Greg starts off the first sermon of our new series titled Blended by examining how to scripturally navigate our biological and spiritual family systems.
We begin our discussion by reflecting on family. Greg points out that fifty percent of Americans these days live in blended families, not all being as well adjusted, synchronistic, or idealistic as The Brady Bunch. Greg himself was part of a blended family that did not adjust so well. He describes what it was like growing up in such a family characterized by intense conflict. From Greg’s perspective, his dad and stepmom disliked, and even sometimes hated each other. As can often happen, this animosity between Greg’s parents began to spill over onto their children who were used as pawns. One particularly bad incident occurred when Greg was four years old and they were taking a bath. As punishment for them threatening to run away, Greg’s stepmother physically threw him and his brother out of the house as punishment. They were naked and shivering from the cold, and began begging for their stepmom to unlock the door and let them back inside. While this was an extreme example of the challenges of blended families, all of them have their challenges. When two dynamic systems of cultures, obligations, and personalities mesh, friction is inevitable.
The metaphor of a blended family is analogous to our relationships with each other as Jesus followers. We have both a physical family and a spiritual/church family, and sometimes these two worlds don’t blend well. Each one presents challenges and advantages, and how we navigate these realities with a Jesus lens can make all the difference. We can learn how to balance these two worlds, and in doing so receive healing from the past hurt and wounding that can occur in both physical and spiritual family systems.
Paul mentions these two systems in Ephesians 3:14-15, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”
While we may not be able to detect our “heavenly family” as easily through our five senses, it is just as real as our earthly family. Greg mentions how scientists tell us that what we detect with our 5 senses is a very narrow strip of reality, and Paul is saying that in this spiritual, heavenly dimension of reality there are spiritual connections making up the family of God. This idea is mentioned in the New Testament quite often.
For example, Romans 8:29 states, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”
Greg interprets this passage to mean that God for-loved ahead of time all who would yield to the Spirit and believe in Jesus, and he predestines that whoever is in that group to take on his likeness. He holds that God did not predestine who would be in that group, but that the group itself would be “conformed to the image of his Son.” Why? So “that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” From the very start, God is spoken here to have desired a family. Jesus represents God’s desire to unite himself with all of humanity, becoming one of us that we might choose to partake in him.
The triune God of agape love dreams of children who come out of that love, exist within that love and participate with that love. There is something about love that desires to be expanded, like how a couple in love naturally seek to birth a child and raise him/her up in love. God’s plan is for us (those who surrender to the lordship of Christ, our eldest brother, and therefore are unified in one Spirit, calling, destiny, and DNA) to be a family, not a room full of individuals. This is reality, that our spiritual family bonds to one another go as deep and even deeper than our physical family bonds. We really are “brothers and sisters”!
We are called to intentionally align our thinking and acting to reflect this reality of our heavenly family as described in Scripture, partnering with God to see how he sees. This is especially crucial for those of us saturated with an individualistic culture like the United States of America, and for those of us with deep wounds from our physical or church family.
In Matthew, Jesus goes against the cultural norms of his day by prioritizing this spiritual family over his physical family.
Matthew 12:46-50 – 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.”
Jesus demonstrated that his first allegiance is to the family of God. In the same way, our allegiance to our heavenly family ought to be greater than our allegiance to our earthly family, not neglecting either if possible.
Lastly, let us acknowledge the good that we may have inherited from our spiritual and physical families and partner with Jesus, and, as the Spirit leads, receive healing for the junk inherited. When we surrender our life to Christ, he has “rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Col 1:13), and spiritually our inheritance in the heavenly realm is that we are blessed “with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Eph. 1:3) What an amazing inheritance! His love becomes our love, his joy our joy, his faithfulness becomes our faithfulness etc… We get to manifest this inheritance now as we align our mind and behavior with what God says is true about us in the spiritual realm. In the spiritual realm, we are dead to sin, righteous, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, seated in Christ in heavenly places far above all principalities and powers, and part of a family. It is this spiritual inheritance that provides healing for the wounds that we have inherited from the world. The more we align our life, thoughts, and actions with what is revealed to us in Christ, the more our wounds are healed. It’s a healing process that takes time and has layers. Greg, for example, describes how the Spirit partnered with his imagination to provide another layer of healing, concerning the memory of him being outside cold. Greg began to see a picture of God comforting him in this time of pain and wounding through the image of Mother Mary, a tender mother with a warm blanket.
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