If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church? - 1 Timothy 3:5
When we think of the Church we can think of buildings, organizations, structures, rules, leaders, but we do not think much of family. Yet in the Bible this is the simple picture given in the New Testament of the body of Christ. We are "members of God's family" (Ephesians 2:19) and the "the family of believers" (1 Peter 2:17). And Paul the Apostle encourages believers that they "love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia" (1 Thessalonians 4:10). Paul even gives himself the title of Father and shares pictures of this to the Churches (1 Corinthians 4:15). He also considered his relationship with other Church leaders as a family relationship, "as a son with his father" (Philippians 2:22). In any Church discipline or teaching the Apostles dealt with believers "as a father deals with his own children" (1 Thessalonians 2:11). Paul the Apostle saw himself as a father to the people, "you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel" (1 Corinthians 4:15). St. John also greeted his flock as “my little children” (1 John 2:1). And as we read above one of the very requirements for being a leader in the body of Christ is being a good earthly father to children and therefore treating the body of Christ as a family also.
The Church will always have some sort of structure, at times buildings, and organizations yet the spirit of the Church must be familial. It is amazing that we are not just a family of our own but God considers us his family, we are children of God. Cyprian bishop of Carthage in 250 A.D. says, ""We do not say: 'My Father, who art in heaven,' nor 'Give me this day my bread,' nor does each one ask that only his debt be forgiven him and that he be led not into temptation and that he be delivered from evil from himself alone. Our prayer is public and common, and when we pray, we pray not for one but for the whole people, because we, the whole people, are one." The early Church saw themselves as a family together. Not as separate individuals. Words like brother, sister, Father, child, and inheritance, were common words amongst early believers. Joseph H. Hellerman says, "If we're really serious about spiritual formation, then we must become really serious about creating church communities that act like real families." The next time you interact with even those you disagree with in the body of Christ, remember they are family bought with the blood of Christ.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon