What does your family mean to you? For some it brings happy memories and for others distress and turmoil. Families are important to God. Psalm 68:6 says, ‘God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.’ Most of us need to be surrounded by ‘family’ to flourish and without people who love and care for us, life can be a battle.
I have often said that the Bible is about relationships. In today’s gospel reading, when challenged about the validity of divorce, Jesus reiterates his belief in Genesis 1:27, that a man and a woman are designed to join together as one. Sadly, in today’s age many people who start down that road of marriage do not find the fairy-tale ending, but rather pain, distress and discontent. The current (ABS) divorce statistics suggest that 43% of marriages end in separation and breakdown in the first 30 years of marriage.
This is not God’s heart for us. I am not saying that there are not valid grounds for divorce – and sometimes the differences are irreconcilable. But God has designed us to be in relationships and broken relationships contradict the foundations of our existence. God is a relational God. The Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the perfect model of an intimate and flexible relationship. Genesis 1 tells us that we are made in God’s image – we have an eternal spirit; we have free will; we are creative and we are made for relationships, with God and with each other. This is a key to the gospel message; we were made for intimate relationships with God; but through our sin we are separated from God and have no way to restore that relationship without accepting what Jesus did on our behalf. When we accept God reconciliation plan, then we are restored into the family of God as brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:12).
We have been brought out of despair and desolation to a place of honour (glory)…restored and given a renewed sense of purpose. God is the God of second chances. When we marry God wants us to make every effort to stay committed to each other for life; but when we find our lives torn apart by relational break downs – God is there to draw us into his arms and hold us tight and help us rebuild our lives. Without an opportunity to forgive and be forgiven we would be carrying around burdens that are almost impossible to bear. But Jesus invites us to hand over the burdens (Matthew 11:30) because he is willing and able to carry them for us.
It’s not a coincidence that God has created a family that we call church! We are all in the same boat: all rescued sinners who have found a second chance. We are all reflections of the creator who has made us and has given us the gifts to build each other up. Christ has made us new and given us a purpose – to be bearers of the good news of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The underlying message of the church is to preach (and live) reconciliation – with God with others, to see others through God’s eyes and desire God’s best for them. Sometimes this means putting the needs of others above your own. But then, isn’t that what Jesus did? And we, as followers of Jesus should expect to do nothing less. That’s what it means to be (God’s) family.