In Luke 8:20, Jesus was told by some of His disciples,
"Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee."
(This incident is also recorded in Matthew 12 and Mark 3). The Masterís response is indeed enlightening, for it demonstrates very plainly His divine perspective on the subject of "family." He replied, in vs. 21,
"My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it."
In this brief series of articles, we have noted that when one is "in" Christ, he "has" a place in the church as part of the body of Christ; he "has" the best blessings Heaven can offer, including the perfect Savior/Sacrifice for sin; and he "has" an Advocate to "plead his case" in the presence of our Heavenly Father. In this last installment, we note that "in" Christ we have a family.
Interestingly, the word family appears only one time in the new testament (King James Version), in Eph. 3:15. There, it speaks of those both on earth and in heaven who are "descended" from God (the Greek word is patria, from which we derive patriarchy and patriarchal, meaning descended from a father). We use this word chiefly to describe people who dwell together and generally hold their possessions in common (such as a husband and wife with their children). We recognize in it the ideas of kinship, common interest, and common characteristics. In the new testament, the church Jesus promised to build (Mt. 16:18), which is described as belonging to God (Acts 20:28, et al.), is described with characteristics which identify it as Godís family. Romans 8:16 describes Christians as the "children" of God, and in 2 Cor. 6:18, if those who are the "temple of the living God" (vs. 16) will separate themselves from uncleanness of the world, they shall be called "sons and daughters of God."
The consequence of this relationship with the Father is that all who become His children (note Gal. 3:26 and 1 Jn. 3:10) thereby also become brothers and sisters to one another! How then ought "brethren" to behave with and toward each other?
1. Romans 12:10 indicates that members of the family of God should be "tenderly affectioned" toward one another. This word describes care and concern comparable to that of an ordinary, emotionally-healthy physical family; as the parents care for the children and provide for their needs, and as older siblings aid and protect their younger brethren, so also in the Christian family the children of God care for one another according to the pattern our Father set for us!
Note also that in 1 Jn. 5:2, the apostle links love of God with love of His children, as well as with obedience to His commandments. Earlier, in 1 Jn. 4:20 the inspired writer made the point that we cannot truly love our Father without also loving our "siblings," and he summarized this point in vs. 21 by stating -
"...this is the commandment that we have from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also."
We see in Hebrew 13:1 that love among Christian brethren is a "given," something so basic to our identity as Christians that its presence is automatically assumed, and further, we have the command of Jesus in Jn. 13:34-35 (which prescribes brotherly love as a defining characteristic of Christianity) to "cement" our responsibility in this matter.
2. In addition, however, there is the matter of our conduct toward one another, as the "family" of God: Notice that Galatians 6:2 and 10 address both the manner and the motive by which we interact with one another.
In the event of sin, Christians are to "bear one anotherís burdens," that is, help each other so that none is allowed to be lost in sin through neglect!
Likewise, Christian brothers and sisters have a fundamental responsibility toward one another in the realm of benevolence, which supersedes even our general responsibility toward all people.
In 1624 the English poet John Donne summarized very well the fundamental sentiment we have tried to express in this little series of articles. In "Meditation XVII" from "Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions" he wrote,
"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friendís or of thine own were. Any manís death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
It is crucially urgent that we cultivate both basic understanding of and a determined commitment to our "corporate identity" as the body of Christ. A child of God who suffers from "I/They Syndrome," who maintains a "me vs. yaíll" perspective toward Godís family the church cannot enjoy the blessings our Father has provided; it is not possible in such a condition. Christians cannot survive spiritually, apart from the Body; such disconnected "body parts," self-amputated,die! Let us banish forever any idea or feeling that we donít need the encouragement, maturity and strength that associating with our brothers and sisters provides, and let us determine daily to build, buttress, and benefit both ourselves and the brethren of our Lord so that we may be united in eternity without the loss of any!