Friday, May 27, 2016

Embrace God's Family with Welcome

For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35 ESV)

Enlivened by the Gospel, we will engage God’s world with winsomeness ...

This is where we ended last week, in our articulation of vision, engaging our Father’s world. But what happens when we do? As God, through the Gospel, works in the hearts of people, some (many) are drawn into a relationship with the Lord and drawn away from lives lived solely for themselves. In the words of Colossians they come out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his marvelous light (Col. 1:13,14). Or as Jesus says in the verse above, they become members of his family. Which leads us to the next phrase of vision articulation:

We will embrace God’s family with welcome ...

One of the richest metaphors that we find throughout the Scriptures for God’s people is that of a family. God is our Father and we are his children (Col. 1:12 and countless other places). Jesus is our older brother (Heb. 2:11). Fellow Christians are called sisters and brothers. In other places we are called the bride of Christ (Rev. 19). Family is everywhere. And it is not just a metaphor, it is a way of life for God’s people that is given expression in the local church. To be sure being part of God’s family extends beyond the walls of the local church. I am sure that you, like me, have been amazed when miles from home, you find a camaraderie with the people of God in other locales. But it is in the local church that we are embraced most fully as family. Where, like in a family, we are known and know; and still love.

A couple of thoughts to take this deeper: There is an old saying, “you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.” How true that is in the church. As mentioned above, God is at work through the Gospel to bring people out of darkness into the Kingdom of Light, his family, where we share his inheritance. And the people that he is gathering are from every tribe, tongue, people and nation (Rev. 7). They are short and they are tall. They are rich and they are poor. Extroverts and introverts. Democrats and Republicans. Married, single, old and young. Some get along marvelously with others, while others are more prickly. God takes all these people, throws them together in a local church and says, “Family.” Talking about embracing this family with welcome means gladly receiving this broad diversity because God has done it, and collectively this family gives us the clearest picture of the God we serve.

But loving this kind of diversity is not easy. Therefore, we are encouraged through the Gospel, to embrace the family that God has given us. Embracing is an act wherein we encircle someone with our arms to draw them close and hold them tight. Obviously we cannot physically do this with all in the church. So what does this look like? The answer is surprisingly broad, and surprisingly simple. It looks like showing up: for church, graduations, birthdays, hospital visits, and the like. Our presence is an embrace. It looks like staying steady: rejoicing with those who rejoice, mourning with those who mourn, bearing the burdens of those weighed down, standing in the gap for those whose lives are headed off the rails. It looks like listening... a lot! Sharing what we have. Perhaps most significantly, embracing one another looks like saying sorry and learning to forgive (as God in Christ forgave us - Eph. 4:32). If there is one thing you can count on in the church it is that we will both be offended and offend, be wounded and wound. Embracing our family means leaning into the resources the Gospel affords and learning to live at peace with one another.

How wonderful it is to belong, through no merit of our own, to the family of God. As we do embrace our family with welcome, we give testimony to the world of the reality of the Gospel and more importantly we bring glory to God.

No comments:

Post a Comment