Family and Worship Go Together Like PB and Jelly
My love for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches began at a very young age. Not being a big fan of lunch meat sandwiches (my mother’s insistence on mayo only furthered my distaste), PBJ with its wonderful mixture of savory, salty, and sweet became a mainstay of my diet. As I moved into my teen years, when it seemed like my belly was never satisfied, a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were the perfect compliment to my three meals a day. I thank God for peanut butter, for jelly, and for bread. But all the more, I thank Him for putting it in someone’s heart to bring these three delicious ingredients together into the simplest yet most delectable of foods. If I give glory to God for each part, and I find the sum is greater than the parts, then would I not glorify Him even more for the whole?
In Romans 11, Paul is marveling at the wisdom of God in bringing both Gentiles and Jews into His merciful salvation. If making Jews His people is amazing, and making Gentiles His people is amazing, how much more amazing is bringing them all into one people? He declares that no human mind could ever have imagined such a plan, and yet for God it is not merely an idea, but the history He writes. Then, in verse 36, it is as if Paul’s hand cannot hold back his praise as he declares, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” God has created all things. God sustains all things. God is the end of all things (that is, the purpose or goal to which all things are headed). Thus, God deserves the glory for all things. We rightly confess that each of us, as individuals, ought to give God glory for bringing us into the household of God. Why do we fall short of making the connection to our families, whom God has brought together, as Paul does in Ephesians 3:1-21 (particularly verses 14-15, 21)? Let’s briefly consider how our families are from Him and through him and to him.
For from him… are all families
We are created by God. Our spouses were created by God. Although we certainly play a role, by God’s grace, in the creation of our children, we still rightly attribute their creation to God (Ps. 139:14). Less frequently do we stop and consider that family is an invention of God (Gen. 2:18-24). In fact, the essence of family is derived from the nature of our trinitarian God (Eph 3:15) who from eternity was Father to the Son and who betrothed the Son to His bride from eternity past (Eph 1:4; 5:32). If I ought to glorify God because He created me, then families have DOUBLE reason to glorify God as a family. First, on account of God creating us as individuals, but also on account of His creating the institution that brings us together. The question isn’t whether or not God created families to glorify Him, but how we will worship Him.
…and through him… are all families
We would not deny that our every breath and beat of our heart is sustained by Christ, even though we may not always apprehend or live by this reality (1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:17). How is it that Christ sustains us? Hebrews 1:3 tells us that, “he upholds the universe by the word of his power”. It is the Word of Christ which sustains us both physically and spiritually. Jesus confessed, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Later, He declared that He was himself the Bread of Life.
I would venture to say that you would go to great lengths to make sure that your family has food to eat–three meals a day even. For most of us, there is never a question about IF we will eat dinner, only what and when. Even if we consider ourselves very poor cooks, we will still make something to eat, perhaps a PBJ even. It may not taste the best, but it will sustain our family. We would never say, “I don’t really know how to make very many things, and I’m worried what I make won’t turn out well, so we just won’t do dinner tonight.” Rather, we make something and, by God’s grace, our skills in the kitchen improve. The question isn’t whether or not we ought to sustain our families by God’s Word, but how we will do it.
…and to him… are all families
We are surrounded by a culture that believes that we were created by nothing, we are sustained by nothing, and we exist for nothing. We are told that there is no destination, no one, no purpose to which we are headed. This outlook sneaks into our lives and into our families.
Jesus tells us a different story. In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells his disciples the Parable of Talents. The master of a house leaves on a long journey and gives one servant five talents, another gets two, and a third gets one, each according to their ability. After a long time, the master returns to settle with each servant. The first two servants doubled their talents. Each was called a good and faithful servant. But the third servant did nothing with his talent. He was considered worthless. In Acts, when the gospel comes to a person, it is reflexive that they would bring their family to hear it or bring the gospel to their family (for example, Andrew gets Peter in John 1, Cornelius in Acts 10, Lydia or the jailer in Acts 16). For each there is an obvious connection between the family in which God has placed them and the truth of Christ that God has revealed to them.
Our families are no less the possession of God given to us for our stewardship than our wealth or our skills. God is not an unfair master. His expectations are according to the ability given to us. He loves to bring us into the joy of our master. He is also a just master, rightly judging us. As God’s mercy is revealed in our families, this reality is only enhanced. 1 Peter 2:9 tells us that we are “a people for his own possession” and that this will lead us to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness and into his marvelous light”. Our families are God’s by rights of creation and by rights of salvation; the more we perceive the great blessing of God to us through our families, the more it will lead us to worship Him. The question isn’t whether or not we ought to direct our families toward glorifying God, but how.
Decades ago, I did not think that the family that God has given to me today was possible. As I first trusted God and obeyed Him in various areas of my life, slowly but surely, He transformed me. If that was all He had done, it would have been far more than I ever deserved. He is worthy of all my praise. But He has an abundance of steadfast love and adds grace upon grace. I want my family to understand just how thankful I am to God for them. How better to show them than to worship God together with them?
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