Whenever I meet a family whose loved one has died, I ask them to tell me about the person’s finest quality. The response often is heartwarming. Almost without fail, they tell me that “he was a family man” or “she loved her family more than anything else.” Indeed, family forges a sense of identity and belonging for most people. It is the one place where we can consistently experience love, intimacy, acceptance, warmth, and security.
But your spiritual family is an even greater blessing. Earthly families are wonderful gifts, but they are temporary and sadly often strained by divorce, strife, estrangement, and geographical distance. Jesus came, however, to gather a family of faith that would last forever. “Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father,” he once said, “is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:49-50).
God’s second purpose for your life is belonging to his family. Because “God is love,” his nature is relational (1 John 4:8). In his very being—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—God exists in a loving relationship to himself, and therefore has no need of a human family. He has never been lonely. But he desires a family because he loves us and wants us to be part of it. That’s why you were formed for God’s family.
As a result, “you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but . . . members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). Following Christ necessarily involves belonging to a faith community because none of us can fulfill God’s purposes by ourselves.
As Rick Warren points out in his book, The Purpose Driven Life, a church family teaches us how to share and counteracts our tendency to exist in self-centered isolation. A church family helps us to mature as Christian disciples and prevents us from “backsliding” into negative and self-destructive behaviors. In addition, church is the place God designed for you to discover, develop, and use your gifts for his glory (135-37).
Awash in a postmodern sea of “nones,” spiritual but not religious people, and believers who refuse to belong and shun the responsibility of church membership, our contemporary culture faces alarming rates of spiritual disengagement and nearly an entire generation ecclesiastically run adrift.
The Christian life is more than a moral code or some amorphous spiritual longing. It is more than believing in Christ, or even attending church regularly. It includes a real and definite commitment to other Christians in a stable community of faith. To reject such attachments or express disdain for church also rejects Christ himself who formed the Church and took her for his bride (Ephesians 5:27).
Join us this weekend as we learn more about the benefits of membership in God’s family. The touching story of a lost woman restored to belonging because of her newfound faith in Christ may very well lead us deeper into the heart of both believing and belonging.
—Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson