Not too long ago, I spent my birthday with my family. I was glad that I did that. My family members threw me a surprise birthday celebration. They bought my favourite food and sang me a birthday song!
However, it wasn’t the food or the party that made me glad. Rather, it was the company. My family comprises of people from all walks of life. We have diverse cultural backgrounds and very different personalities and interests. Some of them I know for several years; some I am just getting to know better. It was nice to be able to spend my birthday with those whom Jesus Christ says is my true family:
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, His mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to Him. Someone told Him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to His disciples, He said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matt 12:46-50
Interesting, on that morning itself, I read an article from Desiring God reminding me to prioritize my true family. The article calls me to remember the spiritual home which I am part of: “You not only live in a home, or own a home; you are being made, with lots of other believers, into a home:
“You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” 1 Peter 2:5. (God Chose This Home for You, by Marshall Segal for DesiringGod.org)
It seems innate for us, however, to place our biological family above our spiritual family. When work demands and domestic obligations grow, the spiritual family is often the first to go. In the meantime, we expect the spiritual family to be understanding and unquestioning towards our no-shows but to be ready and present for us when we need them to be.
We may justify that the spiritual family is not our natural family and therefore the ties aren’t as deep as our biological ones. Yet the Bible testifies that the family of faith is our true family. Our biological family and earthly home can at most, be a subset of it but not replace it. While it is true that the spiritual family is not a natural one, it does not mean it is an unnatural one. Instead, the spiritual family is a supernatural one where ties are made possible through the Blood of Christ and the unity of the Spirit.
God intends the spiritual family to have a providential effect. He provides for the orphans, singles, and widows by including them into the spiritual family to experience relational intimacy on earth. To place our biological family ties above our spiritual family will inevitably relegate these to a life at the outer circle.
God intends the spiritual family to have a missional effect. Jesus prayed that the supernatural bond of the spiritual family will help bring others to the knowledge of the Father and the Son. Jesus instructed His disciples that their supernatural love for one another will help the world identify them as His disciples.
God intends the spiritual family to have an edifying effect. That night in our SG gathering, we watched a video by Pastor Francis Chan reminding us that the Spirit gives us gifts so that we can build up one another in the spiritual family. We are challenged to help one another grow closer to Jesus and His purposes, being ready to correct one another and point out each other’s blindsides.
It seems divinely orchestrated when our SG leader Dan Dan gently reminded us of the SG house rules during our family gathering:
“Let us prioritize our SG family and make every effort to attend SG gatherings. Let us voluntarily account to our leaders if we are unable to make it for SG gatherings. Let us be involved in each other’s lives through the week. Let us serve together in community outreach.”
At the end of the night, a sub-group added yet another rule: “Let us make our SG a safe and authentic place where trust and relationship may flourish. We will keep confidence each other’s heartfelt sharing.”
These rules, when placed in the context of a family relationship are natural and beneficial.
As I travelled back home that night, my heart was warmed as I reflected over what God has revealed to me about my true family throughout the day.
I was glad to have spent my birthday with my true family.
By Rick Toh, Lead Pastor/Elder (YCKC Bulletin 6&7 October 2018)