Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Church Family Business

At 9:00 a.m. I was voter #30 in the primary election. The election judges were chatting and "bonding" as one of them said. They'll be there until 8:00 tonight. Not a real busy day. It'll be different in November.

One of the judges made a link between my sermon last Sunday and what was going on there at city hall. On the cover of that bulletin we had a cute picture of a girl and her parents, holding hands at the dinner table with Matthew 18:20 quoted there, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." It's good to work on "relationships." It's good to learn to get along.

There is, however, a difference between chatting with acquaintances over coffee or having dinner with your family and what Matthew 18 is talking about. Jesus concern here isn't just for friendly relations with our "fellow man." Though Romans 12:18 tells us to "live peaceably with all" as much as we can, the main concern is for the health of the church.

In Matthew 18 and in other places, New Revised Standard version of the Bible uses "member of the church" when the original uses the Greek word for "brother." It's a fair translation because "brother" in the New Testament doesn't just mean a blood or adopted sibling. Nor does it mean simply other people in general. It means someone who has also had a new birth and therefore is part of a new family. That "new family" is called the "church."

The church family has important business to do. We go out into the world to serve in our community, for example, as election judges. We serve in our families and in our workplaces. But once we are born again, the church is our home, not the church "building," but the assembly of God's people. And, as a church, we do God's work in Jesus' name.
If you do something in Jesus’ name it means that you do it with the authority He gave you and not on your own authority, and that you act within the limits of your authorization, whatever those limits may be. You act as His agent, in His stead, to His credit and for His benefit. You have no benefit from your deeds except His thanks and whatever reward He chooses to give you. (Ken Collins)
And because what we do in the "church" is done in Jesus' name, the church family relationships are especially important. Our unity is one way that people in general are convinced that we are connected with Jesus (John 17:23). When we are fighting with each other, our witness to Jesus is compromised and the lost are not found with Jesus' tender love. That's why Jesus focuses on church family relationships in Matthew 18. Working things through and forgiving each other needs to be done so we can do the work God has called us to, to seek and save the lost.

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