Part 2 of
4: "We Are Family"
you'll remember we began this 4 -week series by discussing our
first purpose in life is to bring pleasure to God. And the
chief means in which we do this is through worship. Not just
worship here on Sunday mornings, but worshiping God in all
aspects of our lives by doing everything as if we are doing it
Well today we'll talk about our second
purpose of life, which is we were created to be God's family.
God wants a family, and he created you
and me to be a part of it. Our reading from First John tells
us this in the very first verse, "How great is the love of the
father that he has lavished on us, that we should be called
children of God."
Don't we all feel this sense of
wanting to be part of a family, regardless of its make-up? We
want to be part of a group who cares for one another and looks
out for one another. We want to know that there are people we
can confide in, get support from, and in turn help when they
Unfortunately, some turn to gangs,
cults and other such organizations because they are the only
welcoming people they can find. But this is not God's intent
of what family is.
If we feel this need for family if
must come from God, since we were created from God's, and
since God is a God of love and treasures relationships. So it
stands to reason God wants a family also, and we, as followers
of Christ, have the privilege to be part of God's family.
If you think about it the entire Bible
is a story of God building a family, a family who will love
him, honor him and cherish him forever. The Bible is one big
family album or family history.
Do the words love, honor, cherish that
I just mentioned sound familiar?
I just shared them yesterday in a
wedding as part of the couples wedding vows. Perhaps those of
you who are married remember using similar words as you made
your vows one to the other, in the presence of God. When we
marry we agree to love, honor, and cherish one another in
sickness and in heath, in times of plenty and in times of
need, until death we do part. Know that God has taken these
vows also, with regards to his family, and holds up his end of
the covenant with us, God as parent and we as God's children.
Because God is who God is, he didn't
need a family. But God desired a family, so he created us,
made us part of his family so he could share all he has with
us. When we place our faith in Christ, God becomes our father,
we become his children, other believers become our brothers
and sisters, and the church becomes our spiritual family. And
the family of God includes all believers past, present, and
future. This is why All Saints Day is such a meaningful event.
It's like a big family reunion as we remember those that have
gone on to be with the Lord.
And in many ways our spiritual family
is even more important than our physical family because it
will last forever.
Now as we all know "family life" can
have its ups and downs, can't it? We see this played out in
the Bible as well. If the Bible is a story of God building a
family, then there is certain to be some stories of disharmony
within the family. And as we know the Bible is full of stories
of less than ideal family conditions.
We certainly see disharmony played out
in our physical families also, don't we? We are all created
differently, and when you put a bunch of free thinking,
different people together, things can get real interesting,
Now often times these experiences can
be good, fulfilling, and growing times. But at other times
family life can be lonely, abusive, destructive, nasty,
unproductive, and down right no fun at all. And lets be quit
honest this dynamic is true of our spiritual families, our
church families, as well.
All our family lives are different,
the dynamics, the make-up, our traditions, our beliefs, our
relationships, and so on. So it's difficult to address all
that in just a few minutes, so what I want to focus on is,
what is God's idea of family. If we understand what God's
desire is, then we can each go back to our own families and
begin dealing with the issues we face.
Healthy families have a sense of pride
about who they are. Members of a family aren't ashamed to be
recognized as a part of the family. The way we're typically
recognized as members of a family today is through our birth,
we may look similar to our parents or siblings, we have
similar characteristics, and we take the last name of the
family to which we belong. All of these are ways we are
identified as being part of a family. You've heard the saying,
"the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree." In many respects
this is true because over time we develop the characteristics
of the family we belong to whether we are born in the family,
adopted, or have become part of one, one way or another.
The way we're recognized and
incorporated into God's family is through baptism. Through
baptism we are saying publicly, " I'm not ashamed to be part
of God's family." This is one reason baptism and confirmation
are not be private affairs, but rather are events to take
place in a public setting. Unless it's an emergency, I
personally will not do a private baptism. The sacrament of
baptism is meant to be a very public event, signifying our
participation in the fellowship of God's eternal family.
Both baptism and confirmation declares
your faith, shares Christ's burial and resurrection,
symbolizes your death to an old life, and announces your new
life in Christ. In a very real way baptism and confirmation
are a celebration of our inclusion in God's family. You may
have noticed that when I baptize an infant, or anybody for
that matter, I anoint their forehead with oil by making the
sign of the cross, using these words: I say the persons name
then, "child of God you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit
and marked with the cross of Christ forever," symbolizing in a
very real way that the person has been marked for God's
family, much like the Jews circumcise their young boys.
Circumcision is a mark of their faith, which can never be
Same is true of baptism. If you are
baptized you are marked as a child of God whether you become
faithful or not. The mark can never be removed.
