Being immersed in a counseling ministry, I was recently pondering the concept of family therapy. Family therapy is a common strategy counselors and therapists use to help the members of a family resolve issues and restore relationships. It is a powerful activity that can’t help but please God.
The family therapy that I have been thinking about, though, is not the family therapy that I’ve just described, that most people would envision at the mention of the term. It is what happens in the local body of believers. We are the body of Christ; we are a family, and it is here that God offers His own version of family therapy. Like any family in this fallen world, there are conflicts and hurt feelings among us, but the truth remains that we are a family.
Please consider what God’s desires for families: to be a place of safety and nurture, a place to discover identity and purpose, a place to grow and learn, a place to take risks. But families are not places. They are people. We are blessed to be a part of God’s family. I would like to challenge us to use this God-given blessing to further God’s purposes and bring Him glory, to actively engage and participate in family life.
What does it look like to engage and participate in the family life of the body of Christ? There are two sides to this coin: there is the providing side and the taking side. The providers offer the benefits of family to others, to be that safe and welcoming person, to recognize and affirm gifts, to encourage in times of success and failure. The takers soak up the safety so that they can heal; they grow to become who God has created them to be; and they take the encouragement they need to persevere after experiencing failure or in challenging times.
Before you start to wonder if you are a provider or a taker, I would like to suggest that each of us needs to be both. There is a give and take to family life that makes God’s work in us and among us possible. At times, we may need a safe place to heal from abuse or simply to soak in unconditional love and acceptance after a difficult week at work. At other times, God may use us to be the one to offer unconditional love and acceptance, to listen supportively as a brother or sister pours out the pain of a bruised heart. What is so cool about God’s economy is that each side of the family coin is a place of redemption. One is not better than the other. To be needy is not to be inferior. When a provider and taker interact, both are blessed.
Family life within the body of Christ is always at the core of God’s kingdom work. September, though, is especially meaningful. September is something like January. A new school year is not unlike a new calendar year. It offers a new perspective, a fresh start—and numerous choices. As we choose among ministry options, I would encourage us to do so as members of a family. Our choices can reflect a “We’re in this together” mindset. We can encourage one another to use gifts and make choices that stretch us and reflect appropriate boundaries. We can also take risks and make less secure choices knowing that it is safe to fail. May this Fall season be a celebration of God’s work in us and through us as the family of God.