Friday, April 20, 2012

The Blessing of Family

Just two days ago I bid farewell to my dear mother who travelled all the way from Chinchilla, Australia to southern California where I now live. My treasured wife had been enduring morning sickness and my on call emergency worker, otherwise known as "mum" (or "mom" for those many readers who can't spell) arrived to help take care of our children, and provide much needed support for my wife. Words fail me to describe my mum's tireless efforts in cooking, cleaning, junior entertainment, and making me breakfast each morning (mmmm good old eggs on toast!). The family is an institution ordained by God and can, in its best moments, provide a wonderful picture of self denial, sacrifice, and love. Jesus said:

Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)

This earthly family that we have is a blessing ordained by God. The fragmentation and dysfunction we so often see is a result and reminder of Adam's fall and how we are all tainted by it. We should be careful not to idolize it so much that we are unable to embrace the greater eternal reality of adoption into God's family (John 1:12). We should also take care to avoid the other ditch of resenting the terrible experiences we have had in our earthly families at the expense of seeing that as a demonstration of our need to be restored into right relationship with God.

Jesus promised all who would follow Him that it would cost them dearly. For some people they discipleship will cost them many in their extended families. But Jesus also promises those that they will gain brothers and sisters and mothers and children as they enter into God's family through adoption, and eternal life in the age to come! That is too precious to risk missing if we treasure our temporal earthly family so much that we refuse to tell them about the heavenly Father Who sent His only Begotten Son to take the punishment that our sin demands in order that His children may gain their heavenly inheritance via the Saving Substitute Who stood in their place. The question really needs to be asked how much we really do love our families if we don't tell them about that. Jesus also promised persecution because that is the common consequence of calling lost sinners to repentance.

It is a good thing that Jesus was not as hung up about His self respect, self preservation, and avoiding conflict as we often are. If that was the case He never would have set His eyes like flint towards Calvary! He never would have prayed to the Father "not My will but Thine be done"! He never would have endured the agonies of hell in the place of His adopted family! We should not be surprised then that Jesus said:

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:16-38)

Rejoice today in the blessings that flow through our earthly families. Rejoice even more in the precious adoption and greater family we find in the body of Christ - the Church! And tell those who only have an earthly family about the loving Heavenly Father Who demonstrated His great love in dying for us while we were in our filthy sin (Romans 5:8), that we might be His children for all eternity where we can never be separated by sickness, division, or death ever again (Revelation 21:3-4). All praise and honor and glory unto You Great God Almighty!

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