Devoted to One Another

June 21, 2008 Romans 12:10

 Gene Getz says:

            “The longer I am in the ministry and the more I encounter the devastating result of dysfunctional families, the more I am thankful for my own parents. Though they were virtually uneducated the provided a secure environment for my three brothers and two sisters. Though they made mistakes they met our families needs far more significantly than many college-educated parents do today.

As I reflect back on my childhood, I can honestly say I can’t remember a moment when I was ever concerned that my parents wouldn’t stay together. The thought never entered my mind. What a great heritage this is in view of the number of children today, even in Christian homes, who worry that either their dad or mom may have moved out when they come home from school.

Though my parents were never overly demonstrative, they were always physically affectionate toward all of us. Though we were geographically separated after I left home to attend college, we always hugged and kissed one anther when I returned home to visit. This was simply an extension of what happened when I was growing up. It was natural for me to kiss them goodnight, every night, before I went to bed.

The most significant contribution to our lives was spiritual, which is certainly not separated from the way they met our emotional and physical needs. However, they taught us the true message of Christianity. They made sure we were in Sunday school regularly and I’ll never forget Dad’s family prayers. Furthermore, I’ll always remember seeing Mom kneeling by her bed every night and praying for all of us.

Did this family environment make a difference when I became a Christian at age sixteen? Absolutely! I immediately felt at home in the family of God. The security I experience in my family immediately transferred over to my brothers and sisters in Christ. I felt accepted and loved.

Furthermore, because I trusted my parents, I immediately trusted the leaders, my spiritual parents, in the church. In addition, because I had learned to be affectionate with my family members, it was very natural for me to be affectionate with my new and larger “family.”

What a great heritage! Though I didn’t understand all of these dynamics until much later in my Christian experience, I came to realize how fortunate I really was! Moreover, of course, this has become increasingly true as interacted with people on a regular basis who do not feel secure and same among Christians because they have never felt secure and safe within the family unit.

Opening Discussion Questions

  • What was your family like when you were growing up?
  • What dreams do you have for your family now?
  • When did you first realize what it meant to be part of the family of God?

The Family of God Metaphor

When Paul told the Roman Christians to be “devoted to one another in brotherly love.” he introduced us to another powerful metaphor to illustrate the church.

Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;

Brotherly Love

  • The term I philadelphia, translated “brotherly love” (in Romans 12:10) refers to family relationships.
  • Applied to the church, Paul was referring to the love that brothers and sisters in Christ should have for one another.

Brothers

  • The term “brother” or “brothers” (the Greek word adelphos)
    • Which is in essence part of the work Philadelphia
    • The word brother(s) is used to refer to the “Christian Family” about 220 times in the New Testament (Acts 3:22; Matthew 5:22-23; Acts 2:29; 3:17)
      • The word adelphosliterally means “from the same womb”.
    • It is a family term when used in the Scriptures meaning:
  • Fellowbelievers
  • Members of God’s family’
  • Brothersand sistersin Christ
  • Members of God’s household
    • It means we have all been “born again” into God’s eternal family. We are vitally related to each other through a common heritage.

How

Ephesians 1:5He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,

  • God adopted all of us “as sons (and daughters) though Jesus Christ”.

The “Family” metaphor adds to the “Body” metaphor

  • Paul used the “body” metaphor (discussed in detail last week) to illustrate that Christians are “members of one another.”
    • It serves as a beautiful illustration to demonstrate how the church functions.
    • Every Believer is necessary and vitally import in God’s plan.

However, as will all analogies the “human body” can go only so far in describing reality.

  • The “family” as God designed it to function, gives us an even greater appreciation of what a healthy church should be.
    • This metaphor adds a dimension of warmth, tenderness, concern and loyalty, in short, human emotion and devotion.

Put another way the body” metaphor, is used to illustrate the necessity of every member’s participation in the church.

However, when Paul used the family” metaphor, he was illustrating relational Christianity.

Practical Steps for Developing Family Relationships

  • Showing affection and love to other Christians and treating them as brothers and sisters in Christ does not happen automatically.
  • If it were automatic, we would not have so many exhortations to do so.


Step 1        .

Our first step must be to takeseriously, what the Bible says about brotherly love.

  • Study carefully the following addition exhortations.

Ask God to help you apply them in your life knowing this is part of walking in His will

1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. However, we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,

Hebrews 13:1-3 Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.

1 Peter 1:22-23 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

1 Peter 3:8-9 To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.

2 Peter 1:5-7 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

Step 2        .

Evaluate your attitudesand actionstoward other member of our “Christian family.”

  • To what extent do you experience emotion and affection toward each fellow Christian?
  • Note that Paul, in the context in which he exhorted Christian to “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love,” also exhorted that we “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “mourn with those who mourn”

Romans 12:15Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

This, of course, involved emotion: deep feelings of joy as well as deep feeling of sadness.

Some Christians find it difficult to identify with other believers at the “feeling” level. There are reasons for this. And every Christian who finds it difficult to express emotion toward others should examine his life carefully, seeking to break the logjam that hold him back.

