3f: Family

This morning, we’re continuing our message series, “3F”; faith, family, and freedom.

Family.  I conjures up different thoughts and emotions depending on your life experience.  To some, it stirs up fond memories of a safe place full of support, fun, and encouragement.  To some, it stirs up painful memories of betrayal, conflict, and brokenness.

There are different types of families and the Bible refers to them all.

In the New Testament, the Greek words are used:

– genos meaning a biological relationship or of the same kind

– adelphos meaning more of a brotherhood or friendship

– patria meaning that you have the same nationality or ancestry

– oikia or oikos meaning people who dwell together as a household

To some, the bonds of family are stronger outside of your biological relatives.  Perhaps you have a close-knit group of friends that you consider your family.  Perhaps you consider your family to be the members of your community or neighbors.  Perhaps you find your family in those of your same national identity or ethnic heritage.  Perhaps your family is the members of a social club like a sportsman’s club or motorcycle club.

Hopefully, you’ve found some of the closest and most meaningful relationships in your spiritual family; your brothers and sisters in Christ. Our mission here at New Hope is to be less of a religious organization and more like a family.

Family was God’s plan from the very beginning.  In fact, every idea and concept that we have of family began with a simple, biological family.  God created a single man, Adam, from the mud of the recently created earth and breathed life into him.  Adam noticed that all of the animals had mates and felt the pain of loneliness.

When realizing that it wasn’t good to be alone, God created a woman using a rib of Adam and brought them together in marriage.  To this day, this is why it is still traditional for the father to give the bride to her new husband.  Then, God told them to go forth and multiply.  God said:

Genesis 2:24

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

From this union came every other person on the face of the earth.  They multiplied and created great cities leading up to Noah whose family multiplied and became nations.  Shortly after, God gave them all different languages and spread them across the face of the earth as mankind still remains to this day.

A single family is where it all began.  Of course, a single family is where heartache began as well.  It was Adam and Eve’s children responsible for the first murder.  The Bible records some awesome, healthy families and how redeeming and amazing family is such as in the case of Ruth and Naomi.  The Bible also records broken families.

It isn’t often realized, but Jesus has brothers and sisters (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3) who were technically half-brothers and sisters.  From the little peek that we get into their lives, we get the impression that things weren’t the greatest in their relationships with one another.

John 7:1-5

1 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. 2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

Now we know that His brother, James, did come around to believe in Him and became a leader in the early church.  However, even Jesus had a difficult family life.  His dad almost abandoned his mother while she was pregnant with Him.  His brothers didn’t believe in Him.  As far as we know, neither did His father.  He had a pushy mother who forced Him into His first public miracle of turning water into wine.

Jesus’ family tried to stop His ministry altogether at one point!  Jesus appointed the twelve apostles and sent them out to preach and continued to minister, Himself.  He was healing the sick, driving out demons, and as a result, stirring up the religious leaders to want to kill Him.  While ministering in a house, His family caught up with Him.

Mark 3:20-21

20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

After bickering with the teachers of the law for a while, his family arrived.

Mark 3:31-35

31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

What a loving and supportive family, right?  They thought that Jesus was out of His mind and met with Him to try and take charge of Him and to stop His ministry!  Jesus didn’t respond as we may have assumed, either.  He essentially rejected them and replaced them with His ministry family.

In any case, the point is that Jesus can well relate to a difficult and broken family environment.

We could go on all day looking at broken families in the Bible.  Some family accounts recorded, like King David’s, read just like a soap opera of today.  Full of deceit and drama, cheating and rape, conspiracy and power-struggles, greed and heartache.

However, what God wants to remind us of this morning is not that misery loves company.  Today, God wants to show us today how to develop healthy families and to remind us of the amazing family that we have the privilege to be a part of.

Most families today are blended and for many reasons.  It’s hard to make ends meet and sometimes one parent has to work away from home for long periods of time or both parents have to work full time involving other family members in the child-raising process.  Husbands and wives remaining married until death is becoming a scarcity.  People are living longer, but healthcare costs are rising causing many to have their elderly parents moving back in with them late in life.  Many families in the Bible were blended as well in many different ways and for many different reasons.

