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Feb 04, 2018

Family Ties That Bond

Family Ties That Bond

Passage: Colossians 4:7-18

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Colossians

Keywords: bonding, colossians 4, culture, differences, difficulties, faithfulness, family ties, grace, reactive attachment disorder

Summary:

Ever wondered how Paul and the Early Church got so bonded together? This passage in Colossians 4 gives us some powerful clues as to how to bond emotionally with the people of God.

Detail:

Family Ties That Bond

Colossians 4:7-18

February 4, 2018

INTRO:  Share with someone near you one of the following:

1.) The sibling you feel closest to in your family of origin and WHY you think that is.

2.)  The name of one of your closest life-long friends and WHAT you think made you close friends.

Kent Hughes writes in his commentary on this closing section of Colossians,

For those of us who claim the name of Christ, there are two distinct courses of life available.  One is to cultivate a small heart.  It is by far the safest way to go because it minimizes the sorrows of life.  If our ambition is to avoid the troubles of life, the formula is simple:  minimize entangling relationships, do not give yourself to people, carefully avoid elevated and noble ideals.  If we will do this, we will escape a host of afflictions.  Many people, even some who profess to be Christians, get through life with a minimum of tribulation by having small hearts.

            The other path is to cultivate a ministering heart like that of the Apostle Paul.  Open yourself to others and you will become susceptible to an index of sorrows scarcely imaginable to a shriveled heart.  Enlarge your heart and you will enlarge your potential for pain. 

            The effects of these two kinds of hearts upon those around them are drastically different.  Little hearts, though safe and protected, never contribute anything.  No one benefits from their restricted sympathies and vision.  On the other hand, large hears, though vulnerable, also know the most joys and leave the greatest imprint on other hearts.

  • Cultivate deafness and we will never hear discord, but neither will we hear the glorious strains of a great symphony.
  • Cultivate blindness and we will be spared the ugly, but we will never see the beauty of a sunset or a bird on wing.

Cultivate a small heart and life may be smooth sailing, but we will never know the heady wind of the Holy Spirit in our sails, the power and exhilaration of being born along by the Spirit in accomplishing great eternal things for God. 

Cultivate a small heart, and we certainly will never have a great heart like the Apostle Paul’s. 

This closing section of Colossians is all about cultivating a large heart—a heart with room for not only God (who is infinite), but for His family, our brothers and sisters. 

            If you study the book of Acts, you will be introduced to more than 100 Christ-followers who were associated with Paul.  Acts is not only the “Acts of the Apostles”; it is the acts of the early church.  And the very first church on earth, the Jerusalem church, had hearts big enough to embrace thousands upon thousands of new Christ-followers in the first few years of their church experience. 

            If you go to the end of the book of Romans, Romans 16, you will find Paul mentioning by name 16 different dearly loved brothers and sisters in Christ.  And in this small book of Colossians, you will find 10 people, named by name in chapter 4, whom Paul wanted to make sure they all know had hearts that were bonded to God’s people. 

Q: Colossians is ALL about WHOM?  JESUS CHRIST!  It is a book designed to WOW us with His greatness.  It’s meant to WOW us with His amazing work in creation and salvation.  It’s meant to WOW us with how much family life and business life and our prayer life will be revolutionized by the supremacy of Christ… if we will allow Him to be supreme. 

            So what connection does that have with family ties that bond (not bind!)?  Just this:  if we are people cultivating a large heart for God, we will be a people with a large heart for God’s family. As John said in I John 4:7-8—“Dear friends [agapetoi], let us love [agapomen, from agapao] one another, for love [agape] comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 

            A heart that will bond with God’s family must be a heart that is constantly bonding with God.  Little bonding to the Father; little bonding to the family.  Growing love for the Father; growing love for His followers.  It’s that simple. 

            So, if you find your love for the church, God’s family on earth, growing cold, don’t try to fan it into flame by “being more loving” to the church.  Fan it into flame by crying out to God for more passion, more zeal, more love for God himself.  HE is the fountainhead of all true and sustained love for the imperfect family of God. 

NOTE:  This is why when people say, “Well, I love Jesus but I really hate the church,” they don’t have a clue what they are saying!  They are telling God, “You’re a liar!  You don’t know what you’re talking about!  I can love you, God, and be indifferent or critical or down on God’s family.”  God says that person is just deceiving themselves and calling God a liar. 

            Paul’s heart was SO filled with the self-giving, self-sacrificing love of God for SO many people because he was SO filled with the life of Christ. 

NOTE:  I can’t wait for you to see Andrew’s movie Paul, Apostle of Christ.  He’s captured, in living color, the radical transformation this man, Paul, went through.  From SO hating Christ that he loved to imprison and stone to death Christians, he became such a lover of Jesus that he endured everything from stoning to floggings to hunger, years of imprisonment, deprivation and disease because he loved Christians.  What weak love for Christ we must have to love His church so little today! 

            What do these 10 people mentioned at the end of Colossians have to teach us about HOW a SPIRITUAL FAMILY BONDS?  We pick it up in vs. 7.