Consider the following questions:

  1. Do I fear rejection?
  2. Some individuals have been so deeply hurt by others they are afraid to express their feelings.
    • They are not willing to take a change on being hurt again.
    • This, of course, is no excuse for not reaching out to others.
    • We must work toward a mature perspective on human relationships.
    • Christians must be vulnerable.
    • Furthermore, most Christians to whom we reach out will not let us down.
    • Don’t let a bad experience rob you of God’s best.
    • Act on what you know to be the right thing to do.

Example:  Nancy had been rejected by her father. Nothing she did seemed to please him, especially when she couldn’t maintain a “B” average in high school. She withdrew from making further attempts to win his approval. This attitude carried over into her adult life. She seemed continually withdrawn. She couldn’t risk the chance of being rejected again, so she never attempted those creative activities that would win recognition.

  1. Have I had a poor family background?
    1. Some people grow up in home where physical affection and love toward other family members are seldom or perhaps never expressed.

For example, Mary grew up in a home where her family rarely demonstrated affection. This does not mean they did not love each other. They just did not show it outwardly or with emotion. Her husband Bill’s experience was just the opposite. Consequently, he has always found it easy to physically express affection to others. Mary, however, had to learn this process, as an adult, which was often difficult, but she had done well. But, of course, it took time.

  • When people have been taught by example and practice to keep their feelings inside and never to express them, this attitude usually carries over in dealing with members of the family of God. It takes time to reverse such behavioral patterns.
  • Some Christians also have difficulty expressing emotions to God because of negative experience in the home, particularly with an earthly father.
  • These emotions are very easily transferred to the Heavenly Father, as well as to other member of the body of Christ.

Gene Getz remembers attempting to lead a young woman to Christ. She knew she had sinned and needed a Savior. Consequently, I asked her to pray to God and to invite Jesus Christ to come into her heart and life. I began praying asking her to repeat after me. “Heavenly Father,” I said and then paused. There was no response. I thought she misunderstood, so I repeated the opening thought, “Heavenly Father.” Again, I paused and again there was there was silence.

I then asked this young woman if there was something wrong. “Yes,” she replied. “I can’t use that word,” meaning the word “father.” She then went on to explain that her earthly father has sexually abuse her as a young child.

I quickly changed my opening word to “O God.” She has not problem verbalizing these words, and we continued from there.

How sad! But how true! How we function as earthly father s form our children’s view of their Heavenly Father. This is an awesome reality.

  1. Am I basically angry and resentful?

Some Christians are controlled by deep felling of anger and resentment toward other people. They find it very difficult to express positive emotions even toward fellow Christians.

  1. Do I spend most of my time thinking about myself?
  2. Some Christians are very selfish and self-centered.
  3. They thing only about themselves they could not care less about their brothers and sisters in Christ.
  4. Naturally, they find it difficult to express “brotherly love.”

This selfish attitude is often expressed in their prayers.

Larry discovered how often he pleaded with God to give him things. Almost every prayer centered on Larry’s desires for himself. Fortunately, he noticed how others in the church spent considerable time praying for those with greater needs. He decided to put others on the top of his prayer list. Life soon took on new meanings.

If you identify with any of the difficulties above, seek help from a counselor or mature member of the body of Christ.

Step 3        .

Take steps to begin to actimmediatelyon what you know to be God’s will.

  • For example, if you have difficulty telling a fellow Christian that you love him, begin to act on what you know is the right thing to do.
  • Do not wait until you feel like it!
  • Start by doing something that is that is not overly threatening emotionally:, like
  • Sharing a gift with that person
  • A note of appreciation
  • An invitation to dinner.
  • Frequently, feeling begin to follow actions, particularly when we are emotionally rewarded, and appreciated for our acts of kindness.
  • Expressing love in a tangible way will help you to eventually develop feeling of live that you can share verbally.
  • If you have been deeply hurt and frustrated, do not allow yourself to withdraw.
  • You will only become more disillusioned.
  • Your problems will get worse.
  • Most people interpret someone with reserved behavior as someone who needs little love or attention.
  • Worse yet, they think such a person really does not want to be involved with other people.
  • As a result, the persons who withdraw quickly become isolated from those who could offer the greatest help.

Conclusion

There is an old song we used to sing years ago called the "Family of God."

You will notice we say brother and sister ‘round here –

It is because we are a family and these folks are so dear.

When one has heartache, we share that tears

And rejoice in each vict’ry in this family so dear.

From the door of an orph’nage to the house of the king,

No longer an outcast, a new song I sing.

From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong,

I’m not worth to be here, but praise God, I belong.

Chorus:

I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God;

I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleanse by the blood;

Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,

For I’m part of the family, the family of God.

Discussion Questions

  1. What would a church look like that truly functions as the family of God?
    In what ways have you seen our church faction as the family of God?
  2. Read some Scripture passages listed under Step 1 for developing family relationships in your church. If your small group were to take serious those exhortations, how would it impact this group? How might it impact the church?
    1. Answer the following questions regarding feelings of rejection:
  3. How does fear of rejection hinder someone from “being devoted to one another”?
  4. How can a person overcome the fear of rejection?
  5. How can other help someone who rears rejection?
  6. What might indicate that a person is afraid of being rejected?
  7. When do you feel most at risk for being rejected?
  8. What does your prayer life say about our level of concern for member of your church “family”? What are your own emotion reactions to words like “father” or “brother” or “sister”?