The Jesus Project

I belong to a family – the Shelly family. My immediate family consists now of only Myra and me. Our three grown-and-married children and their sons and daughters are still family to us, even though we no longer live at the same address. Then there are our two families of origin. We see them less frequently than our children and grandchildren, but they still count as family to us. The notion of extended family widens still further to include aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, cousins and other kin.

If you were to picture this concept of family I have been describing, you might draw a series of circles – each a bit larger than the one before. By the time you get from immediate through close to more distant, perhaps the edges of those circles would need to be increasingly fuzzy. There are certainly people no farther removed than the third or fourth ring that I have never met. I don’t know their names. Why, I wouldn’t (perhaps haven’t) recognized them as family when passing them in a shopping mall or greeting them in a church lobby. And they may be equally as unaware that I am, at least in some distant sense of biological connection, part of their larger family too.

Press the matter all the way back to Noah – even to Adam – and I suppose we derive the term we occasionally employ when referring to “the human family.” But we certainly evidence very little of the true sense of a connected and loving family across human history. People who speak different languages, embrace different cultural heritages, and/or have skin of a different color seem more inclined to think “foreigner” rather than “family” of the other. Ethnocentrism has even tended to have these dissimilar groups looking upon one another with disdain.

Does the Bible not affirm that humankind shares a common ancestry under God? (Acts 17:26). Was that fact not part of the earliest church’s plea for seeing the gospel as a message to Jews and Gentiles alike? And wasn’t that plea a fulfillment of our Lord’s promise to create “one flock, one shepherd”? (John 10:16b).

Do we not think in terms nowadays of a “shrinking planet” and “global village” in calling one another to such things as ecological responsibility and dismantling terrorist structures? So why don’t we take the notion of church as the family of God seriously?

Over the next several weeks, John York and I will preach a series of sermons in which we will seek to clarify both the theological and practical means by which today’s divided church can see itself as the extended family of God. We will explore the notion of “making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).

Note: Only summaries of the lessons in this series will appear online in text format. The full content of each sermon will be available in audio format.


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