May 9, 2021The Church Needs to become a Supportive Family

We have been looking at relationships in the church.

1 Tim 3:15 I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God

The church, in the New Testament, is often referred to as a family.

For them, a household was not just mom, dad, and children, but the extended family – kind of living in a compound. We know that the New Testament uses familial language – brothers and sisters in Christ – we get that theologically – and it is clear that the church is a family – but it is hard for us, in our context, to truly grasp that the church is a family.

For them, it was easy for them to get this. We tend to use the language of organization for church – and that is not wrong – but it is not sufficient – it is not enough to think of the church as an organization.

It is critical to see the relationships in the church as family if the church is going to carry out its mission.

What I’d like to do – tell a story of Jesus – and He was in His ministry – and his family came – and He was in a house, and He was talking to His disciples. And someone came in and said – Your mother and brothers are waiting for you.

Some would say he was neglecting his responsibilities and had gone off the deep end! Like, did you forget about your mother and brothers?

Matthew 12:47 "Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

There are two things in this context – First, Jesus is not being insensitive or irresponsible, but He understands that what they are asking of Him will hinder His mission.

Similar to when Jesus was 12 – Jesus stuck around at the temple – What are you doing?! We were worried sick about you! And Jesus responds – did you not know that I had to be about my father’s business?

Jesus also knew that after His death and resurrection, the disciples would be disowned by their families for following Him. And He knew that these people would need a new family – and it would have significant social and economic impact if they were disowned.

For most of us, that is not the case – many of us have Christian families – we are not disowned.

In campus ministry, the church had a large international student ministry. For many of these internationals, in coming to Christ, they could not go back to their family.

Marianne said – sometimes we don’t feel the need to be connected.

Often, we don’t NEED the church to be family for us.

Let me give some examples of those who need the church to be family:

Single people. Not all of them, but in the Christian culture, there is such an emphasis placed on marriage and the family – and for many churches, that is their primary focus – the family – and it is great to put our attention on the family – but that can make those who are not married or don’t have family in the church to feel like they don’t belong.

We live in a time where 50% of adults are single – and there are a lot of people who never get married. There are many divorced or widowed people who are single. Some have plenty of family – others do not – and for those, the church can become a replacement family.

I will give some scriptural precedent for this: Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;

What does that mean? How do we do that? Like last week when we looked at Philippians 2 – considering others to be more important.

All of us do this, apart from church and Christianity! Your boss! It has nothing to do with the church, but you give preference to your boss. For a student, you give preference to your teacher. For elected officials, we do that for those in our party (we should do it for all, but that’s another story!).

Or we give preference to radio teachers.

We give preference to famous people and celebrities. Say you were at a golf outing and you got paired with Baker Mayfield – you would give preference to him.

But this is called favoritism.

The Bible says to associate with the lowly.

So as Christians, we are to give preference to everyone – even the lowest person in your mind – consider the least as the most important. Give preference and honor to that person you consider least.

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.

Sympathy – learn to be a sympathetic person. This does not come from any strength of mind – I need work here, and I rely on Cindy – she really helped me with this part – I have a lot to learn.

In sympathy, we have messed the word up – like, feeling bad or sorry for someone. But Biblical sympathy is different from that – it is connected with compassion. It means to enter into another’s experience – their pain and suffering. We find the example of this in Hebrews – found in Jesus – a High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses, struggles, and sin.

He entered into our experience fully. He was God and became Human. He was tempted in every way we have been tempted – so He knows exactly what it is to be human.

A person who is sympathetic from a Biblical perspective is understanding what another is experiencing FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE. We need to understand others’ struggles through THEIR perspective.

If your first response to someone who is down is to try to solve their problem, you are not a sympathetic person and don’t understand Biblical sympathy.

Their perspective is their true experience. Say it again. That person’s perspective – even if you think it is weird or irrational – that is their true experience -what they are going through – so how do we truly sympathize with others? How do we enter into their difficulty?

Jesus did not regard equality with God as something to hold onto – but emptied Himself.

To be sympathetic – we need the gospel – to enter into their experience – and it takes a tremendous amount of humility – and to understand that our perspective is not necessarily the perfect one.

We might see someone struggling and say – Come on! Why are you struggling with THAT?!

Maybe you have seen this – there was a study came out called re-entry anxiety. A large percentage of people are having a difficult time reentering social settings – tremendous anxiety. It is even harder for those who have higher levels of social anxiety.

WebMD has seen a 251% increase in searches for anti-anxiety medications.

For someone who continued on and does not have this – this is the perfect situation to have Biblical sympathy – to enter into that person’s felt experience – and that takes humility – understanding that they have this anxiety – and you have anxieties too! And you think yours are REAL! And that theirs are NOT! And the other person might look at your REAL anxiety and think that it is totally irrational!

I don’t have social anxiety – which is good – considering my job – it would be really hard! I went to Menards – I am building a raised bed and bought some 4x4 treated lumber – and it was like 5x higher than a few years ago. And then I went back 10 days later, and it was $2 even more expensive! And I think inflation may be something to worry about!
But for others – recognize that their anxiety is legitimate and enter in and be with them in it.

For some it is hard to do. Others do much better.

One more – 1 Cor. 13: 4

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, or rude

You could read all of 1 Cor. 13 – and you would learn what it means to be a family.

We have become a rude nation – a rude people. Love is not rude.

Social media and YouTube are perfectly designed for rude people. We have elevated rudeness to be a positive trait as long as it is rude against those who are perpetrating evil.

Jesus has a solution for this – and I have talked about it a lot – but I really believe it and for churches in this country – and all the more now! Jesus said – when someone curses you – what do you do? You bless them! There is a simple response! You bless! Oh, if Twitter did that!

If someone treats you wrong, you do good to them – you pray for them – you love your enemy.

For our witness today, as a church, as the Church in this country – the most important thing, in this moment, for our witness – doing what Jesus said to do for our enemies – love them – pray for them – bless them – and it would turn people on their heads – let’s go and start that revolution!

Lord, thank You. Lord, You brought a revolution of love to this world, a love seen at the cross. We understand the cross theologically, but we don’t understand it practically – we get that you died for our sins and we are forgiven, but we don’t understand that we are called to do the same in our relationships with others. We may set aside some stuff – to take up our cross – and we may think, I’ll do it for Jesus, but I won’t do it for that person. If we don’t do it for that person, we are not doing it for Jesus. In Your name we pray. Amen.

Philemon 1:12 12 I am sending him--who is my very heart--back to you… 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.

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