The Church: The Family of God

Every church seems to readily highlight that they are, in fact, a family. Though just saying that doesn’t make it true, employing the connotations of “family” into what happens at a church is a really great and Biblical-based move. However, being a family doesn’t mean you just have “warm and fuzzy” feelings for each other. Family, especially in the context of the first century, comes with several expectations on how we are to behave.

Firstly, the family an inclusive community. Matthew 12:46-50 shares this interesting scene where Jesus turns away his mother and brothers and instead declares: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Jesus reinterprets family in light of obedience to God. The requirements for membership in this new family is not any natural right, but our own willingness to follow Jesus. For this reason, Paul can say: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:28-9). And John can write, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). No matter who you are, if you are committed to Christ, you are a part of the family!

Secondly, the family loves each other. Ideally, our natural families are filled with love and devotion. The same is expect of Christian church families. In the first century, families were fiercely loyal to each other—especially siblings. Paul commands in Romans 12:10 to “Love one another with brotherly affection.” In a family, you don’t just consider your own wants, but the needs of the whole group. In Acts 4:34-37 we find a radical example of what love looks like toward our “siblings”—it involves giving up all your property and sharing with one another! Even if you think you have the love part down, heed Paul’s advice: “do this more and more” (1 Thess. 4:10).

Thirdly, the family corrects each other. Family has a responsibility to help guide other family members on the right path. In the church, we all help each other overcome sin and temptation. We can “stir up one another to love and good works” when we meet together (Heb. 10:24-25). Sometimes we must more intentionally step in than other times.  In Mathew 18:15-17, Jesus frames the process of confronting another’s sin with family language. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” It’s not an easy job, but it is a part of our duty.

Being in a family isn’t easy! But for the above reasons and more, being a part of the Christian family has definite advantages.

Discussion Questions

  • What are the difficulties or challenges in seeing the church as a family?
  • How can a local church intentionally make itself a welcoming and inclusive family?
  • What are ways we can love and support our Christian brothers and sisters?
  • How can we correct other siblings while also treating them with the love they deserve?
  • How do our lives change if we truly embrace being the family of God?

Prayer Prompt

Praise God for the loving community of brothers and sisters gifted to us. Confess the times when you have let your siblings down. Ask that you may be a loving and corrective sibling for others.

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