A place to belong

Everyone has one. Most people love theirs. Sometimes it is broken up or dysfunctional. To some it is greatly missed. Some carry wounds because it was a place of abuse, while others experienced joy and love. They come in all shapes and sizes. Even God has one. We talk about family.

All Christian believers belong to two families. The first we are born into. The second is the family of believers.

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Children of God’s family having fun on the Family Day in Berlin 2016.

In our time, families look different. A few generations ago there were very few alternatives to the traditional family of three generations. Now it is common with various combinations of families from more than one marriage. In Europe we are also getting accustomed to large extended families from other cultures. And there are patchwork or rainbow families of various kinds.

I believe that families can be good and loving even if they look different from the outside. I also believe that God has a purpose for the traditional family as the cornerstone of a well-functioning society. That does not exclude understanding our responsibilities for each other when relationships don’t work well.

But to add something better to what is already good, God has also called us into his family. So let us look at what we can learn from Jesus about the families we belong to.

Jesus showed us what it means to become a teenager. At the age of twelve he stayed behind in the big city of Jerusalem to talk with the professors of that time. Although it meant causing trouble and anxiety for his parents, he followed his God-given curiosity. From that we learn that both parents and leaders in the corps should make use of the time in a person’s life when they look for role-models outside their home and start questioning everything. We should offer adventures in God’s Kingdom.

As Jesus begins his ministry we see that he distances himself from his brothers, sisters and mother. They come looking for him but he seems to ignore them. Instead he says that his family are those who do the will of his Father in heaven. (read here) He uses even more drastic words when saying we need to hate our close family and even ourselves in order to become his disciple. How should we understand that? (read here)

I think it is important to see the big picture. Jesus is about to establish the revolutionary idea that God can rule on earth through love and righteousness. His Kingdom of reconciliation will function in this broken world. In order to catch that vision, to be part of that reality, Jesus is sometimes drastic in order to open our eyes. He wants us to trust in his power, love and plans. That needs to come first. Other earthly things like family are important, but they will only be blessed if they come second to giving ourselves wholeheartedly to Jesus.

His family needed to see the events at Easter and also experience receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in order to become members of the family of believers. (read here) In the same way, it is not enough to grow up in a Christian family to become a child of God. (Or as someone put it – you will not be a car just because you were born in a garage). Even in our time all generations in our corps or church need to have an experience that their sins need to be confessed and forgiven in order to be born into God’s family. And they need to be led to the well of overflowing life and drink of the Holy Spirit in order to experience that they belong to a family that gives them both freedom and fellowship.

My prayer for you is that you may enjoy life to the full (John 10:10) in both of your families.

This was first published in German, in the magazine Das Forum 10/2016

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