One For the Family

ARCHIE was a stray. We have no idea about his life before he came to us, except that it must have been difficult. He was thin, balding, nervous with people and manically aggressive towards other dogs.

For the first few months we were the scourge of the neighbourhood, as we towed around our mangy fiend who snarled and lunged at every other dog we came across. But gradually he transformed into the good-natured hearth-rug we now know and love. Why the transformation?

Dogs are social animals. In the wild they live together, they have a strong loyalty to the pack and a sense of their place in it. What Archie needed was the security of knowing that he belonged.

Belonging

People are very like dogs in this respect. We’re social animals. Some are more sociable than others. But we were designed to live in company, and God’s dealings with people have always taken this into account. At first He dealt with families—Noah and Abraham for example. Then Abraham’s family became the nation of Israel. The worship and service of God was a communal activity, which centred on the Temple and involved gatherings and feasts. God never made allowance for people going away from the nation or worshipping on their own terms. Then we come to the New Testament of the Bible which deals with the time of Jesus Christ and his followers, and again we see a tight-knit community, centred around the teaching of Jesus and characterised by mutual love:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34–35).

Much of the teaching of Jesus and his apostles was on this theme. For example, in 1 Corinthians 12 the Apostle Paul paints a picture of the community of believers as a human body. Christ is the head, and they are all body-parts—some are hands, some are feet, some are eyes and ears. “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

Fellowship

The special closeness that exists within the community of believers is often called ‘fellowship’. It’s more than just friendship, and it’s more than family love. The special relationship that believers enjoy with each other is due to the special relationship they each have with God:

That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3).

So to go back to Paul’s picture—there are those who are hands and those who are elbows and those who are toes, and the reason they’re connected together is that they’re part of the body which is ruled by the head (Christ).

When a person is baptised they become a child of God, they join the family of Jesus Christ, they become a part of his body.

This is expressed beautifully in a Psalm:

“A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity; but the rebellious dwell in a dry land” (Psalm 68:5–6).

How does this work in practice? All over the world there are Christadelphian meetings. Some are big, some are small, some are rich and some are poor, they have many different characters. But they are united by the ‘fellowship’ they enjoy with God and His Son Jesus Christ, and so with each other.

Sometimes fellowship is stretched. There are those who live hundreds of miles from their nearest brothers and sisters—for them, occasional meetings together are very precious. There are those who live in oppressive states where practising their religion is not allowed, and they have to devise ingenious ways to share their fellowship. There are those who are house-bound through health or circumstances. This has been the experience throughout much of the world during the coronavirus crisis, and many believers have cause to be hugely thankful for the technology of the internet that has enabled them to carry on their fellowship on-screen.

Whatever the situation, believers are encouraged in the knowledge that they are not alone. God Himself has said “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), and He has given them a family to share their faith with.

The culmination of history is described in the book of Revelation. In the last chapters we see a vision of the Kingdom of God, and the final fulfilment of God’s purpose with His people:

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people” (Revelation 21:3).

A worldwide family to share this life with, and the prospect of sharing eternity with God Himself. Are you interested?