I have decided to develop this short blog post after a conversation with my wife tonight, a cool Saturday evening as we relax in the living room of our apartment situated in the small town of Hoeilaart, just outside of Brussels.
Many times, western Christianity does not line up with the Biblical model in regards to many of its teachings on particular topics. I do not say this arrogantly, nor as a cynic given up on the church, the body of Christ. There are many areas in my own life that I continue to long and pray for the Spirit of God to help me line up with Biblical teaching.
One area we seem to easily fall short of is the relational nature of God’s kingdom. It is a peculiar thing, at least to the world and even many Christians, that God has decided to relate to His people as family.
Please believe me when I say I do not negate the glory and majesty of God as sovereign Creator and Ruler over all of creation. When you read passages in Isaiah, how could you not ponder the greatness of God, especially when He gave these words to the prophet:
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing. (40:26)
And I cannot forget these words of the Almighty to Job:
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (38:4-7)
But, though God is such a glorious Creator, so ‘other than us’ (as Louie Giglio states it), He has decided to relate to His people as family.
It is God who takes the initiative to reveal Himself as Father, even in the Old Testament (Psalm 89:24-27). And those who are indwelt by the Spirit are the ones who cry out, ‘Abba, Father’ (Romans 8:15). Oh, if we only knew the full ramifications of such words.
It is Jesus, the Christ, who comes as the Son of God. Oh yeah, He is Savior and King, and He carries all other attributes that call us to worship Him. But He is the Beloved Son of the Father, and you maybe even sense God’s excitement as He verbally express this for others to hear (see Matthew 3:17). And Jesus even calls us His brothers (Hebrews 2:11; and I might add that I believe this encompasses the idea of sisters as well).
‘In Biblical times, the greatest institution upheld was that of the family, and therefore God’s people were referred to and functioned as such. In 21st century America, the Church mainly functions like a business because that has become the greater institution of our culture.’
In the 2,000 years since the new covenant (covenant simply meaning a joining of two in binding relationship) was set in motion, we have moved quite a bit aways from such understanding. We would rather build up organizations and structures rather than life relationships. Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate leadership and right church government. It is Biblical and very helpful. But in the end, we are called to be in relationship with people. We can become so task-oriented in our ‘ministry’ that we forget that we are actually trying to reach and relate with human beings. These are people we are calling back to our Father, into the love relationship that we ourselves have hopefully entered into. But maybe we have lost sight of it as John said in Revelation 2:4:
But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
I like to read books and write. But when it is all said and done, I am not going to look back on my life and wish I had read a few more theological treatises or even written a book or two that fit nicely on your shelf. I am going to wish I had spent more time with people, more time pouring my life into them, and hopefully seeing such relational life reciprocated.
Yes, we have a task to get on with. I do know the ‘Great Commission’. But if our eyes are so fixed on the task, we will miss the opportunity to speak to people’s hearts. And, as Eldredge would always try and remind us, it is Christ who came first and foremost to reawaken the heart. For as the wise man of Proverbs put it, ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life’ (4:23). That is the central place, and it is our Father who calls out to that central place.
I must admit, I am glad that the kingdom of God is to be primarily focused around family and relationship. The Father, Son and Spirit know there is a task to be completed. They’ve been working on it for quite a while (a lot longer than you and I combined). But they would rather win people’s hearts than walk all over them or heavily burden them with a task list. That was what the Pharisees were good at – the burdening part, that is (Matthew 23:4).
Thus, let us remember the Trinity and how they outwork relationship first – with each other and with us. And my hope is that we will draw upon this truth for the rest of our lives whatever our gifting, calling and vocation. Let us bring our focus back to relationship, back to the importance of family, back to the heart of the matter. For when we do, we will then know true life eternal.