We began our Lenten journey by going straight back to the beginning of our Christian faith: At the tomb of Jesus, where he had just risen from the dead. Why an Easter story during Lent? Because Easter is not a one-day-a-year thing, it is the every-day-of-the-year reality of who we are as Christians. We are a resurrection people, formed at a fundamental level by the reality that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. We looked at some of the specific things we will find when we look at the place where Jesus lay: specifically that Jesus is alive, that God has done it all, and that the possibility of connection with God is now a reality.
We are now looking at what it means for us as the Church to be a resurrection people, to live as the people of a resurrected savior Jesus Christ, even in the midst of a world which is becoming increasingly hostile to the Christian way of looking at things, a world in which we as Christians have lost and are losing much of the privilege and influence we once had even as recently as a decade or two ago. A world in which we find ourselves in exile, in a manner of speaking–not actual, physical exile but a situation which in many ways resembles the situation faced by the Old Testament Jews in Babylon and the centuries which followed.
Last week I pulled out and addressed specifically the political aspect of things, because that bears special relevance in an election year. In short, we as a resurrection people are to be apolitical and non-ideological–not to refrain from holding political opinions or convictions but instead to hold those convictions loosely and with an open hand. We must recognize that ideologies are incomplete truths, useful to a limited extent yet always claiming to be more than they really are, to be able to explain more of life and the universe than they can truly explain.
This week we are going to address the kind of community and relations which must exist among us as a resurrection people.
In short, we are to be intensely and intentionally relational. One of modernity’s biggest lies (actually a universal failing through all of human history but one which modernity has amplified a thousandfold) is that people are not people but instead things to be used, managed, and then discarded or pushed aside once they have outlived their usefulness. It is not to be so among us.
We must reclaim the value of Christian friendship. Specifically we must reclaim the notion of the Church as the family of God, an alternative to the natural/biological family.
This means conservative evangelicalism must give up its incessant fixation with the biological family. Evangelicals have conflated faithfulness to God with faithfulness to the notion of family, as if the forces of evil are those godless liberals who are attacking the traditional family and traditional family values, and we are called upon to defend God and the Christian faith by defending the traditional family. And yet, despite all the culture war rhetoric about queers and godless liberals run amok and other threats to the family, our society places a very high premium on family life. It is increasingly difficult to live as a family of one in a world made for two. (Especially around Valentine’s Day.) The church has played right into this cultural idolatry of the biological family, even while claiming that the family is under attack. People are confused about our message, to the point that many think the Gospel is synonymous with family values. Much of the programming in churches is directed toward families and children, and churches are all trying to outdo each other in terms of what they can provide for YOUR family.
To be sure, the institution of the family holds a high place in the economy of God. Throughout the Bible God’s love for His people is described in terms of family relationships–husband and wife, father and child, etc. Large portions of the New Testament are dedicated to how we are to live in our family relationships. Yet a lot of what Jesus says in the Gospels is about commitment to him in spite of family expectations. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51-53) “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:50)
The Church is an alternative family, united in friendship and common love, where the unloved, abandoned, and unwanted, those who come from broken families, and yes, those who, like me, are families of one, can find home, belonging, community, and acceptance.
Let us reclaim this vision of the Church as the family of God, as an alternative to the natural family. Let us take to heart the words of Jesus Christ: “Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”