If you’re a follower Jesus did you know that you are part of a family that spans over thousands of years? One that expands beyond your biological and into the supernatural? I’m talking about the family of God. God’s family is huge and inclusive containing all different cultures, all different ages, and spans through generations upon generations of people.
Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that we are part of a movement that was started 2,000 years ago. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that we are part of a family that extends outside of our biological family. God’s family is eternal, it lasts forever. Where biological families will cease to exist God’s family will thrive and last eternally.
This past week I had an amazing privilege to help run Camp Melody, an all boys camp for ages 10 to 16. This year, the theme was brotherhood inside of God’s family. Every day we focused on a different aspect of what brotherhood looks like inside of the family of God. On Monday, the theme was encouragement, Tuesday forgiveness, and Wednesday unity. We really wanted to contrast the difference between how God’s family operates as opposed to things posing as family (such as gangs). As the week went by I couldn’t help but realize that the themes we focused on carry into the whole of God’s family. How in the Church practicing these principles of forgiveness, encouragement, and unity really change the way we view each other.
I want to point out three things that are the opposite of forgiveness, unity, and encouragement that we need to get in check in our local Church bodies. The culture we create in our local Church is essential to the Body of Christ thriving in our local communities.
All too often for those of us who have been involved with church politics, we have seen the church split over things that really in the big picture are petty. I’ve seen church bodies have major arguments over the instruments played, the carpet color, and the leadership structure. You know who wins these arguments in the end? Satan that’s who. He is all too happy to help those fights along. Jesus prayed directly against being divided in John where He said “My prayer is that they (us) are one”. To divide over things that are secondary to the gospel is sin pure and simple. Do people have different opinions on different things regarding the Christian faith? Absolutely, but to let that stop you from working with fellow family is absolute garbage. Do you and your siblings agree on everything? Of course you don’t, but that doesn’t stop you from being family.
The opposite of forgiveness is bitterness plain and simple. When we don’t learn to forgive people we let bitterness eat away at us like termites devouring wood. Christ commanded us to forgive others because He has forgiven us first. The practice of forgiveness in God’s family is mandatory and necessary to have healthy relationships with people. Chances are at some point in your life a fellow Christian will offend you, hurt you, or upset you. If you don’t learn how to forgive you will walk away from the Church with a bitter heart and an angry spirit. Both of those things are the opposite of how God operates. God operates with forgiveness and reconciliation at the forefront (for any doubters just read the Gospels).
Perhaps one of the dirtiest secrets of our American Church culture is our obsession with gossip. I would argue it’s also one of Satan’s most effective weapons. If he can people to talk about other people negatively and behind their back he can start stress cracks in the foundation of the Church. All too often those stress cracks in the foundation lead to a crumbling house full of he said, she said. When we create a culture of encouragement there is no room to gossip because we are too busy focusing on building each other up. At least here in the states gossip is common and seen as not a big deal by our American culture. We have borrowed that view and brought it in to Church culture. The only difference is that we preface our gossip by saying “I really am not gossiping but…”. As I type those words I cringe because I am 100% guilty of using that line to justify my tearing down of someone. This is once again, the opposite of how God’s family works. When we are a part of God’s family we replace a culture of gossip and tearing down with a culture of encouragement and building each other up.
May I suggest Church that it’s time to take out the trash? It’s time to take these things and throw them away, replacing them with God’s principles. May we as a Church learn God’s culture and implement it in to our local church cultures. Creating atmospheres of family, belonging, and encouragement.