the weblog of Alan Knox

The church living as family together

Posted by on Apr 29, 2011 in blog links, community, fellowship | 16 comments

The church living as family together

There are many different kinds of families, and none of them are perfect. But, it seems that almost everyone knows how families should treat one another.

When we read Scripture about the church, we find that we should also live as family with one another – not that dysfunctional kind of family, but a loving, caring, serving kind of family.

Eric at “A Pilgrim’s Progress” recently talked about this in his post “What Do Families Do?

Here is the kind of family (church) that Eric finds in Scripture:

Families share their lives with each other.

Families spend a lot of time together.

Families talk, and talk, and talk.

Families support one another.

Families encourage one another.

Families care for each others’ needs.

Families challenge one another.

Families practice discipline for the good of the individual and family as a whole.

Families teach one another.

Families exhort one another.

Families share their struggles with one another.

Families relax together.

Families eat together (a lot).

Families give to one another.

Families sacrifice for one another.

Families stick together during the hard times.

Families serve each other.

Families work together to help other people not in the family.

What do you think?


16 Comments

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  1. 4-29-2011

    I think that the list would hold together better if you substitute ‘friends’ for ‘family’.

    The sad fact is that more and more families (both blood and church) are dysfunctional. The definition of family must encompass both the functional and the dysfunctional.

    But, in my thinking anyway, friends are defined differently and the list would always apply to friends because friends are who you lay your life down for (John 15:13).

    It may be just semantics though? Hopefully family members will always friends.. it is the way it should be anyway.

  2. 4-29-2011

    Bob,

    I know that you’re concerned about the family language. I use it because it is so prevalent in the NT. Of course, friendship language is used also, so I’m not opposed to that at all.

    -Alan

  3. 4-29-2011

    The prevalent use in the NT is brothers (sisters) not family – at least in the ESV translation. I think that the idea of family conveys more of a nuclear family (i.e. mom, dad & kids) scenario rather than a brother/sister one. So my thinking is that friends and friendship is a more accurate description of the relational aspects of NT living. Just a thought.

  4. 4-29-2011

    Bob,

    There is other family terminology besides “brothers and sisters,” although that is very widely used.

    -Alan

  5. 4-29-2011

    I think one of the problems we have in the church is that we have seen or experienced so many disfunctional families that we carry that over into our relationships within the church. My big emphasis within our community right now is for us to see each other as family, that we belong to each other even with all of our brokenness, and that we are called to love and be devoted to each other regardless.

    Maybe it would help if we thought of what we want family to be and work to make that a reality in the church.

  6. 4-30-2011

    @Alan – I’d be interested in reading the “other family terminology”. I have heard the ‘spiritual mom or dad’ language and I think that it falls short biblically. Paul had a dad/son relationship with Timothy that seemed to have a basis in a very deep friendship. Paul also saw those who responded to his message as his spiritual children but I doubt seriously that he had an intimate relationship with many of them.

    The problem with many metaphors, like family, is that they break down when taken to a literal extreme. It also creates an unhelpful bounded set paradigm where some are seen inside the family and other outside.

    On the flip-side, if the word family works for you and causes you to love people better then by all means embrace the metaphor. The metaphor may not work for me but that does not mean it is not helpful for some.

  7. 4-30-2011

    @Fred – I love the idea that “we belong to each other even with all of our brokenness”. Unfortunately that has not been my experience in church settings. Just consider how many different kinds of folks that most people have in their small groups. Generally small groups are filled with people who come from similar economic, ethnic and theological backgrounds. Family to these people means being in relationship with “people like us”.

  8. 4-30-2011

    Just read this on FB and had to share it:

    “Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what.”

    Now that kind of family attracts and inspires me!

  9. 4-30-2011

    Fred,

    Yes, we often have to help people understand what it means to be family (with God as our Father), just as we have to help one another what it means to live as a community together.

    Bob,

    I agree! That is a great quote from FB and that’s the kind of family that we should all aspire to be.

    Some of the other family terminology in the NT (besides “brothers/sisters”) includes calling God Father, “oikos/oikon” for “house/household” (which had a family orientation in the 1st century), and the word “family” (as seen in Ephesians 3:14 for example).

    -Alan

  10. 4-30-2011

    @Alan – I think that we are pretty much saying the same thing because we each embrace the idea of spiritual family meaning spiritual brothers and sisters who are all children of God.

    Where I think we differ is that I think that friendship, practically speaking, is a stronger bond than that kind of family. Friendships are more organic, natural and unforced. The term friend is something everyone can relate to and does not require theological gymnastics to understand. A friend does not need theological reasons to love a friend. Friendships are based on genuine attraction and common interests.

    Marriage is an excellent metaphor for these types of friendships. We choose our mates (with God’s help of course) because of a deep seated loving friendship (that will last all of our lives). So friendship (in this case anyway) is greater because from friendship family is created. Of course in some Mideast cultures marriages are prearranged by parents and friendships may grow if the spouses are compatible and willing to be friends – this is not always the case though.

    Wrapping it up – I think that friendship always indicate a relational connection where the idea of brothers/sisters simply indicate a legal relationship. Hence friendship is a deeper principle than family.

    I am now rambling. Hope this explains my thinking a bit.

  11. 4-30-2011

    Bob,

    I think we’re saying the same thing also. I agree that “family” can be misunderstood. In the same way, with the increasing use of Facebook and Twitter, “friend” can be misunderstood as well. Whether we use “family” or “friend”, we will have to explain to people what that means.

    -Alan

  12. 5-1-2011

    Saying the same thing about what a NT family is – yes. But we are not saying the same thing about the preeminence of friendship over family. And I am ok to agree to disagree on that. :)

    Have a great week Alan!

    Blessings, Bob

  13. 5-1-2011

    Bob,

    Last week was filled with pain for alot of our friends. I’m praying that this week will be filled with comfort for them.

    We can always agree in Christ!

    -Alan

  14. 5-1-2011

    This discussion is a great example of how we can disagree and still be unified because of Christ.

  15. 12-10-2012

    This is also a great discussion about how to relate the gospel to different people. For example, how do you explain that God is our Father to someone who has no idea what a father is or that a father could be anyone but a source of violence? Or that Jesus called us His friends to someone who has no friends? To reach someone like that I think you would have to get to know them well and then model friendship and family.

  16. 12-11-2012

    Tim,

    You’re right. We must always be willing to modify our descriptions based on people’s past experiences. And, we must have alot of patience…

    -Alan