There is a ladies Bible study at my church that meets on Thursday mornings. We are going through the book of Colossians right now. I am so excited to be a part of this group again since my last time to participate was before Jesse was born. Four years later it is the same familiar faces I love. Most of the women are seasoned in life, veterans who have been walking with the Lord before I was even born. They have so much wisdom among them, I just sit there soaking it in.
I look around the table at all of us, about a dozen or so, and take in their smiles, laughter, and love for one another. It is a privilege to be a part of this group. I start thinking, “This is my family. These are my sisters. We are a sisterhood of believers.” Have you ever thought about that? The people you will spend eternity with? It hits me that those who have put their faith and hope in Jesus are more family to me than actual blood relatives.
I think about the thousands of Christians who have gone before me, and the thousands now who love Jesus like I do. Some personalities may not jive, there may be vast differences in culture, language, interests, hobbies, and talents, but the one thing that binds us forever is Jesus the Messiah, our Redeemer and Savior to poor, wandering lost sheep. Followers and lovers of Christ all share the same heart. We are beautifully intertwined into His Church, the Body. We get to be included, all of us, grafted in for all eternity.
When we get to heaven we will see in panoramic view the dynamic, colorful, joyful true family that we really belong to. Haitians, Chinese, Russians, Americans, Swedish, French, Kenyans, Indonesians and so much more will grace the gates of heaven, bowing down to the Morning Star who saved us all from certain death.
My relationship with Jesus is the most vulnerable and intimate part of me. Who knows me better than the One who created me? This is where our hearts connect and the Spirit within us testifies when we speak of Jesus with each other. There have been moments when I am expressing my love for Christ, or talking through a specific passage in Scripture, or remembering a sermon we both heard with a sister of faith and I get so excited because we can share our deepest passion: Jesus. She gets it, because she too has experienced the wonderful salvation of the Lord. We are forever unified, because: “There is one body, one Spirit- just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call- one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6 ESV).
Brothers and sisters, we are the church in which God is using in 2015. We are the ones who carry out the work and love of Christ “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 ESV). We are His witnesses. We are the hands, the feet, the mouth, the eye, the big toe meant to preach the life-saving, life-giving Gospel to those without hope. I know what the admonitions are to reach the perishing, but do I treat my eternal family members as if they are truly my family?
Acts 2 takes place at Pentecost. After Peter’s sermon to the crowd the Bible records 3,000 were added to the number of believers. The next passage is simply wonderful. It says all the Christians lived in harmony with each other, “with glad and sincere hearts” (2:46 NIV) and worshipped the Lord together. It sounds like heaven to me. I imagine this as a little peek into our eternal home with one another, living in glory with King Jesus. It fills me with eager anticipation.
Our first century brothers and sisters in Christ were not selfish with their time or possessions, and freely gave to anyone who had a need. They studied the Scriptures together, ate dinner in each other’s homes, prayed with one another, loved, served, fellowshipped, and praised our Heavenly Father- side by side. What if we did more of this? Do we do this? I think this kind of community living is harder today given that we are further spread apart geographically, and we each have our own little worlds to live in that demand much of our time, schedules to follow, meetings to attend. But we can strive for it anyway. It has to be intentional. In our local churches, in weekly small groups, in non-denominational Bible studies we can and should pursue Christ together.
As I ponder what exactly joy and grace look like I begin to realize that those things can be experienced in the body of Christ. As family, we can extend grace upon grace to one another and allow the joy of the Lord to take root when we realize we do not have to walk this Christian life alone. It’s hard enough as it is. I may not know you personally, but if you have placed your faith in the One I love then you are a part of me and I am a part of you. I also care for you because you are my brother or sister. We will see each other someday. We may share a meal or sing praises in heaven together.
These are the people we will enjoy heaven with- forever. But that isn’t even the best part. We will not have our flesh in sin to compete with the Spirit who dwells in us. No more misunderstandings or hurt feelings or wrongdoings. The imperfect community experienced on earth that is marred with broken, sinful vessels will one day all be restored to perfect communion. I cannot wait to worship with you, my brothers and sisters, to be alongside Paul, Ezekiel, Ruth, Moses, John the Baptist, Hannah, Stephen, Charles Spurgeon, Elisabeth Elliot, C.S. Lewis, and the myriad of saints that we can call family. Imagine all the interesting conversations we will have! When we are finally home together leaving this world behind, arm in arm, hand in hand, all of us will delight in the presence of Christ together, because we are family eternally.
Grace upon grace,