans 8 says it like this:
15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
Hebrews 8 says it like this:
10But this is the covenant I will establish with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts. I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
We are God’s children! We are His people! It is a wonderful truth to be celebrated but it is also a truth that challenges me. Michele and I have seven children. We love them, cherish them, and shower them with slobbery Hallmark greeting card expressions, such as “you are so amazing, the one and only…”, etc. But do I have the same posture towards God’s children? My very brothers and sisters in Christ. Should I have the same posture?
The short answer, I believe, is “Yes!” That presents a formidable task. I know I’m supposed to live out my life in a good and holy way but the reality is sometimes starkly different. OK, I’m part of God’s family, but sometimes I’m mad at members of my family. Sometimes a family member acts like a jerk. More often, I’m mad and they’re mad because I’m the one being a jerk.
Let’s change the scenario: Perhaps, it’s a sunny day and I’m feeling a little chipper. No need to be mad. But since I’m enjoying myself I sure don’t want to be caught up in somebody else’s mess. Can’t I just be indifferent? Better yet, how about if I show some empathy. As long as I’m empathetic, I don’t have to get involved, right? Wow!! This family business is hard!
If we are going to make progress in building the church, in building community, we are going to have to start treating each other as family, in the very best meaning of the word that family can possibly mean. It is not something we can accomplish on our own. We will need supernatural help.
Dysfunctional is a word that has made it into the common lexicon. It is terribly unfortunate that one often hears it as an adjective preceding the word family. This cannot be the case with us. The Father wants a family but he will not have a dysfunctional family! Not ultimately. The family in heaven is triumphant! It’s joy-filled, love-overflowing and generous beyond measure. The family in heaven is whole and full and complete. There is no lack.
Can we be that family now? It is our call and mission. God pours forth His Spirit so we can in some capacity attain to this ideal even today. It is exactly what we were made for and how we are hard-wired. Psychologists and sociologists call it the universal “longing for belonging”. It is a desire to love and be loved.
We’ve all heard Jesus’ commandment from Mark 12:31;
‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
As we endeavor to build community, I propose a slight variation. ‘Love your family as yourself.’ Can we forgive the hurts? Can we put aside the family bickering? Can we stop making comparisons and stop competing? It is an incredibly high standard! It is an impossibly high standard…. without the transformational power of the Holy Spirit. Love your family as yourself! Help us Lord to live out this commandment with a new determination, with a new zeal, with a new initiative. The Father wants a family! Fill us with your Spirit, in a fresh way, so that we can cooperate with the Father here on earth. Knowing that, in all his great mercy and favor towards us, He will carry it forth to a flourishing finish on the day that Jesus Christ returns!
Top photo credit: Family celebrating together, from Bigstock.com, photo copyright: Rawpixel.com, stock photo ID: 154726508
Steve Pepmeyer is a coordinator in the People of God, a Sword of the Spirit community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Steve and his wife, Michele, have been members of the community since 1986. They have six sons and one daughter and many are active in the community and University Christian Outreach.