I had a friend of a friend ask this question of him recently. He said, “My wife and I grew up in the traditional church. But when we began having children, that just didn’t seem to work anymore. So my wife and I began our own family church, where we can teach our own children, worship together as a family and where we can grow together spiritually. It’s working for us.”
So, is a church made up of only one family, really a church?
I don’t believe it is. Here’s why:
Nearly all of us have been approached by a friend, family member or a member of our church for “a loan.” Sometimes their need is obvious, worthy and we are able to respond with real joy because generosity to the poor is so highly valued by God.
However, there are times when we are asked for help, almost immediately our guard is up. How do we know when it’s wise to help someone, or when helping actually hurts and enables the person we are being asked to assist?
Let’s start with Jesus’ words.
“Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:30-38
Choosing how to help others is not always easy. The following are a number of great questions, edited from Ronald Blue and Company, for serious followers of Jesus to ask of themselves to make better decisions in regard to helping others:
Last week I introduced the term “ant language”. If you accept my premise and explanation it will allow you to identify and faithfully hold to the core beliefs of the Christian faith which we’ll get to in this blog and enable you to articulate them to your children. It also helps explain why serious Christians who love God and have a high view of scriptures can disagree on so many doctrinal and faith practice issues.
The vast majority of Christians have believed certain core doctrines for 2,000 years, like the deity, life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Those beliefs must be held by every individual who claims to be a Christian. But who can honestly say that they truly understand the deeper mysteries of the doctrine of atonement, all the implications the resurrection for believers today, what goes on spiritually when a person is born again, baptized or when we’re taking communion?
Younger people see debates on these issues of theology where good Christians differ, not only as energy leaks, but the attitude and arrogance of the debaters themselves as sinful. It doesn’t shore up their faith. They want to run for the door. And they are. I think we can do something about that.
“When two denominations, or theologians who love God deeply and both have a high view of scripture, disagree on a doctrinal issue, the problem may be ant language.”
When I gave this answer, I was responding to a series of questions fired at me by a small group of college and post-college students I was leading through Europe, teaching the history of Christianity and biblical worldviews. We were sitting in a sidewalk café in Geneva, Switzerland, discussing Calvinism, in John Calvin’s town.
Here’s what they wanted to know; “Why is it that people who claim to love God and read the same Bible as the next person, can come to polar opposite conclusions on so many issues? That drives us younger Christians nuts. Why give your life and energy to fighting each other over theological issues instead of just loving people and introducing people to Jesus? That’s one reason kids our age are simply walking away from the church.”
If you’re interested in dialoguing with your children or grandchildren about these questions yourself, you might find the next few weeks’ blogs helpful.