What does it mean to be a family church?
It means that we are a church that welcomes families (come please, especially if there are a lot of you…) No, wait I’m pretty sure that’s not it…
What it means is that we are a family that happens to be a church. Sure we have our wacky cousins, and the siblings squabble a lot, but we are committed to meeting and talking on a regular basis, because we consider one another family..
That is what we are called to do!
Christ keeps urging us to love one another–in fact he argues that his joy is based on us loving each other (really? God didn’t create us to bicker?)…
9 “As the Father has loved me,(A) so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands,(B) you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.(C) 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you
…so if this is our command, than to be a “Christian Family” is to love one another as Christ loved us…in fact, in verse 15 Jesus calls us Philo–friends, or if you like brothers and sisters. We have become family with God and we all know its not nice to hit your siblings….
In an age where we talk so much about valuing “Christian Families” we seem to be much more focused on the DO NOTS than the DOs. And it strikes me as being nit-picky, it is easy for us to tear each other down, but a true friend knows how to build one another up…
And as a mother of 3 children, I tend to read the Parenting magazines, blogs and articles, but sometimes all the negatively leaves a sad taste in my mouth. Let’s stop harping on what I should worry about (I feel like I can worry just fine all by myself thank you) and think, plan and move towards what we SHOULD be doing instead.
So Christian Families, what should they do together?
Rule no. 1 Eat together, as often as possible. Science shows it helps with discipline, squabbling, eating disorder, and Eating is FUN. Its a great way to build relationships, (all you visitors who sneak out during coffee hour don’t think I don’t know what your afraid of, its that eating together means your accepting our hospitality, it means that we’ve reached you, and you don’t want to commit yet).
Rule no.2 When there is a fight going on, make a covenant to stop and pray whenever ANYONE requests it (and I mean immediately, so far every time I’ve requested prayer, people have wanted to argue more and then pray….see anything wrong with this?)…Pray together, because prayer refocuses us on love and God instead of letting the argument devolve into personal vendettas
Rule no. 3 Be gracious with time, whenever possible give families and congregations time to just be together–and don’t forget to get your party on. My professor Kenda Dean at Princeton Seminary said that we should “Party People into the Kingdom” and I wholeheartedly agree. We should give people time to celebrate and celebrate with them. This means that if we are part of corporations, churches and companies we should enjoy those commitments made to each other and God in spectacular ways (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/melanie-coffee/maternity-leave_b_1518412.html?ref=parents where family is put before work, and support is the model.
Rule no. 4 If you are worried about someone else’s relationships, its time to work on your own. To gossip about someone else is easy, to stand in confession about what we are aren’t good at ourselves is difficult. This is why we have to constantly confess the Good and the Bad about ourselves, owning our true selves, taking responsibility for our entire beings, and then turning that Complete self (the good and the bad) over to God. This is what confession is all about, and as we are not without sin, we would do well not only to avoid casting the first stone, but even worrying about other people’s sins. Let them stand in confession with God, and instead focus on our own relationships (and I’ll give you a hint, what bothers us about other people are often things that remind of our own faults, or what we could be on our not-so-good days).
Rule No. 5 Setting boundaries is a good thing. If you’ve ever dealt with a child you know that part of loving someone is setting up rules so that everyone stays safe (no hitting, no crossing the street by yourself etc.)…There is a whole sermon in here about the rationale of the 10 commandments but I cannot possibly address that here. However, it is important to know your limits, and to set reasonable boundaries with those you love about what you can and cannot do with them. Set limits, stick to them, and then offer up the ways you are available to love. Setting boundaries and keeping them are a good way to maintain a relationship (setting no boundaries is a good way to burn out, and dropping someone because you are unable to set limits sets up hurt). You can love someone and not allow victimization, triangulation or some other form of hurt by setting up good boundaries…
Last Rule (which is really the principle of the Rules in clever disguise) Love without Labels (see you never would have guessed that this is just saying Love one Another in a new way). I have heard the sentiment hate the sin love the sinner and I understand where it is coming from, but to me it is a human attempt at graciousness. One where we love someone, but are constantly seeing their sin as a label on their forehead. I love so and so EVEN THOUGH they are a…There is no even thoughs for Christ. Christ doesn’t say love one another even though you drive each other crazy–Christ doesn’t love us Even Though we are human, Jesus loves us for and because of who we are. None of us are complete on our own, and it takes love to connect us to the people who complete us. (We are like puzzle pieces, trying to fill each other’s holes, so that, as Christ says, our joy can be complete)
If we followed this rules in our immediate family, and then did so with our congregation. What else can we do to be a Christian Family? How can we upbuild and maintain our relationships with one another???