When I was a kid, I remember a couple of family reunions we attended. These were usually held on a hot summer day in our local city park. It was one of the few times each year we came into the town park, and it was one of the few times in my (as then) short lifetime that I met most of these “relatives”.
I remember being rather astounded to discover we were related to so many people, of such variety. At least they seemed varied to me – not at all like my family of origin that was rather polite and reserved in demeanor. Not these relatives, at least the ones that left a memory mark. They were different. Bear in mind these memories come many years removed from who I was then – a child of 7 or 8 years. Still, the fact I remember suggests an impression was made.
How could you not remember, though, the man (somehow related) who hovered over the food tables insisting that you try the dish that his wife made? In his mind it was not optional. Everyone was required to eat a bit of the Mrs.’ dessert or salad, and then make a complimentary remark about it!
Or what about all those elderly relatives who insisted on pinching my cheeks, or commenting on my growth spurt, or saying how much I looked like my Grandpa. I’m sure they meant well, but what little boy of 7 wants to be told he looks like his Grandpa? What are you supposed to do with that?
Then there were Grandpa’s brothers and nephew who were as loud and brash as he was quiet and reserved. I could never quite work out in my mind just how they were possibly related. In fact, I would have bet on adoption had it not been for the fact that they looked so much alike.
Family. “You don’t get to choose your family.” Or do you?
The Apostle Paul uses several family references and terms when writing to the churches of the first century. He calls his fellow Christ followers “brothers and sisters”, talks about our “adoption” into the life of the Spirit, and says that we are “heirs” with Christ. Why so much family verbiage?
The family or “household” unit in first century Greco-Roman society was the primary unit of the society. A household, however, was not limited to one’s immediate relatives, but likely included several others: slaves, servants, hired laborers, clients, business associates, and extended family. It was a relationship of dependence, not mere kinship, that constituted the household. All of the individuals were in some way dependent upon one another in sustaining a day to day way of life.
Might Paul have had this reality in mind as his prototype when he writes to house churches about their family units? Society already provided something of a diverse model in terms of socio-economic status within a household; but under the grace of Jesus, Paul extends this diversity to include: Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female (see Galatians 3:28). The family of God, or household of faith, was to become a place where divisions were broken down and persons of different backgrounds came together in the common identity and mission of Christ. You choose to become part of this family by virtue of your profession of faith, but you still do not choose who your family members are – you simply grow to understand and celebrate their differences within your common household of faith.
The new tag line we have adopted at First Baptist Columbus, complimenting our new logo is “Come join our family of faith.” During the season of Advent I will be preaching a series under the theme “A First Baptist Family Christmas”. This Sunday’s message is titled: What is (God’s) Family?
I hope you can join us for worship (9:30 a.m.) in person or via live stream.