But lets also be clear that the act of
baptism itself unless followed by a profession of faith does
not make you a member of God's eternal family; only faith in
Christ does that. But baptism and confirmation does show
others in a visible way that you are a part of God's family.
Like a wedding ring, baptism and
confirmation are an outward sign of an inward and spiritual
grace, meaning the act of baptism and confirmation are outward
expressions of a commitment being made in our hearts, a
commitment to God through Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, as he was pointing to his
disciples, "these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does
the will of my father in heaven is my brother and sister..."
(Matt 12: 49-50) Being included in God's family is the highest
honor and the greatest privilege we will ever receive.
In a family what matters most? Where
we live, how we live, what schools are kids go to, whether we
eat all our meals together? Certainly these are all important
considerations, but what matters most in any family, physical
or spiritual, is love. Because God is love, the most important
lesson God wants us to learn is how to love. This is because
in loving we become more like God, and this is summed up very
well Galatians 5: 14, which says, "Love others as you love
yourself." Not always an easy task is it? It's hard to love
someone sometimes when they have upset you, made you mad, or
annoyed you to no end. This is why we are given a life-time to
learn just how to love.
If love is not the top priority of our
life what's the point. Love is not simply the good part of our
life; it's the most important part. The Bible says, "let love
be your greatest aim," (John 13:35) not fame or fortune. To be
quit blunt, life without love is worthless.
Often times we act as if relationships
are something to be squeezed into our schedules. We talk about
finding time to be with our children or grandchildren, or we
talk about making time to be with our spouse or other people
in our lives. And I confess I fall into this trap myself. The
last two weeks I have been so busy, clearly family
relationships have taken a backseat to everything else.
And yes this will happen, and perhaps
needs to happen from time to time, but it should not be the
norm. We need to be careful not to fall into the trap of
believing relationships are just a part of our lives, along
with everything else we want to do. God says relationships are
what life is all about. And if we don't take this seriously
our children and grandchildren will seek family elsewhere in
gangs and cults to name two.
At every wedding I officiate I remind
the couple standing before me, as well as all those in the
congregation, that when we get married our priorities are God
first, spouse and family second. Everything else falls behind
these first two priorities. The first 4 Ten Commandments speak
to our relationship with God, while the other 6 speak to our
relationship with other people. To me this sends a clear
message that God feels relationships, and more specifically,
loving relationships are absolutely important. Relationships,
not fame or fortune, is what matters in life, period.
Well if relationships are so important
why do so many seem to get little attention and unfortunately
many fail? And I'm speaking about all types of relationships,
marriages, parent-child, friends, co-workers, and so on, all
the many different relationships humans develop.
Today, the number one reason
relationships stray or fall apart, I believe, is the busyness
of the schedules we try to keep. When we get so busy we start
taking away from the one thing God says we need to attend to,
our relationships, and we apply more energy and time to other
Rick Warren says, "Busyness is a great
enemy of relationships. We become preoccupied with making a
living, doing our work, paying bills, and accomplishing goals
as if these tasks are the point of life. They're not. The
point of life is learning to love, God and people. Life minus
love equals zero."
Interesting last statement. And when
you think about it, it's true. Life minus love does equal
The one thing love has over everything
else, is that love is eternal, nothing else is. Money,
success, fame, all have finite lives, but love lives on
One great thing about love is that it
leaves a legacy. Think about a funeral you've attended
recently. Often times what's spoken of in the eulogy is the
love the person had, not the car, or the house. The impact
that person had on others is usually the main topic of
discussion, not only at the funeral, but at the fellowship
time following the funeral, and during discussions among
family and friends as they share memories of the deceased
That's not to say that the family
never had problems or that some awlful things didn't happen,
but in the end God leaves with us the memories of love, the
many good things about the person we knew.
And I think this is true in all areas
of life. I remember many years ago right before I got out of
the Navy, someone telling me that over time all the bad things
you experienced or the things that you didn't like about the
Navy will disappear, and you'll remember all the good things.
As I look back on it now that person
was right. When I think about my time in the Navy the memories
that surface first are the good times and the relationships.
Now if I think hard enough I can certainly remember the bad
stuff as well, but that's not what God brings to mind first.
Love is the secret of a lasting legacy.
Mother Teresa said, "It's not what you
do, but how much love you put into it that matters." How much
love do we put into our relationships, into our families?
Because family is such an important
part of our lives I want to now spend a few minutes addressing
the issue of restoring our broken relationships. And I will
just briefly touch on this today with the hope it will spur us
all to further reflect on this issue. Because life is all
about learning how to love, God wants us to value
relationships and make the effort to maintain them instead of
simply discarding them when things go wrong.
As a matter of fact as you read the
New Testament, a significant portion of it teaches us how to
get along. The Apostle Paul taught that our ability to relate
to one another and to get along with others is a mark of our
spiritual maturity. (Romans 15:5) The main reason Paul wrote
his letters to the Corinthians was because people weren't
getting along, particularly within the church.
