Family tends to be a very nostalgic and iconic concept wielded by marketers and screenwriters alike. Just think of the Cosby’s.
For most people in the 21st-century, however, the concept is full of baggage and grief.
Not everyone had the iconic childhood — many were abused, neglected, or just disappointed without a concrete explanation. Not every parent who parents well has a kid who makes good decisions or is in healthy relationships. Some of you had brothers or sisters who tormented you with their consistently higher achievements, or who embarrassed you every time they had a chance. Maybe worse.
Needless to say, it is risky to keep on talking about family as a primary means of illustration for the gospel.
The family of God either turns off or draws in
Not everybody is attracted to the idea of calling a close Christian friend ‘brother’. Let alone associating God himself with the dangerous concept of fatherhood. And so, God is carefully referred to as King or Lord or Redeemer; thereby avoiding associating God with your screw-up of a dad. When that happens, church becomes more of a social club or humanitarian organization than a family.
On the other hand, a gracious, intimate, and purposeful family could be exactly what you long for. Eating meals together, confessing and swiftly forgiving sin, providing for and sharing needs, listening to and learning family stories, and having Jesus as a perfect big brother sounds pretty good compared to what you grew up with.
The family of God is the eternal reality
So it doesn’t really work to call each other “associates in the kingdom” instead of “brother”. The great and amazing thing about the gospel is that instead of scrapping that which is broken, God redeems and perfects it. I just have to look at myself to remember that.
Yeah it may be scary to try to be family…again…after you have been so badly hurt. Especially to be family with people that you may have only known for a little while. You may even get hurt by your brothers and sisters in the family of God. But it is worth it all because of the Eldest Brother who “loves you and gave himself for you” (Galatians 2:20).
So how do can we possibly be civil toward one another? The Apostle Paul opened up a letter of whoop-ass to the Galatians with, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father” (1:3). Start with the grace that belongs in family.
All of us are just watching our big brother Jesus and imitating, after all.