Thursday
Apr282011

God's Plan for His Family

I am working on my thesis project for my D. Min. at Talbot Seminary and, guess what my topic is? Oikos.  So, you can imagine the number of good books that allude to oikos in some way, shape or form have found their way into my lit. review.  I thought I’d share one of my books. You can share one of yours either on future blogs or to my email.  The project is for the Kingdom, so help me out!

Dr. Joe Hellerman was a Prof of my at Talbot years ago and has since written a very fascinating book entitled, When the Church Was a Family: Recapturing Jesus' Vision for Authentic Christian Community. One of his key findings is stated under the heading “I am my brother’s keeper.”

Strong-group people conceive of family quite differently than modern Americans. For people in world of Jesus and Paul, family consisted of those who were related by blood—the father’s blood.  The bloodline, which marked family membership, traveled from generation to generation solely through male offspring.  This is why anthropologists call these family systems patrilineal kinship groups.

Now this isn’t a surprise, is it?  This is what the “begats” in Genesis, Matthew and Luke represent. But Dr. Hellerman goes on to build argument for the family relationship bond as being more like superglue, concluding that even marriage does little to change loyalty to one’s family.  He states it plainly, “The closest relational bond in a given generation of people in the New Testament world was not the bond between husband and a wife. It was between the bond between siblings.”

I can almost hear you saying, “Thanks, John for this tidbit on the ancient family, I’m sure I’ll be able to use it somewhere? But how does this pertaining to oikos?” So glad you asked. I’m building momentum. Dr. Hellerman concludes that. . .  

Sibling solidarity is of great significance for appreciating the community orientation of the New Testament church.  Jesus established His followers as a faith family, and practical expressions of brotherhood soon came to epitomize what it meant for the early Christians to relate to one another as Jesus had intended. Whatever else they might have been, the first followers of Jesus were preeminently a society of surrogate siblings.  

So, you that read this are my surrogate siblings and I am yours. We have chosen to leave the loyalty to the world (including our own families) to be joined to Jesus’ family. That’s what Jesus expected in His day when He said, “Come, follow Me” or “Be My disciple”(Matt. 14:26). Dr. Hellerman makes it crystal clear when he states, “The only reason you would leave one family group was to join another one.” “Jesus intentionally framed His movement in terms of family to emphasize the kind of uncompromising relational loyalty Jesus desired among His followers.”

The point is, those in our oikoses are our “potential surrogate siblings”, our potential brothers and sisters in Christ, potential members of God’s very own family. However, those He has placed in our lives to be a witness to currently have genuine loyalties to another family, the family of Satan. In Acts 13 Paul referred to a sorcerer at Paphos as “a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right.” In 2 Cor.4:4 Paul explains how Satan keeps his family together: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Today as in Jesus’ day it’s a huge decision to leave family because it requires drastically altering one’s identity. We are experienced to recognize “sin barriers” and “spiritual blindness,” but do we appreciate the resistance of switching families and change identities? Again Paul helps us understand that those in our oikos can’t discern what is truth. “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” 1 Cor. 2:14.  If switching families seems like foolishness, changing identities must seem ridiculous, unless of course the Spirit is at work.

This week I had the privilege of spending an hour with a neighbor, one of my oikos. Six months ago his wife died and he called on me several times to come and pray, even as she took her final breath. I’ll never forget the family standing around that deathbed having no hope, except that Mom had to be in a better place.  Months later, my friend is still alone and sad, tied to his family and the sweet memories of his wife.  As we talked, the Spirit gave me freedom to witness although nerves were raw and memories were vivid. But at the center of his universe he was blinded to anything but the lingering memories of his wife and family. It was clear to me that any part of my witness that was contrary to what he and his wife had valued together would naturally be met with resistance, which it was. In other words, he had no interest in joining God’s family, my family. For a moment, I must confess I felt rejected and critical of my effort. Yet representing my family, especially the Lord Jesus, was a privilege that my Father supernaturally and strategically orchestrated for me. By His Spirit He can indisputably transform this life, from darkness into light, from one family to another. So now as I interact with my neighbor the thought often comes to mind, “He’s only one decision away from becoming my brother” and I smile to think how God works in His family.

John Coddington, Upland, CA.  Currently, I am not serving in ministry but am looking forward to the next assignment. ljcod@verizon.net

Monday
Apr252011

Oikos: Your World Delivered by Tom Mercer

My wife Kimberly and I try to discipline ourselves to go out to dinner with the non-Christians in our oikos about twenty-five percent of the time. Left to our own devices, we would probably only go out with Christians. But, by making sure that one in four are non-churched or non-Christians, we bring anintentionality to our social life. The next challenge for us is to mixnon-Christians and Christians from our oikos at the same social event .what's been called a "Matthew Party." We'll see how that goes!

