When my brothers and I were growing up we were felt like we were held to a different standard. We would complain to our mom or dad and say, “But Johnny can say/do/act etc…” or “But Johnny doesn’t have to…” The response was always the same, “You don’t belong to Johnny’s family. You belong to our family. Your last name means something. When you’re outside of this house you represent the Roses and McGraths.” We were held to a different standard. We were held to the standard that our parents set because we were part of their family.
As a pastor I am around Christians much of the time. I have often found many of my brothers and sisters to be mean spirited folks. It always startles me. When I see them on social media they say nasty things to one another and also to those outside the faith. Typically, it is in the name of “speaking truth.” When I see these interactions, whether in person or online, I hear my mom’s voice, “That’s not how our family acts.”
Many people in the Church bemoan the “bad reputation” that Christians have in today’s media and culture. I think it’s often because we have forgotten who we are. We have washed away the demands of our faith and the expectations of what it means to be a part of this family. We have more closely aligned with political affiliations, both left and right, as opposed to our family. Our Father has a standard for his children and we need to remember what they are.
The Apostle Paul summarizes these expectations and standards in Colossians 3:12–17,
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Colossians 3:12–17 ESV)
You probably skipped over reading the Scripture (because let’s be honest, many of us do in blogs and probably books too (who reads books anymore?)) so I am going to list them out for us:
Because we are God’s chosen ones who are holy and beloved we are to put on:
Patience — bearing with one another.
Forgiving one another as the Lord forgives us (think about the ramifications of this one!).
Above all put on love.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
Teach and admonish one another in wisdom.
Sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with thankfulness t God.
Do everything in the name of Jesus, giving thanks.
That’s quite a list. It’s hard to live that list out. We won’t do it perfectly. That doesn’t mean though that we just throw our hands up and say, “Oh well…grace.” The “one another” statements above call us to engage with our siblings and invite them to the standard of bearing the family name. As we do, we will grow in grace.
Over the next number of days, I am going to unpack each of the things in this list. Perhaps they will serve as helpful reminders for each of us and what it means to bear the family name, “Christian.”