“Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.” The staged commercials always make me chuckle, but one day, I might actually fall, and I might not be able to get up. Something tells me I won’t be laughing then.
We’ve made it to Ephesians 6 in church, and verses 1-4 have to do with family relationships and living long on this earth. I always took “Children, obey your parents in the Lord…that you may live long on the Earth,” as a one-to-one correlation. When a kind and obedient soul lost his life too young, I wondered how to reconcile that death with God’s Word.
Wisdom grows with age–hopefully–and now I see this passage differently. I believe it can apply to a culture of care that preserves life. In a mobile society, we grow up and leave our homes, sometimes moving our immediate families thousands of miles from the extended circle of influence. We also redefine family and often devalue it. Many homes just don’t provide the environment that compels adult children to return and care for and provide for their aging parents. Who checks to see they’re okay? Who checks their medications or monitors their doctor’s appointments and makes sure they’re actually eating?
Today’s economy demands that we take certain jobs when they come along regardless of their geography. Sometimes we simply have to move across the country and away from those families. People come from broken homes, perhaps abusive homes they’ve had to escape, and they have no clue what a family should look like.
This is where the church can help. In Ephesians, Gentiles were leaving a lucrative and well-established lifestyle to accept the Gospel and become Christians. Much like the Jews who lost their own family connections and economic stability to enter the Church, they needed a community to depend on. For various reasons, people today have lost their families. Not all of them, of course, but many do not have those bonds that some take for granted, and we can fill that void.
Paul exhorted the Jewish Christians in Ephesians to welcome those Gentiles in and live in unity with them. They were no longer separate but one Body of Christ. The final chapters provide a practical view of that unity, and it looks oddly like a family. Where physical protection, emotional support, and economic security lacked, these first-century Christians filled the gap. They found a community of people who cared for one another in the way families of origin should.
I’ve been reading Autopsy of a Deceased Church by Thom Rainer. One of the key symptoms of a dying church is an inward focus, a self-centered approach to meeting our own needs and keeping our church community comfortable for us instead of looking for ways to welcome in those around us. People in need of a family should find that family in the walls of our churches, and in our every day lives. At work or at play, we can welcome them into our lives. When they fall, we can help them get up, and we can all live long and prosper.
…and that’s the view from My Front Porch.