Families are a funny thing. As Jerry tells us in While You Were Sleeping, “You’re born into a family. You do not join them like you do the Marines.” Our families are an integral part of our growing up experience and our first taste of community. At a very early age, before we have ever heard the word “community,” we are already creating an idea of what it is, what it looks like, how it functions.
I grew up in a Christian home with parents who were wonderfully committed to the idea and practice of family. Date night for Mom and Dad and Family Night for all of us were on every weekly calendar. It was a non-negotiable for us. Even when we started growing up and getting jobs, family night still took priority.
For the record, Star Wars Fishbowl remains our family’s favorite game. Imagine Star Wars-themed Catch Phrase meets Charades, and you’ve just about got it. I still look back with much fondness on those evenings.
And I don’t have to look that far back.
Even though 2 of us out of 6 kids have moved out of the house, family nights are still on the calendar, and we are encouraged to attend. Indeed, it is expected that we will attend as often as our schedules allow.
This was and is my first community. This group of people—Dad, Mom, 2 brothers, 3 sisters—remain my dearest friends. And with the addition of a new sister-in-law, this crew has begun a wonderful expansion.
Is it any wonder that Scripture uses the language of family to describe the church? In Romans 8, Paul tells us, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…”
Did you catch that? We are children. You and me and all of us.
Why use the language of family to describe this precious relationship we share with each other? Because family is a concept that nearly all of us understand implicitly. Because we had one before we even needed to know what it was. Because it is in this context that some of the most tender relationships seen in humankind are shown.
The church at large is very excited about community these days and rightly so. Community brings with it feelings of safe havens and happiness, relationships and sharing of lives. Families provide us the perfect testing ground for community.
Even though I no longer live at home, I still look forward to family night. I believe my love for my local church community was born from this place. For it is in my family that I learned to share and to listen, to cry and to laugh with people. And for those who did not grow up in families with such safety, the church can provide a place to relearn what true community is. For when church is done right, there is no safer and no dearer place on earth.
Church done right is family.
How did your family parallel your experience in Community? Or, what has your Community taught you about being a part of a healthy family?
Photo credit: Lotus Carroll