While we are looking ahead to celebrating Thanksgiving with our families, a time generally spent around a table, it is compelling to notice we had a worship service not too long ago where we did the same thing. Our communion is a thanksgiving, a praise to God from the people of God. It is nothing less than that, but it is also much more than that. As our church rightly displays its description ‘a family in ministry,’ that phrase is certainly not without warrant.
However, we must recognize what it means to be a family in Biblical terms, not the terms so often used in our Western culture. For instance, it might seem a strange thing if I were to introduce myself to a new visitor some Sunday morning as Christopher, son of Gary, son of Vernon. That’s language you may remember from countless books in the Bible, but it is not language we typically use in our culture. We are a culture driven by self-reliance, individualism, and personal focus.
When we look to Scripture such as Hebrews 2:10-11, God’s Word speaks to us: “In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.”
The culture of the New Testament, was a culture based on group, or family, identity. The individual married and found employment based on the needs of the extended family rather than basing these important decisions on any personal autonomy. The individual was vastly more concerned with the glory of the family even if that meant personal sacrifice. The family’s blood belonged to the father and all the offspring pointed back to that name. The author of Hebrews understood that God made Christ the perfect sacrifice to the extent that Christ’s sacrifice alone is sufficient for the needs of every person who calls Him Lord. They inherit the blood.
It wasn’t really a decision; it was just how things were done. This is the lifestyle that preserves family names. It’s the reason we don’t understand how Rose’s family in the movie Titanic would have any right to marry her off to someone she hadn’t met yet…even if it meant all of her extended family would lose their social status and landholdings. Rose was concerned for her personal romance, not with her extended family’s thriving or their support system.
When we turn to Scripture and see Jesus calling his followers his siblings, when we see that the Church is to be called a family it certainly speaks to the culture of the time. We are to care more for the family than we are for ourselves, and it’s not to be read as a bad thing. Widows and orphans are to be brought in as siblings – where once they had nothing, now they have support and love. The sibling relationship of the group-culture is something that ties one person to another in an even stronger way than marriage. This is to the fact that the same blood runs through their veins.
We do not have a “personal” Savior, even though we call him my Lord and my God as individuals. We have a communal Savior. We have a family saving Savior. Because we are saved into a relationship wherein His blood is pulsing through a Church full of siblings (John 1:12). His blood calls us to be in the family (Colossians 1:20). Meaning our glorification is more important than his life…that is the proclamation of the Cross. How could one who sacrifices himself for the family be ashamed of his own family? The author of Hebrews makes it clear; if we are a family it is because of the blood of Christ and God is not ashamed to call us His.
As a family we must be concerned enough for the welfare of our blood relations that we are willing to sacrifice something of ourselves in order to bring the Father’s name the most glory. Take time this week to look at the church prayer list, or if you recall things going on in the lives of your Family, pray for those with whom you share the blood of Christ.
Jesus taught us to love our brothers and sisters, not to foster hate, gossip, or slander for any of them (or those who could potentially become brothers and sisters). Communion is a thanksgiving that we have been brought into community with our siblings, all because of Christ’s blood. As members of this family we are to pray for our family and for its unity. Through our connectedness brought by the cross, we can use this fellowship to proclaim the gospel to all humankind.
Brothers and sisters, pray for one another (1 Thessalonians 5:25; James 5:16).
Your brother by the blood of Christ, Pastor Chris Osterbrock
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com
Hellerman, Joseph, When the Church Was a Family (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2009), 50.