Though I am blessed—and I don’t use that word lightly—to be in a church that takes meaningful Christian friendship seriously, earlier this week I wrote a blog post to give a voice to those who aren’t as fortunate. I majored on the single-side of things because unmarried people tend to feel the blow of strangled fellowship most intensely, but I also pointed out that married people don’t get by unscathed either. I know families who feel incredibly lonely and isolated in their churches. They long for meaningful, Christ-centered friendship with the believers in their community. But they often don’t find those longings reciprocated. All the church goers around them just want to get in, say their hellos, do their worshipping/Bible study, and get out and on with their lives. They don’t seem interested in . . . you know . . . “doing life” with other believers.
There are a myriad of reasons some believers fail to live in real community with other believers, but I think the foundational issue is they see don’t themselves, and the Church, through the eyes of Scripture. They don’t really see other believers as family. They don’t really see themselves and other Christians as being part of the same body. So today, I want to spend some time soaking in the “familyness” and “one-bodyness” the New Testament ascribes to the people of God . . . in hopes that the Spirit might give a vision adjustment to those of us who need it.
We are the Body of Christ
If the New Testament writers want us to conjure up any image when we hear the word “church,” it is that of a body—namely, Christ’s body. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12, Paul exhorts his Christian readers not to view themselves as so strong that they can function independently of one another, or even so weak that they’re dispensable, but to view themselves as being integral parts of Christ’s Body. Each of us, with the unique giftings and quirks that God has wired into our souls, plays a vital part in keeping the Body—one another—healthy and operating at full capacity. If an eye sees a soccer ball flying toward the head, it is the hands that jump into protective action. If an ear hears a gunshot or an explosion, it is the feet that carry the body away to safety. If the stomach growls in hunger, it is the cooperating work of the hands and the mouth that satisfy the need. In a thousand different ways, the parts of the human body interact with and serve one another to protect, nourish, and sustain the whole. So it is with the Body of Christ.
In Monday’s post I wrote that God comforts and provides for his people (specifically referencing singles), and the local church is the primary means by which God does this. Whether we are single, married, young, old, in need of teaching, in need of counsel, in need of company, or in need of a listening ear, the Body of Christ is the physical vehicle through which the Spirit of God ministers. And in saying the Spirit ministers through the Body of Christ, I do not mean the Spirit ministers through our pastors. I think some of us hold to this fallacious idea that paid pastors and staff are the sole members designated by God to meet the needs of the Body. American church culture may have taught us this, but the Bible sure didn’t. Brothers and sisters, each one of us is a tool in the hands of a gracious God who wants to bless and strengthen our spiritual siblings. He wants to use you and me—good ole’ average Christians—to comfort, equip, and provide for one another. But this can’t and won’t happen if we refuse to wholly give ourselves to the life and ministry of our local church.
Before Christ laid his life down for us, he prayed that his people would be one, just as he and the Father are one (John 17:21). And what Jesus asks for, he gets. Just as a physical body is one, we are one. We are members of one another (Ephesians 4:25) and are to be so united that “if one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” – 1 Corinthians 12:26.
We are the Family of God.
“And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, Jesus said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” – Matthew 12:49.
Though the “Body of Christ” imagery is a wonderful and accurate depiction of the local church, the idea of us being God’s family moves my heart and impacts my thinking like none else. The Father doesn’t view us as subjects or slaves, but as children (1 John 3:2)—beloved children whom he has adopted at great cost to himself (Ephesians 1:5). And Jesus doesn’t view us as foster children in his divine family; he sees us as his own brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:17). This is astounding! You know, the salvation of God didn’t have to include adoption and sonship. If he wanted to, God could have just cleared us of our guilt and made us mere servants like the angels. But he went a step further—no, billions of miles further—and made us children!
If we are the brothers and sisters of Christ, we are most definitely the brothers and sisters of one another. The New Testament writers almost always use sibling terminology when addressing fellow believers. And though we still do this today, I think we mostly do it out of habit and tradition. Do we really see the people sitting around us in the pews on Sunday as our eternal siblings? Do we really see ourselves as having an indestructible bond with other believers—a bond that runs deeper than any other? Not to diminish the importance of blood family, but when the new age arrives and the current family unit is no more (Matthew 22:30), we, the ransomed of God, will still be brothers and sisters. Believers, our familial bond with one another is stronger than any other.
Friends, the Body of Christ is the truest form of family there is. So shouldn’t we act like it? Shouldn’t we joyfully open our homes and lives to the believers around us, especially those in dire need of friendship and company? Shouldn’t we prioritize time with one another over the fleeting things we tend to fill our schedules with? If our schedules are so full of extracurricular activities that fellowship with our faith family is nearly non-existent, it’s probably time for us to reprioritize. If our time with our blood family is so sacred that we rarely or never open our homes to our eternal brothers and sisters, it may be time for us to reprioritize. Ministering to one another and being ministered to by one another should be the highest of our priorities . . . that is, if we want to do this “church thing” how Jesus wants us to do it.