There is no doubt about it, there are a lot of lonely people in this world. Whether people are missing a loved one, have lost one, or haven’t found one; the ache of being alone can be overwhelming. Our God, in His infinite wisdom, knew it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone, so He created a marriage covenant for him with the perfect partner, Eve.
God had a plan when He put Adam and Eve together in the Garden of Eden. He intended for family members to belong to each other, and to support, discipline, teach, and learn from each other. In our family relationships, we can feel accepted, despite our faults. Family members love each other enough to point out one another’s mistakes for the purpose of correction.
There are other kinds of loneliness, however, that strike at the human condition. There is an isolation that comes with a guilty conscience and low self-esteem. We can feel like outsiders when we desire to be accepted and welcomed by others, and yet don’t seem to fit in. When we see that we haven’t lived up to the expectations of others, we may turn inward to the consolation of our own dark thoughts. These troubles are, of course, only compounded when we realize that sin permeates our entire condition. It is God from Whom we are separated in our natural state, and no earthly relationship can replace or fill the void of being estranged from one’s Maker.
There is a very good reason why we call our fellow church members our church “family,” and our place of worship the “house” of God. While our relationship with our parents and siblings is a bond of blood relation by heredity, our relationship with church members is a binding together with the blood of Christ. God has adopted us, through His Son Jesus Christ, into His family. For “a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families” (Psalm 68:5-6).
Our church family has purposes and benefits very similar to those of our earthly families. Just as we feel welcome in our own homes, so we feel welcome and should be welcoming when it comes to members of our church home, despite the faults and foibles we all have. There is a oneness or communion, a feeling of belonging when gathered together with like-minded Christians. We love one another, and we tolerate a variety of opinions on the external matters of the world, because we share the same internal beliefs in Jesus Christ and His infallible Word (1 Corinthians 1:10).
It is also an important function of our fellowship to help and encourage each other on our path to heaven. We counted on our siblings, when growing up, to tell us what was and wasn’t acceptable. We needed an older brother to tell us to “knock it off,” or a sister to tell us to “straighten out.” What kind of “siblings” would our church family be if they didn’t love us enough to correct our wrong behavior? Seeing a fellow Christian following after poor advice or false doctrine isn’t something a brother or sister in Christ can simply overlook. This requires a loving rebuke, or correction. When done and received in love, both parties can grow spiritually from the experience.
We all need love and correction. We all enjoy acceptance and belonging. Our earthly families provide these blessings. Our church family provides these and so much more—the blessing of forgiveness in the blood of our elder Brother, Jesus, and the promise of eternal life in the house of the Lord forever.
David W. Bernthal is the principal of Luther Memorial School in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.