If we want God's blessing on our lives
and we want to be known as children of God, we must learn to
be peacemakers. Jesus said, "God blesses those who work for
peace, for they will be called children of God." (Matthew 5:9)
Notice Jesus didn't say blessed are
the peace lovers, lets face it just about every one loves
peace. Jesus also didn't say blessed are those who live in
peace. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who work for peace, "
those who actively seek to resolve conflict, those who are
willing to take responsibility for creating conflict, and
those who are willing to say I was wrong and now I want to
make peace with those I have hurt.
Make no mistake about it peacemaking
is hard work, this is why people just prefer to ignore others
or give the silent treatment when something has hurt them.
Peacemaking is hard work! But because we are created to be
part of God's family and the second purpose of our life is to
learn how to love and relate to others, peacemaking is one of
the most important skills we ought to develop.
Let's also be clear that peacemaking
is not avoiding conflict. Simply running from a problem,
pretending it doesn't exist, or being afraid to talk about it
is cowardice, it's not peacemaking. Jesus, the Prince of
peace, was never afraid of conflict. He was all the time
confronting others. This does not mean we don't need some time
to cool off or to just get our thoughts together, because
often times we do. I know I do when I get upset or frustrated
with something or someone. But we shouldn't avoid making
Now having said this there are times
we need to avoid conflict, there are also times when we need
to create conflict, and there are other times when we need to
resolve it. This is why prayer is so important and seeking the
guidance of the Holy Spirit is so necessary. God will tell us
what action we ought to take. But I caution you, don't simply
seek God wanting him to confirm what action you want to take.
Be open to the action God wants you to take.
Peacemaking is also not always giving
in, being a doormat for someone to walk all over. Jesus stood
his ground on many issues even in the face of much opposition.
We too need to stand our ground when we have been the receiver
of poor treatment. As believers, God has "called us to settle
our relationships with each other." (2 Corinthians 5:18)
To help us settle our relationship
issues there are seven biblical steps you can use.
- Talk to God before talking to the
person. Discuss the problem with God before speaking to a
friend or anyone else. Often times God will change the heart
of you or the other person before a word is spoken. As King
David did use prayer as a means to vent to God. Get it all
off your chest, allow God to be the one who hears your
frustrations and feel your emotions.
- Take the initiative. It doesn't
matter who the offender is or who the offended person is,
God expects his family members to take the first step, to
take the initiative to restore a relationship. Jesus felt
this was such a priority he commanded that we work to
restore broken relationships above even worship. Jesus said,
"If you enter your place of worship and, your about to make
an offering, but you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has
against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to
this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come
back and work things out with God." (Matthew 5: 23-24) God
wants us to worship with a clean heart and clean mind, not
with one preoccupied with grudges.
- Sympathize with the other person
feelings. Use your ears more than your mouth. Before a
solution can be discussed the issue must be out on the table
completely so that there is understanding of the issue. Look
for feelings instead of facts when listening. Begin with
sympathy not solutions. How many times have we spoken first,
only to make matters worse.
- Confess your part of the conflict.
If we truly want to restore a relationship we must be
willing to admit our own mistakes and sin. None of us are
perfect. Even thinking nasty thoughts about a person who has
wronged us is a sin, and we need to acknowledge this.
- Attack the problem not the person.
We can't fix a problem if we're consumed with pointing
fingers. The Bible says, "A gentle response defuses anger;
but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire." (Proverbs 15:1)
Attacking the person rather than the problem tends to make
matters worse and heightens conflict rather than lessening
- Cooperate as much as possible. Paul
said, "Do everything possible on your part to live in peace
with everybody." (Romans 12:18) Peace comes at a cost.
Sometimes it costs us our pride, our self-centeredness, and
in extreme cases maybe our lives. Christ gave his life for
- Emphasize reconciliation, not
resolution. And there is an import distinction here. It's
unrealistic to expect everyone to agree about everything.
Sometimes reconciliation means agreeing to disagree.
Reconciliation focuses on relationship, while resolution
focuses on the problem. Often times when we focus on
reconciliation, the problem loses significance and often
becomes irrelevant. We can re-establish a relationship even
if we are unable to resolve our differences. We all have
legitimate, honest disagreements and differing opinions, but
members of God's family are able to disagree without being
disagreeable. This doesn't mean we give up on finding a
solution to our differences, it means we do it in the spirit
of harmony, in the spirit of family.
I call upon you take your
responsibility as a member of God's family seriously, and to
give thanks to God for the opportunity to be members of his
eternal family, as well as all the other families we each are
part of. I thank God that I am part of this family, here
today, and pray that we as a family will serve as shining
example of how God's family is suppose to live in love.
Read Part 3 of
Discovering Life's Purpose: "We