I have a very good friend who really does not like the phrase “God’s family.” My friend has not had a good experience with family. His own family was, to put it mildly, dysfunctional. After his parents divorced his dad wandered back toward life as a nomadic twenty year-old. Meanwhile, his mom turned into the kind of mother that only Freud could love – an Oedipal character who viewed her 10-year old son as a loyal replacement for her departed husband. My friend has wisely resisted the family dysfunction, yet he still struggles with the lingering effects of family gone wrong.
Most families go wrong, each in its own predictably unpredictable way. Even parents’ best attempts at forming a healthy family usually backfire because of the arbitrary ways humans respond. Try to be caring and children feel smothered. Let them roam freely and they feel abandoned. Model respect and love and children will pick up a perfectionist vibe and conclude imperfections are not tolerated.
Family is a real challenge. Family is the place where we long to be most safe, yet it is also where we are most vulnerable and most dangerous. And most hurt.
So maybe my friend is right to resist notions of “God’s family.” But I don’t think so. Even though a good family is mostly an elusive mirage this side of heaven, it still serves as the best image of what God offers us. It really is “good news” that God has a family and welcomes us into it.
You see, the good news is not just that there is a God and that this God cares – it is also that God welcomes us imperfect family members into his perfect family, and in doing so he heals and perfects us.
Those whom God loves and who love God back are in communion with God. To be in communion with God is akin to being in God’s family. It means you are in right relationship with God; you have full access to God’s wisdom and kindness; you have the security of God’s protection and provision.
While our earthly families are not always that great, the good news is that God’s family is perfect. God is the head of this heavenly household and he doesn’t allow abuse, neglect, hate, injustice, or any of the other dysfunctions that too often plague our earthly relationships. In fact, God has a name for those dysfunctions: sin.
The good news is that God hates sin and the hurt it causes. While he allows imperfect sinners into his family, he doesn’t allow sin to be part of the family dynamic. This really is good news, because if you’re looking for safety from the destruction and despair of sin, then you’re looking for God’s family. If you’re looking for relationships that fully accept you while simultaneously bringing out the best from you, then you’re looking for a family only God can create.
Christians even have special name for life as part of God’s family: heaven. The good news is that God’s family is safe because everyone in God’s family loves each other and honors God as the head of the family. Every member of the family honors God and respects him by obeying his household rules, and his rules create a truly perfect family.
By the way, when we talk about God’s family being “perfect,” don’t imagine some kind of Stepford Wives plastic perfection. That’s actually the worst kind of imperfection: pretense. In God’s family, there is authentic, awesomely real perfection that not only makes room for a person like you, but also wouldn’t be complete without you.
My friend from the dysfunctional family now has a family of his own. He didn’t learn how to be a good husband and parent from his earthly dysfunctional dad, but from a heavenly Father who showed him a better way. By all accounts, he’s a great dad who loves and is loyal to his wife and children. While his family is not perfect, he does his very best to be a wise father who partners with his wife to create a safe, nurturing environment where his children can grow, discover, make mistakes and recover from mistakes. The good news is that God is this same kind of Father and he welcomes you into his family.