Colossians 4:7, 8

Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts.

1.)  Tychicus teaches us that we bond when we SERVE FAITHFULLY in the SMALL THINGS.

The N.T. mentions Tychicus only 5 times (Acts 20:4; Eph. 6:21; 2 Tim. 4:12; Titus 3:12).  He pops up at the end of Paul’s missionary work in Ephesus so we think he was probably a convert of Paul’s several-year ministry in Ephesus.  He was one of 7 people who accompanied Paul as a traveling companion back to Jerusalem, probably with the gift for the poor in Jerusalem (Ac. 20). 

            When Paul was arrested, Tychicus, along with Dr. Luke and others, stayed with Paul through “thick and thin”—his arrest and imprisonment in Caesarea, his trial before kings and governors and his miserable voyage and shipwreck en route to Rome. 

            While Paul was still in Rome in prison, Tychicus was tapped by Paul to travel as his messenger back to the churches of the province of Asia.  He probably took the letters of Colossians, Philemon and letter we don’t have to the Laodicean church (Col. 4:16).  And he was to give a personal report to them all of Paul’s condition.  He was effectively an errand boy, a delivery man, a postal carrier, as far as we know. 

            But he was called “a dear brother” and “a faithful minister” and “a fellow servant.”  He must have believed the old axiom:  the greatest ability in the world is dependability!  Paul could depend upon him to stick with something no matter how hard it got and to deliver to others what Paul could not.

            That faithful service bonded him to Paul.  And it bonded him to the churches.

Here’s the point: There is greatness…and deep bonding… in the smallest things done for Christ.  It is often the seemingly insignificant that advances God’s kingdom in totally unpredictable ways.  The letters Tychicus carried to Asia would outlast the Roman Empire!  There is no hint that he was a great thinker or orator, just a “servant” in small but important and sacrificial things. 

“For the loss of a nail, lose a horseshoe;

for the loss of a horseshoe, lose a horse;

for the loss of a horse, lose a soldier;

for the loss of a soldier, lose a battle;

for the loss of a battle, lose a kingdom.” 

That was not going to happen under Tychicus’ watch. 

APP:  What “little thing” is God’s Spirit nudging you to do faithfully?  What “insignificant” thing is someone else in the Body of Christ asking you to do?  Will you stick with it over the long haul or just be a “flash in the pan”?  Will you choose to view the momentary things as they truly are—eternally significant?  Do we value our family bonds in Christ enough to stick with the small stuff? 

>>[We’re going to skip over Onesimus and look at him and the book of Philemon that accompanied this letter to the Colossians next week.] 

2.) We bond when we SHARE HARDSHIP.  Vs. 10-- My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings….

Prison, if you haven’t been there, is a hardship.  So is war.  So is poverty.  So is death, illness, bankruptcy, losing employment and much more.  But if you’ve lived through any of those, you know that people who stick together through hard times usually come out the other side with some strong emotional connections to those who have shared in their suffering. 

            Too often, when hardships hit, we tend to blame others. We expect them to be virtually telepathic and know how much pain we are in.  Hardships seem like an open invitation to some measure of self-pity.  Others just don’t seem to care enough…or help enough…or be with us enough.  Hardships can make us angry and combative with other. 

ILL:  Statistics tell us that when couples suffer the loss of a child, they tend to divorce at higher rates than couples who don’t.

Hardships have a way of bringing out the worst in us and magnifying the faults and weaknesses of others.  Rather than seeing others who are near or with us in some hardship as allies, we tend to see them as the enemy.   

            But our hardships can bond us together.  When we somehow figure out how to get through, how to stay together, how to pull together, people with whom we have endured hardships can be our ticket to some of the strongest marriages and families and friendships and spiritual growth there is in life.

ILL:  Olivia’s visit today!  Her husband, David, our son, shipped out for 4 months of overseas duty yesterday.  Rather than isolating in her sadness, she’s chosen to strengthen family bonds with her presence.  It cost her no small chunk of change to fly in from Hawaii this morning.  But we’ll all be bonded together more as a family because of how she’s handling this hardship.  Thanks, Olivia!

APP:  What hardship (little or big) are you experiencing right now?  Which of God’s people are there with you in it?  This is the power of “support groups” made up of people who have or are going through similar hardship—cancer, grief, sexual abuse, divorce, illness, parents of troubled teens, unemployment, etc. 

3.)  We bond when we acknowledge that PEOPLE CAN CHANGE… and we GIVE THEM ADDITIONAL CHANCES to do so!

Vs. 10—My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 

Many of you know the “story” of Mark, cousin of Barnabas.  Earlier than this….12 years earlier…John Mark had accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their 1st great missionary journey when they set out from Antioch.  After ministry in Cypress and Pamphylia, John Mark abandoned Paul and Barnabas for unknown reasons. From Paul’s other writings, we can guess that the hardships were great, the spiritual combat very real. 

