Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Church as Family (another excerpt)

Paul never talked about his immediate family in his letters. As far as we can tell, he never mentioned his parents, or his brothers or sisters if he had them; he never referred to his grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews, or nieces. That is startling to me. That’s because, like all of us, I can’t help but talk about my family. They come up in daily conversation all the time. Much to their chagrin, they even pop up in my sermons and writing (most of the time, I get their prior approval; but sometimes I’m inspired, in the moment, I can’t help it). On the other hand, I rarely talk about our church. And predictably, when I do, it normally has something to do with what’s happening on Sundays—the worship service, different programs, Sunday school classes, musical events. I never think about what my church is doing on Monday, or Tuesday, or any other day of the week (unless there is a special activity). In other words, I see the world through the eyes of my family—“wonder how the day is going for Sheri”—and church is ancillary to my life, something that supports my life, my family. And, many churches gladly assume this assigned role; they even market themselves as “family friendly.”

Paul would have us view things the other way around. To him church is family, a people that consumes our daily thoughts and conversations. What if we saw the world like he did? What if we acted as if church were family? What if talked about members as if they were our brothers and sisters? What if the welfare of the church were the most important concern in our lives—more than our work, more than our friends, more than our spouses or children or parents? In other words, what if we were to imitate Paul? What would that look like today? Some of us might be tempted to dismiss the idea as “cultic.” But, then again, if church is supposed to be more than a time and a place, then what are we supposed to do? If church is our family, how should that affect our every-day lives? If Paul, the apostle to Gentiles, is our father in the faith, then how should we behave as his children?