I spent this past weekend (and then some) with my extended family. Some of them have known me since I was born. Some are recent acquisitions that have come through marriage or birth. Most of it was enjoyable and full of laughter and celebration.
But a curious thing happened when I was at my extended family’s Christmas. I was part of several conversations where people who had known me forever made small, (to them) insignificant comments about their perception of me. None of them were bad, they were mostly complimentary, but they were surprising.
They were surprising because they identified things about me that I didn’t and at times still don’t see in myself. But as I grow, I’m finally able to trust that people see me better than I see myself, especially my family who has shown love to me more times than I deserve.
And this got me thinking about the benefit of family. Family knows you: They know your weaknesses, your awkward times, and your mistakes. Having seen you at your worst and your best, they are able to know the true you, not the you everyone else identifies you with. Many times they know you better than your perception of yourself.
But family also loves you: They’ve come to commit themselves to you beyond all of the negative things. They’ve seen your value and stuck around, not abandoning you because of your weakness. It’s what makes them still your family.
Family fulfills a dual role of knowing and loving, something that is hard to do in our world.
This is why it’s so incredibly crucial for the church to be a family. We were designed to need people who could see us as we truly are–who both know us and love us. Being known and loved keeps us from deception. They keep us from thinking too highly of ourselves and too lowly of ourselves. Spiritual families who both know and love the people in their midst can speak to a person’s potential, knowing full well where they are weak and where they excel.
And this is why your church, no matter how it meets or functions, needs to act like a family, not a meeting place, a club, a branch of the military, or a corporate business. Because only families can produce the kind of transforming love that our society is desperately craving and simultaneously rebelling against. And only the church as a family can weather the hardship of this hour to speak to us and transform us more fully into sons and daughters of God.
The world needs the church to be a family again. Because family can see what only family can see.