We are in Arkansas this week for what we affectionately call, “Camping Cousins.” Every year my wife’s family on her mother’s side gathers in Northwest Arkansas for a family reunion where we go camping. Well “camping” may be bit of a stretch since, for the past few years, we’ve had the reunion at a very nice, well air-conditioned lodge, but we call it “camping” none-the-less.
One thing is for sure, we thoroughly enjoy this time in Arkansas. It really is an annual highlight for my family. Almost from the moment Camping Cousins is finished, we eagerly count down the days until the next one. The time is so precious to my children that my girls sob uncontrollably until we are about half-way back to Georgia (and that’s no exaggeration).
The reason we enjoy this time so very much is due to the fact that my wife has such a great family. I enjoy spending time with her side of the family as much as I enjoy spending time with mine. They sincerely care about what’s happening in each other’s lives, they are genuinely nice, and they a blast to be around. But on top of that, they are all passionate followers of Jesus Christ. I can honestly say that I am so very close to Heather’s side of the family that they become some of my dearest friends. All that to say that this year, once again, Camping Cousins reminds me of what a great family we have been blessed with.
But as great as our family is, we have a greater family, and that too has been demonstrated to me recently. The greater family that I possess is the Family of God, the Church. Particularly I am thinking about the one-another-love of God’s people as expressed in the local church, and that love has certainly been seen and experienced by my family at Harbins Community Baptist Church over the past few weeks and months.
I have, in recent days, seen the greater family of HCBC do things for one another that have left me speechless. I have myself been moved to tears as people in our church have, on more than one occasion, cared for my family in sacrificial ways that exceed what I could have imagined. I have seen simple acts of love being carried out for those who are hurting in our church. I have witnessed people giving up material goods to care for one another’s needs. I have seen people weep with those who weep, rejoice with those who rejoice. I have seen deep, impassioned prayers being lifted to the Almighty on one another’s behalf. I have seen non-essential differences set aside for the sake of unity. I have seen precious doctrines held tight for the sake of unity. I have seen brothers and sisters in Christ counseling one another with God’s all-sufficient Word. I have seen men and women and children and family units growing in the gospel. I have seen a one-ness, a true, organic unity on display. And thus, I have fallen in love with my greater family anew.
Blood family is important and good and sweet, but it will one day end. Family joined by the Blood of the Covenant is more important and better and sweeter, and it will never end. I preached not too long ago on this very truth. So as I write these words I am reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:49-50: “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
The local church should be a demonstration of Jesus’ words. The local church should have a greater bond than kin. Sixty times we are given “one-another” imperatives in the New Testament. That truth alone reflects the great love-bond that should exist in the local church. We are genuinely united to one another through Christ. Yet, how rare it is to find such deep familial expressions in the local churches of our day. Today, the expectations many have for the church is not much different than the expectations they have for their local grocery store. Today, many look for a church to join like they are shopping for a hairstylist. Today, the moment a church fails to meet one’s consumeristic standards he swaps it for another as casually as he would switch internet providers. This shouldn’t be so, and if we know our Bibles it should grieve us!
If we truly grasp the Bible’s teaching reading the bond of unity that we are to have Christ, then we will repent of the consumerism that is in our hearts, and we will see and believe that the church is a greater family that we are called to give ourselves too even if we don’t get anything in return. We must let covenant replace consumerism, and if we do, then we will possess and experience a deeper love than any earthly family can offer.
To fuel these truths I challenge you look up some of the “one-another” passages in the New Testament. Start by reading Romans 12 and Ephesians 4-5, and Colossians 3. Let the Word of God root out consumerism. Let the Word of God show us what true unity looks like. Let the Word of God show us a greater family than kin.
So, as I sit here typing these words in beautiful Northwest Arkansas, I am profoundly thankful for this great family that I am with, but I am already missing and longing for my greater family. See you soon Harbins!