THE MEANING OF FAMILY
There are two different ways to use the term “family.” The first describes the enduring and eternal relationship Christians have with one another because of our adoption by God as children. In this relationship, we are called brothers and sisters by our Lord Jesus Christ, all of us co-heirs looking forward to a future in God’s presence. The second way is to speak of a societal unit related by blood or adoption, usually made up of father, mother, children, and relatives.
FAMILY THROUGH UNION IN CHRIST
The Bible speaks of God’s people being son or daughter, mother or father, sister or brother. In a letter that is full of family relationships, Paul instructs Timothy to “not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2). In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ … ” (Romans 8:16-17).
These verses capture the essence of how we are related to one another through our union with Christ. Faith in Christ, in His full obedience and completed work, means that we share in what the Father has promised us through the Son. In contrast to this Christ-union family, Jesus warned that family members (blood relatives) may deliver one another over to death, and we may be hated by all for Jesus’ sake (Matthew 10:21-22), yet Christ assures us that He was hated before we were.
Since our first allegiance is to Christ Jesus, we care for members of His family. The ties of Christ’s blood-bought family are stronger and more enduring than earthly family.
FAMILY BY MARRIAGE, BIRTH, ADOPTION
The second way to talk about family is to speak of that social unit made up of children and parents.
This is the priority relationship each of us participates in as long as we have living relatives. In the Ten Commandments, we are directed to “honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). In the book of Hebrews, we find the instruction, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4).
Scripture leaves no doubt that men and women are to care for their relatives, and if “anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8). In God’s economy, the unbelieving spouse of a believer is made holy through the marriage relationship that is shared, thus the children of a believing parent are declared holy (clean, set apart). Paul asks, “how do you know whether you will save your wife/husband?” (1 Corinthians 7:12-16).
God declares the blood family relationship to be essential, and He instructs us through Moses, saying that parents are to diligently teach love for God and obedience to all His words and commands (Deuteronomy 6:4-13).
FUN ACTIVITIES, COMMUNICATION, AND GROWTH
What activities come to mind when you think of families being together? Even if your childhood did not provide a healthy example, consider that God has adopted you into His family so you can eat food, watch movies, and play games together! Kitchens, yards, parks, gardens, campgrounds, beaches, mountains, and living rooms have the potential to be great places for OCF “family” fellowship. Get together and learn to have fun with others.
Pay attention to the needs, hurts, and concerns of others, and look for an opportunity to help. Mothers and fathers who don’t have a spouse at home may be blessed by having another adult come alongside their children to play, tutor, or reinforce truth. Finally and importantly, do Sunday worship together, whether every week or by joining one another on special occasions.
When you go TDY/TAD, tell the OCF body at your temporary location about how your OCF family “back home” is doing, and then tell your local family back home how brothers and sisters are doing in the locations you just visited. These are great opportunities to see the bigger picture of Christian evangelism and discipleship.
You can be the initiator of relationship building that connects diverse Christian ministries together by first meeting the various leaders and then introducing them to one another (some may have already met). OCF members, especially our leaders, should not see relationships as “belonging” to them or to OCF.
We trust that God uses the skills of each ministry to serve the larger military community and the church. We are blessed to have organizations like ACCTS, Club Beyond, Cru Military, Navigators, Planting Roots, Valor, etc., alongside OCF. The sheep of Christ’s church really belong to Him—not to any organization or ministry.
When you are in forward/deployed areas, you can help the resilience of others (single and married) by reminding one another to stay in good communication with home, to support one another in daily devotional habits, to grow in faith while deployed, and to attend worship together. It really helps when you, the OCF member, adopt the attitude that “my first area of ministry” is to those within military society.
When we experience personal trials, especially ones that cut us to the quick, our heart’s response will help show us, and others, what we value and worship. If ugly responses flow out of our mouth, or even into our mind, God is giving us a glimpse of where He needs to be invited to change us.
The Holy Spirit already dwells within every believer in Christ, so ask Him to do some surgical work! Christ’s completed work is applied to us as we confess our sin and our need for change, we repent and seek forgiveness, and we rest in the confidence that Christ’s righteousness is applied to our account. Share what is going on with a brother, sister, father, or mother, and allow them to walk with you through life.
THE NEXT GENERATION
Do your best to impact all ages, because the day is coming when you will be older than those now serving. Train the generation that is coming along behind you. Rejoice in any diversity that leads to a more beautiful expression of the gospel. Christ has reconciled the world (people from every nation and language) to Himself, and He has given us the responsibility to be His messengers of reconciliation. Because God placed all our sin on Christ, and gave all of Christ’s righteousness to us, we can be effective ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-21).
Honor one another, submitting to Christ so that His body will have joints and ligaments knitting it together (Colossians 2:19; Ephesians 4:15-16). Maturing family ties require personal fellowship and immediate proximity to others where we connect in person and express right relationships that glorify God.