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The Household of God

by Tim O'Hearn

A few weeks ago when my son and I went to play in the local park there was a party going on. Several of the local Chinese families were having a barbecue in the park. At one point all the adults gathered in a big circle and sang songs and played games. They were having such a good time I remember thinking, "I know nothing of your language except the laughter." On further reflection, though, I was wrong. There was a Sunday in Hong Kong when I went to the assembly of the local congregation of the church of Christ. The singing, prayers, and lessons were in Cantonese, translated into Tagalog for the Filipino half of the congregation. Since I know neither of those languages, I understood little of what was said, except the laughter, and the praise. It was clear that these brothers and sisters of mine were praising God, and enjoying it.

Among the great pleasures I have known, one of the greatest is the knowledge that I can travel almost anywhere in the United States or around the world and I will find family. It is true that I may be, as Moses said, "a stranger in a strange land." Nevertheless, I am home because the church is there, and the church is family. I may not speak the language, especially in such foreign places as California and Texas. I may not know the customs of the land. But I have never failed to understand a smile and a bow or handshake.

This should never surprise me. Paul, world traveler as he was, knew the same feeling. He had apparently never been to Colossae, but he sends extensive greetings to those who were there. (Col 4:7-18) He was, after some initial discomfort due to his past, welcomed in Jerusalem.

Paul felt a kinship to every Christian, and expected it to be true of everyone else. This is reflected in his descriptions of the church. Particularly, he speaks of Christians as a household. To Timothy he spoke of "the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth." (1 Tim 3:15)

Paul seems to have had a special kinship with the congregation in Ephesus, the Chicago of the Roman Empire. He tells them that they may have been strangers, living in the second largest city in the world, but they are now family. "So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God." (Eph 2:19) Paul did not think it strange that people who spoke a variety of languages and were from practically every corner of the world could become one household. He had probably personally seen it happen one Pentecost in Jerusalem. He had experienced it in Antioch, the third city of the empire. Now he saw it also in Ephesus.

Not only had Paul seen the kinship of believers, he also expected it to affect their behavior. We know from our own family experiences that family is special. Brothers may fight, but will stand together against outsiders. Sisters may put each other down, but don't let somebody else say the same thing. Paul expects the same loyalty among Christians. "So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith." (Gal 6:10)

It is great to be part of a household. How much better that we are in the household of God!