I preached on Sunday about “What does it mean to be the family of God?” In preparation I studied about how family language is used in the Bible; I also pondered how family language forms us. The idea of being siblings (plural) is used more than 150 times and the singular form of a sibling (often “brother”) is used more than 120 times in the New Testament.
I’ve been wondering how it would form me, form us if we really, really, really thought of each other as siblings. If my default way of thinking of you, working with you, and interreacting with you was that of a sibling.
If I saw you as my sister and my brother and I saw myself as your sister.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul tells his readers and listeners that the are “also members of his [God’s] household,built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”
Just think, we are members of the same household.
As I worked on my sermon I made a list of rules from the household I grew up in to help ground myself in this idea of “rules”:
1. “No hitting your sisters;” and as we got older I’m embarrassed to share that our parents had to institute “no hitting the driver of the car” for safe sibling driving.
2. “Take a ‘no thank you’ serving of food.” (Being normal children, we did not love everything that Mom cooked; but out of respect for Mom we could not refuse to try something she had worked hard to make. “No thank you servings” were small, but they fostered less fussing because we knew the deal.)
3. “Write thank you notes for gifts.”
4. “When you hear your dad whistle, come home or see what he wants.”
5. “Dinner as a family is important.”
These are good and reasonable rules, yes? They formed our family and created bonds and norms for interacting.
I got to thinking, what if we—this household of cross-cultural workers—had our own set of household rules? What might they be? How would it form us if we read them regularly? If they were tucked in a Bible, hung on the fridge, or placed in the bathroom?
So, I wrote seven household rules for us.
In this Cross-Cultural Workers’ “Household”
1. We are siblings. You are my sister. You are my brother. I am your sister/brother.
(We are not competitors. We are not strangers. We are not indifferent to each other. We are family.)
2. All have something to contribute and we do not rank contributions.
(What you do is not more or less valuable than what I do. And vice versa, what you do is not more or less valuable than what I do. What you do matters. What I do matters.)
3. We will speak kindly of and to each other (and hopefully in many languages, wink!)
(We do not have to agree and we can have lively discussions on important subjects, but we will “use our words” kindly.)
4. We will act out of love — love for God, love for cultural variety, love for each other.
(We will not act out of fear. Our words and actions will be fueled by love and curiosity, not fear or suspicion.)
5. We will confront each other in love.
(We will not turn a blind eye or “hope that things will get better” or wait for something to explode. When we know something is off, or questionable, or just plain wrong, out of love for everyone in this household, we will address it).
6. We will hope for the best for each other.
(Your “success” or open door does not diminish me, my hopes, or what I want to do.)
7. We are siblings. You are my sister. You are my brother. I am your sister/brother.
(This is where the household of God begins and ends: in relationship, in remembering who we are, in remembering whose we are, in thinking correctly of ourselves and others.)
Referring to us as “siblings” more than 150 times in the New Testament is no fluke. The authors were training Christ followers how to think of themselves and each other. I wonder what a difference it would make if we got back to using more family language in our conversations, correspondence, and even in our thoughts. It won’t magically change everything, but those sisters that I used to need the rule “not to hit the driver” when we were teens? They are still in my life. We are so, so, so different. If we weren’t sisters, I’m not sure they’d want to be my friend (kidding! Sort of). But because they are my sisters and we lived in the same household and operated under similar rules, our differences are far outweighed by our love and commitment for each other.
As I type this post to you, that is my fervent hope and prayer for us too—all of us who go in the name of Christ—that our differences are far outweighed by our love and commitment for each other.
So, rooted in relationship, I don’t want to just end this post with a final sentence, but with a sisterly blessing for you, for us.
May we see each other as siblings and may we operate under these “household rules.”
Much love to you, my siblings,
P.S. Want to print out these “Household Rules?” You can 🙂