Regardless of who your family consists of and what it looks like, the Bible teaches us principles to make it healthy.  If we choose to embrace and live out these key ingredients, we’ll begin to cultivate a healthy atmosphere for our families.

1. Honesty

Jesus said:

John 8:32

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Now we’re going to revisit this chapter in a bit because there is a powerful truth behind the context of this statement.

However, many families are unhealthy just because they aren’t honest with one another.  Shoving feelings under the rug, choosing to gossip and slander, and outright deceit tear apart families at their roots.  Speaking the truth is freeing.  It may be painful from time to time, but honesty and truthfulness can bring about freedom wherever they exist.

Now speaking the truth must be done with the right attitude to bring freedom.  Our motive and attitude behind honesty should be to bring everyone to a mutual understanding leading to unity and peace and honor.  The truth is a sword and that sword is intended to be used to destroy the works of the enemy and not to destroy the members of our family. 

We can speak the truth and be absolute jerks about it tearing everyone around us down and to make them captive to hurt and offense.  God’s intent is for us to speak the truth to build everyone around us up and to set them free from hurt and offense so that His healing might be able to be released into those relationships.

2. Forgiveness

We are all imperfect people prone to sin.  We can all be very difficult people to live with.  We all hurt and offend each other from time to time.  We all are in desperate need for forgiveness.

Colossians 3:12-14

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Forgiveness is ultimately not about the person who offended or sinned against you, forgiveness is for your own benefit.

Now, I don’t by any means recommend following this individual nor any of their teachings whatsoever, but their quote about forgiveness is spot on!  “Forgiveness is not about letting the bad guy off of the hook; it’s about taking the hook out of your own heart.” Jessica Lanyadoo

Bear with one another.  You are different people with different perspectives and different opinions by God’s own design.  From time to time, you will clash and hurt and offend each other.  Forgiveness allows God to heal your own heart so that you can continue loving those how hurt you and bear with them without growing hardened or embittered.

3. Encouragement

This world has enough challenges and troubles of its own.  We need our family to be a refuge and place of safety where we can be open and transparent with each other without fear.  We need our family to be a place where we can run to for protection.

Romans 15:5-7

5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Accepting others as they are and where they are at is difficult.  This is especially true when you see their full potential and how far they might be from it.  However, isn’t that exactly what Jesus did for us?

We start with accepting one another as Jesus accepted us and then we give people the courage that they need to grow into the people that they were created to be.  Even as Jesus never gives up on us, so we never give up on them.  We give them endurance and encouragement for the journey. 

We give them grace and mercy when they miss it and help pick them up and dust them off when they fall short.  We have the same attitude that Christ Jesus has toward us with others.  Although we’re reminded to be encouraging over and over again, I love the way that Paul wrote it here:

Hebrews 3:13

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

So long as today is called today, encourage one another.

If we embrace and express the simple ingredients of honesty, forgiveness, and encouragement, our families with grow and develop to become healthy.

Now, quickly and in closing, God also wants to remind us of the awesome opportunity that we all have to be a part of the best family ever; the family of God!  What we may be lacking in our natural families, we can receive abundantly through our spiritual family.  When we choose to follow Jesus, placing our faith in Him, we are adopted into the family of God.  Back to what Jesus said:

John 8:30-35

30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Now Jesus went on to explain that their father was not God, but rather they were children of the devil.  Until we put our faith in Jesus, we are all bound as slaves to our sin.  We are all susceptible to be held captive to do the will of the devil (2 Timothy 2:26).

When we put our faith in Jesus, we are no longer slaves.  We are set free and we have a permanent place in an eternal family!  You have been set free from the power of sin and granted the grace of God that empowers you to overcome temptation every time.  We are no longer slaves, we are children of God!

You are the recipient of an amazing inheritance!  Whatever your natural family might be, you have been born again into a new family.  Now, healing runs in your family!  Now, freedom runs in your family!  Now, peace runs in your family!  Now self-control runs in your family!

1 Peter 1:3-5

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Let’s praise our Heavenly Father who has given us a living hope and a certain, eternal inheritance thanks to our new birth!  You are no longer a slave, you are a child of God!