“And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed. And when we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship; and they returned home again.” (Acts 21:5–6, AV)
In 1978 the musical group Sister Sledge recorded a song titled, “We Are Family.” The song was released in 1979 and became number 20 on Billboard magazine’s top 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of all time. Apparently, the fact that the group consisted of four sisters, family, was the thought that prompted the song. Later many attributed a broader perspective to the song, which included organizations that had close ties. It was taken as the rally song of the 1979 Pittsburg Pirates as they came from behind to win the World Series.
In this passage of Scripture, we see the mention of families. Paul was travelling to Jerusalem and on his journey, he had a layover in Tyre as the ship he was on unloaded cargo. During the seven-day layover, he met with the disciples who resided there. When it came time to depart, the disciples, their wives, and their children all came to say goodbye to Paul. It is interesting that the families were included in saying farewell.
In this passage we see two types of families and both are a blessing of the Christian life. We see the picture of earthly families and we also see the picture of heavenly families, the church. Earthy families are formed through human procreation, which includes a father, mother, and children. Our heavenly family is formed by our being born-again by the Spirit, making us members of the family of God. There are tremendous similarities between the two and they are brought together in this picture of Paul’s departure as they meet and pray together on the beach.
One of the great things we see here is love. These families came to the beach to see Paul off because of the love they had for him. He was not a member of their families through physical birth. He was one by spiritual birth. There is a special bond of love that exists between believers in Jesus Christ. It is one that is supernatural. John wrote of this special love, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him” (1 John 5:1, AV). We who have been born again have the love of God in our hearts and we are to pour out this love to others.
While we have this love in our hearts, we still live in a world in which there are many struggles. Even though there may be love in the physical family, members often struggle to show this love. Sometimes there are conflicts, and issues that cause a breakdown in the family that hinders the display of this love. Yet, this is not the way God has designed it. In most cases, when families struggle with issues, they still have a deep love for one another within and work through the issues.
Similarly, in our heavenly family, in particular in the local church, we will also often have struggles. We will have disagreements and even conflict at times. Yet, the true church is indwelt by God’s Spirit and His love. As such, true churches must and will work through the challenges, continuing to demonstrate God’s to one another.
Work at love in your physical family and in God’s family. We are family!