"Just like a family!"
Richard L. Floyd
"Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse, but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing." - 1 Peter 3:8-9
I dearly love the church, and have been blessed to be a member, as well as serving as pastor, in several congregations. I have often heard people describe their congregations as being "just like a family." And I know this is always meant as a compliment, but there is a complex and unexamined truth to it that is full of irony.
When people say that their congregation is "just like a family," they usually mean that it is loving, generous, kind and accepting. But they could just as easily mean that, as in a family, they don’t get to pick their fellow members, must abide with them whether they like them or not, and find some of them tiresome, cranky, and difficult.
I dearly love my family, but it would take major flights of whimsy and imagination to ever put together such a disparate collection of strange and wonderful individuals if we weren’t kin. A congregation is like that: "just like a family."
And just like a family, a congregation takes constant care and tending if it is to be a blessing to any of its members. So the admonition in our text today from 1 Peter is one of those humble little biblical prescriptions that is chock-full of wisdom. Because to flourish, any community, large or small, needs such lovely things: unity, sympathy, love, tenderness, and humility.
The congregation where I belong is a great blessing to me, and I really like the notion that each of us has been called into the church to "inherit a blessing." To bless and be blessed! "Just like a family."
Loving God, from whom every family on heaven and earth takes its name, let us treat each other in such a way that we will be both a blessing and inherit the blessing you want for us.