Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,

How are we travelling as the family of God?

If you have been listening to some of the worldwide effects of the pandemic, one of these has been the marked increase in domestic violence, in many, if not all, countries. That is, abuse and violence in family homes has hugely increased as people have been forced to spend much more time together because of quarantine laws, and the cessation of other activities such as work and study. Interestingly, the institutions who care for victims or respond to domestic violence fully expected this to be the case: it is simply a function of who we are as human beings and our tendency to selfishness, hatred, anger, abuse and violence.

Here is the truth: the closer people are forced to be together, the more likely that their true selves will be exposed. James 4:1 asks: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” Hence in our marriages, when two sinners must, of necessity, live very near to one another, we soon learn the true essence of that other person. And it is far from pretty! Only by God’s grace can a married couple learn to love one another truly, draw near to one another, graciously help one another in humble submission to Christ and His gospel truth. This is costly, and it reflects that marvellous love, mercy and grace which God shows to us in Christ Jesus in all our lives.

So how are we doing?

Brethren, consider your own personal marriages and families. Is this time advantageous to us, and are we learning to appreciate the gifts and graces that God has given to each other? Are we learning more of the sins and failings of each other, and this causes our hearts to enlarge in care and mercy? That when we see others fail, it causes our hearts to melt for them, and we draw nearer to them, to comfort, strengthen and edify them? That we walk more closely, pray more carefully, seek to build up and encourage, and be a true friend and counsellor to them? Do we humbly accept the counsel and admonitions of others as they seek to help us as struggling saints? Do we reflect our Saviour who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities, and is always present in powerful love and heart-felt care?

But let’s take it wider. Our God has carefully placed us into a wider family. Scripture tells us that we have been built into a living temple, a living body, and that we are intimately connected to all the other members of that body of Christ. It is the local church where this comes to its highest and most intimate expression in this life. We are not only there, but we have an absolute need of one another (I Corinthians 12). Just as COVID-19 has forced some to be in more intimate, prolonged contact with certain others, so it is that Jesus Christ (wisely, perfectly, wonderfully) causes us to be in more prolonged, intimate contact with others in the church. In fact, He calls us to this for a lifetime! How is your heart responding? Is your heart melting with love and care for your brothers and sisters in this family, even as you begin to see their foibles, sins, and failings? Are we drawing near to encourage, edify, love, and comfort, OR is that natural (evil) human tendency to get annoyed, angry, pull away, abuse, and seek self, coming to the fore?

How are we travelling as the family of God?

May His grace and truth prevail!

In Christ and His love,