Glenn Gunderson

Senior Pastor

Pomona First Baptist Church

Monday
Mar212011

Going Beyond the Surface in Your Oikos

I used to work for a major electronics company that used to exist.  I workedthere back in the day where sales people were required to wear a tie and acoat.  No, not this wasn't the 1950's, this was in the mid-1990's, beforethe advent of Best Buy and the casual untrained salesperson.

This company was very serious about well trained and well groomedsalespeople.  They actually issued all employees special blazers to wear; agray one and a blue one, and required good hygiene and professionalappearance.  "Sales Counselors", as we were called, were only paid bycommission back in those days, and in those days, a man could make a lot ofmoney selling televisions.  Especially if you were a very large man, solarge that you required a special order company blazer.

Mike was such a man.  Big and tall and big in the other direction too. Friendly, knowledgeable, aggressive and crafty.  He was one of the top TVsales people in the entire company.  He could sell you and extended warrantyeven if you didn't buy a product to go with it.  Customers would spot hisfriendly frame the moment they walked in the door, and march right to himwith their wallets open, leaving us average height blazers to scavenger forwhatever potential sales were left in his wake.

I liked Mike very much.  I enjoyed working with him, even though it probablymeant I would make less money.   We worked together for 3 years at thatstore, and I thought I knew him pretty well.

One day, he asked me if I would help him move.  He had let me borrow his cara couple of times while mine was in the shop, so I figured I owed him one(or more.)  So I said "sure."

When I arrived at his house in an average neighborhood, he had a typicalgrass lawn with some low maintenance shrubbery.  But I was stunned to seewhat I saw when I walked in the door.

Squalor.

It was unbelievable.  To this day, it was the filthiest house I've ever seenin my life.  It was plain dirty.  When I say dirty, I mean literal piles ofdirt.  On the floor, in the couch, everywhere.  The house was infested withall sorts of vermin, including cats, roaches and unidentifiable critters. My thesaurus does not have a word to adequately describe the toxic andnearly visible odor.

His wife came out of the kitchen and greeted me warmly, thanking me forcoming over to help.  His kids were in the back yard playing.  I won't evendescribe the kitchen, it was worse than you can imagine.  Mike was standingnext to me, looking over his home as if he hadn't noticed it's condition,and visibly shrinking in size as he could no doubt sense by surprise andgrief.

I wanted to cry, I couldn't believe it.  I kept asking myself, "What wasgoing on in this man's life, with his family, that would lead to this kindof lifestyle at home?"  It couldn't be healthy, it wasn't livable, yet, itwas where this family resided.  I knew Mike was making nearly 6 figuresbased on commissions reports that were posted at the store to inspire therest of us.  Was he in some kind of financial trouble?  Depression? Tragedy?  What happened to this family?

I gladly and quickly helped him get his stuff out of the house.  This burdenon him and his family had been well hidden, until he and I stood in hisfront yard on a hot day in a sea of moldy, ruined furniture.  We stood therelooking at it, smelling it, and Mike, with a tear coming down his cheek,decided that most of it just needed to go to the dump.  He was right aboutthat, and that is where we moved his stuff.

Nearly every day after that, a humbled Mike thanked me for my help.  Hecould hardly thank me without breaking down.  He never said it explicitly,but I know he also was thanking me for not telling any of our otherco-workers, and thanking me for remaining his friend.

How well do you know your oikos?  These people that you work with, go tocoffee with, study with - really, do you know them?   Have you ever askedyourself why God put you in their life?   Have you ever asked God to showyou?   Truth is, many relationships today are surfacy, even within our oikosthat are supposedly "close."  But as Christ followers, we are called to loveour oikos, even when we discover something that is unlovable about them. That's how Jesus loves us - and there is something unlovable about you andme for sure.

My encouragement is to pray that God will give you courage when He takes youbeyond the surface of the life of someone in your oikos.  I think He'llanswer that prayer in ways that will amaze you if you trust Him.  You won'talways find the squalor I found, but whatever you find, you will find thatyou are the right person to be there.  God has planned it that way.   That'swhy it's your oikos.  And you have a great message of hope that isuniversal, so don't worry.

I'm sure in Mike's case, God didn't put me there only to help him move. After that day, I made sure that Mike knew I was a Christ follower.  Iwasn't sure if he knew that before.  I thought I was his friend before, butI don't think I truly was until I saw his home.   I invited him and hisfamily to church with me, they came a few times, and he had a lot of goodquestions.  We did a few things socially after work together and I tried tojust be his friend.

Turns out, Mike's wife was a Christian, but hadn't really trusted God muchfor a while, and Mike had been to church as a kid but struggled to acceptGod's grace.  I don't know where Mike and his family are today, or wherethey stand with their faith.  Shortly after his move, I moved to a new townand a new oikos.   I never discovered why his house was in such disarray. But today, I am praying for his oikos, whoever they are, whomever God hassurrounded him with, that they would be a blessing to him.

Who knows, maybe Mike is following Jesus and blessing those in his oikostoday?  Hope so...

Pastor Scott FurrowFirst Baptist Church of San Diegowww.twitter.com/scottfurrow