Home Away from Home

So…it’s been six months since I last updated this blog.

Ouch.

I do wish it hadn’t been that long, but much of it couldn’t be helped. Until the end of April, I was working two jobs, one an overnight position, to support my family. Then I accepted a new job, which brought with it a transition that hasn’t yet ended. These obviously helped delay my updating this blog.

And so now my wife and I are living in Girard while I make the commute to Mentor on a daily basis. Our house is on the market, and we’re waiting for it to sell so that we can complete an anticipated relocation from a house, an area, and many people we’ve grown to love dearly over the past eight years. This led me to ponder the nature of home as it relates to being a follower of Jesus.

Being a follower of Jesus here and now can be very tricky proposition when it comes to the concept of home. The Bible makes it very clear that no follower of Jesus is ever truly home as long as we are in this world; as the apostle Paul himself put it, “to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).

Yet for Christians, it can still be very easy to feel like you’re home if you stay in one place long enough.

How can this be?

Well, having given this some thought, I’ve reached the conclusion that God has been gracious enough to provide us with a home away from home – – the church. As I pondered why my wife and I were mourning the idea of leaving our current home behind, I realized that as much as we like our house, we’re going to miss a whole lot of people, the family we have gained from being members of two different churches in the Mahoning Valley.

And so I would like to set forth three reasons for why I believe Christians can and should view the church as our home away from home:

1: Like an actual dwelling, the church has a structure established and designed by God.

If you’re into cinema or television, you can almost hear the epic swelling of the music as Jesus declares in Matthew 16:18, “and I say that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” To me, this is easily one of the grandest declarations in all of Scripture, and when the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost, the church was born and immediately placed under the leadership of the Apostles. And from these men, we learn that the church has a very real structure.

First, there is the foundation: Paul himself speaks of the church as being built on the “foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself being its cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). Next, as we read throughout the New Testament letters, we find that the Apostles understood that God gave the church not only a foundation, but also a structure comprised primarily of the following offices: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons. And then, with the supporting structure and foundation in place, God builds the rest of the structure with other Christians; as Peter puts it, every Christian, like a living stone, is being built into a spiritual house to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)

2: It is where family gathers

Matthew 12:48-50 records an instance in which Jesus’ mother and brothers desire to speak with him. When someone lets him know they’re waiting, Jesus response is “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? […] For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my mother and my sister and my brother.”

In this exchange, Jesus points us to an amazing truth: the moment we become one of his disciples, we become part of his family; more specifically, we become his brothers and sisters (Romans 8:29). When we therefore gather together as the church, we do not do so as mere friends or acquaintances; instead, we gather as brothers and sisters in an eternal family to remember our Savior’s life, hear our Father speak, and watch as our Father gives us victory after victory as we not conquer our sins but work with God to help others conquer theirs! What an adventure God has given us!

3: It’s where we grow up.

When I look back on my childhood, I remember well how my parents helped me to grow: they encouraged me when I needed it, corrected me when I did something wrong, and, when the time was right, gave me chores to contribute to the family’s wellbeing.

The church is very much like this.

When we first become a Christian, it doesn’t matter whether we’re 15 or 50, we each start out the same way: as a spiritual baby (1 Peter 2:2). Through the church, God helps us grow up by teaching us how we ought to live, correcting us when we go astray, and giving us spiritual gifts and opportunities to serve so that we can give back to the church as the church has already given to us. Through this process, we are conformed to Jesus’ likeness and come to fully experience the gift of eternal life.

So there you have it: the reasons why I think all of us should regard the church as our home away from home. The church is not a building . . . yet it still has a spiritual structure. It is not the family into which we were born, yet it is our family all the same. And through the church we grow and learn how to embrace the gift of life that God has given us. All of this is a gift from God.

And he only gives good gifts.

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