by J. Randal Matheny, editor
On Saturday night, we said goodbye to a dear young couple in the Taubaté congregation with a cookout party. Ricardo and Marilia have been a wonderful addition to the work in this city over the past three years, and we will miss their friendship. He is in the military, and is being transferred out of state. There is a chance they might return after a couple of years, and for now they are keeping the house they bought here.
Ricardo and Marilia are evangelistic. They hold an evangelistic group in their home and have been teaching others the gospel. Ricardo preaches and teaches in the church’s meetings. Marilia is a wonderful planner for activities for couples and special occasions. They have shown themselves to be earnest in their efforts, sincere and dedicated servants, and humble learners as they teach the gospel with conviction.
Christian friendship and communion have no equal in the world. This year, here in São José dos Campos, a couple was restored to the faith. Denilson had involved himself in local politics and let the world crowd out his hope of salvation. When his wife Graça was diagnosed with a massive brain tumor, they woke up to what was important in life. They and several others from São José dos Campos participated in the going-away party Saturday in Taubaté for Ricardo and Marilia, since the two congregations are close, both in distance, about 40 minutes apart, and in heart (we work with both).
As the party wore down, Denilson commented that nowhere else could the closeness and love of this spiritual family be found. The world has nothing to offer, but in Christ is acceptance and intimacy and equality.
Family language to describe God’s people permeates Scripture. It starts with God as Father. “Our Father who is in heaven.” Christ is our older brother, Hebrews 2 tell us, language which Burkitt calls “marvelous condescension.” (He also urges us to note that “though Christ calls us brethren, yet it becomes us to call him Lord.”) The family of faith takes precedence over physical ties because its great characteristic is love (Hebrews 2.10; John 13.34; 1 Peter 2.17; 1 John 3.1). Jesus set the tone of the spiritual family, by both obeying the Father’s will and defining obedience to the word of God as its family crest (Luke 8.21).
The family of God is our place of belonging where we are all “members of God’s household” (Ephesians 2.19).
As in every family, certain standards of behavior are expected, since God’s family is also “the support and bulwark of the truth” (1 Timothy 3.15). But even when those standards are betrayed and discipline must be exercised, stray family members are treated not as enemies but as brothers (2 Thessalonians 3.14-15). Every brother and sister is valued, then, even the little ones, and each must be treated with respect:
“Do not address an older man harshly but appeal to him as a father. Speak to younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters — with complete purity” (1 Timothy 5.1-2).
Before our mission team began its work in Brazil many years ago, a Christian psychologist warned us about considering one another as family. His concern, rightly so, was that we not import issues from our families of origins into our team relationships. But in another sense the counsel was counter-productive. For spiritually we were exactly that, a family, a band of brothers and sisters with a mission to establish a new community of believers whose relationships would be characterized by a wonderful intimacy and closeness that only a family can approximate.
Every church must explode the walls of its buildings to welcome every obedient person as an equal, express the joy and love and patience of Christ to one another, and fulfill the grand task of our elder Brother, of bringing many more children to glory.
This was what Denilson missed outside the body of Christ, and this is why we will miss Ricardo and Marilia when they move away.
For we are family.