Through the centuries, the Body of Christ has not always gotten along. We know this is true because correction for the church’s poor relational behavior began in the book of Acts and continued through the book of Revelation. We Christians, though saved through the blood of Jesus, need to know how to relate. If left unchecked, our imperfect bodies and minds will incline toward offense and selfishness. We need guidance…and that first comes by understanding that we’re family.
Adoption into God’s Family
When we were born again, we were adopted into God’s family and made His children (Ephesians 1:5, John 1:12-13, 1 John 3:1-2). God became our spiritual Father. Then we received all the rights and privileges that a daughter or son of God would enjoy. This includes forgiveness of sins, a home in heaven, and an abundance of His goodness while we’re here on the earth (Psalm 103:1-5). It’s an adoption greater than any other earthly adoption could provide.
So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15, NLT).
But the adoption facts don’t stop there. God became our Father, but we also gained spiritual siblings. God’s DNA resides in everyone who makes Jesus the Lord of their lives, making us related. Every Christian on the planet is a brother and sister in Christ!
Now you are no longer strangers to God and foreigners to heaven, but you are members of God’s very own family, citizens of God’s country, and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian (Ephesians 2:19, TLB).
Unfortunately, the average family on earth struggles to live in harmony with each other. Children rebel against their parents and fight with their siblings. Parents neglect one another and divorce because they can’t get along. Feuds begin when family members feel mistreated and never speak to each other again. While this may be typical of some families, God intends for His family to operate quite the opposite. He calls us to walk in love—the same love that we receive from Him each day. From the beginning, His love inspired Him to adopt us into His family (1 John 3:1-2). His love continues to minister to us on our good and bad days. In turn, He expects us to love each other as He loves us, no matter how we feel. It’s not a suggestion but a commandment.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35, NKJV).
This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you (John 15:12, NKJV).
Acting on these verses may seem impossible, considering our imperfections and how people have treated us. But it’s possible because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). God knew we couldn’t love each other without His help. Only His nature inside us makes it possible to love like He does (Galatians 5:22-23). We are containers of God’s love.
Loving God’s Family
What does God’s love toward our brothers and sisters in Christ look like? It looks like God’s love toward us through His Son Jesus. It’s sacrificial and does only good (Galatians 6:10, John 15:13, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). It’s so serious to God that being in full-time ministry, flowing in the spiritual gifts, and having mountain-moving faith doesn’t mean much if we don’t love His family members.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, NKJV).
It’s sobering, but how we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ is how we treat Jesus. We see this clearly when Jesus asked Saul on the road to Damascus, “Why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4) Saul thought he was persecuting and killing Christians when every ugly action was also toward Jesus. Jesus also emphasized this in the parable in Matthew 25:37-40: “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”
We love to think about how sharing, speaking kindly, and forgiving each other is equivalent to doing it to Jesus. But the opposite is also true. Each time we bicker and fight, hold a grudge or speak harshly, we are doing it to Jesus. I’m sure our actions would drastically change or improve if we remembered this each time we interacted with our spiritual siblings.
According to God’s Word, we are to love Jesus—from our hearts, souls, and minds. Every part of us should be engaged. Then comes one more challenging command: love those around us as we would love ourselves. Again, it’s not a suggestion from heaven; it’s a command and the foundation of God’s Word.
But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:34-40).
This could be overwhelming. But, again, God gave us the tools to make it happen. His Holy Spirit and His Word are both available to enable us. The Holy Spirit will empower us to act according to God’s nature and alert us when the devil tempts us to be unloving. His Word will instruct us in the process and guide us when we’re unsure about what to do. We will never lack in assistance!
God’s Will in His Family
One day we will all be together in heaven, all getting along. There will be no strife, hurt feelings, or bitter actions. There will be only love and unity in God’s presence. Only God’s will is done there, and God wants that same will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). He wants our relationships to be heavenly, reflecting His nature, not ours. As good stewards of our God-given family, we should daily submit ourselves to that will and act like we’re family with God as our Father.
“His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord’” (Matthew 25:23, NKJV).
Our spiritual family won’t be perfect, but we should never be dysfunctional like the world. When the world looks at us, they should see siblings walking in love, no matter what church we attend, what doctrine we believe in, or what nationality we may belong to. Yes, there are times when we must disconnect because of extreme doctrinal disagreements, hurtful experiences, or others’ sinful actions. But it doesn’t mean we should stop loving from hearts led by Jesus. Our job is to resolve all conflicts to the best of our ability while keeping our hearts pure. From then on, our thoughts and actions toward our brothers or sisters should be approved by the One who gave us the love in the first place (Romans 12:18). We are, after all, family.