            So when Paul was planning a 2nd missionary journey, Barnabas insisted that John Mark come along.  Paul absolutely refused.  The result was the famous split between Paul and Barnabas who then went separate directions with separate workers. 

            Fast-forward 12 years.  Now Paul calls Mark his “fellow worker” in Philemon 24.  And much later still, at the sunset of Paul’s life, while in prison in Rome, he wrote to Timothy about the value he now placed on this initial ministry “washout”, Mark. 

“Only Luke is with me.  Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11).

            People disappoint…and they also change.  Thank God for the Barnabases in life, the “sons of encouragement” who still see our value when we and others have lost sight of it. 

  • Imagine how much it must have stung John Mark as a young believer to know Paul felt so strongly against him.
  • Imagine how much it must have meant to know that a leader as important as Barnabas still believed in you!
  • And imagine how much humility it must have taken on Paul’s part to admit he was too hasty, too rigid, too judgmental in his earlier chapter of life and now found John Mark one of the men he wanted with him when life was tough.

            Bonding requires weathering some disappointment with people so we can give them some grace as well as 2nd, 3rd and 4th chances.  If we don’t learn to do that, we won’t bond or stay together very long as a spiritual family. 

4.)  Bonding sometimes involves shared culture, language, history or race.  That doesn’t sound very politically correct, does it?  It sounds almost like I’m being racist…or ethnocentric…or nationalistic.   

The 3 people mentioned in these verses are all Jews.  Look at verses 10 & 11.  (Colossians 4:10-11)

My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 

ILL:    A few years back, Daniel and I went to China with Partner’s International to teach English in one of their public schools.  In the process we got to share Christ with lots of students and many of them responded to the Gospel.

Imagine that I decided to do the same thing again but this time I got arrested and thrown in prison on the charge of subverting the Communist Party of China by sharing my faith.  Shortly the Chinese Christians heard about it and started visiting me in prison.  After cooling my heals in jail for a few months, imagine that Bob and Jesse decided to make a trip to visit me.  They spent a week, visiting every day, and then came back to Mosaic, reported on their time with me and read a letter they’d smuggled out of prison which I had written.

What would you think if that letter said, “I’m so grateful for the visit of Bob & Jesse.  They are the only white American Christians I’ve had visit me here since I went to prison.” 

1.)  That might make perfect sense knowing that having people who know me, have worked together with me, speak English and understand all the cultural stuff of being an American would understandably be a great encouragement. 

2.)  But someone might think, “The only white American Christians?  Didn’t the Chinese Christians who visited you count?  Why does it matter so much that you had to single out these 3 guys and talk about them being white and American?  Seems a bit racists and nationalistic to do that!”

            Furthermore, imagine that all of YOU here at Mosaic are… Chinese!  It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to think that some of you might be offended, right? 

Ill:  Story of conversation with an African-American pastor in town years ago when I was trying to better understand what I didn’t understand about racism and racial challenges in our community.  At that time, Promise Keepers was in full swing and racial reconciliation was one of the hot topics they were asking men to get a grip on.  One of the oft-repeated statements about the church and the nation’s racial divide was, “Sunday morning is THE most segregated hour of life in America every week.”  The implication was that, because we have predominantly black churches and predominantly white churches, it’s a spiritual problem and a sign of our racial problems. 

            So I asked this wonderful African-American pastor why he thought that was here in Spokane.  His response surprised me.  He said something like, “You know, all week long we work in business owned and run by white folk.  Our kids go to schools run mostly by white folk.  Almost everything we do is in the world of white people.  So when Sunday rolls around, it is one of the few ways we have of preserving our black culture to have church with other Blacks.  It’s not that we hate whites.  We just like to have some part of our week that culturally takes us to our roots.” 

            Wow!  I would never have come up with that truth in a million years of trying to figure it out in my white brain by myself.  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with his reasoning and reason. 

            Like it or not, culture, race and language are three of the strongest bonding factors most of us will ever experience.  Every culture and every race have their strengths and weakness, their sins and successes.  And language is what enables much of that bonding to take place.  (Which is one reason America has been so unique as a country predominantly of immigrants and their offspring from all over the world.  We’ve shared a common language even though our cultural differences have been huge.  And if we lose that, we do that at our own peril.)

It’s one thing to live in Switzerland where everyone learns French, German, Italian and English.  It’s a small country with a rather homogeneous culture where everyone learns those languages, no matter which part of Switzerland you live in. 

If everyone in America were required to learn both English and Spanish, I think that would be great.  But if we turn into a nation where part knows only English and part only Spanish, we will lose one of the most important cultural and national glues of any nation—language. 

This is why family cultures are also so important.  Even if you grew up in a home where English was spoken, there were certain words…said certain ways…that meant certain things in your family, right.  (Like your parents saying your full name in a certain tone of voice…or just them starting to count “1…2…3” meant life was about to change when they hit 3.) 

Bringing Mikias & Yohannes into our family from Ethiopia meant that they had to learn English…and they did in a matter of months.  It meant that we and they had to learn cultural cues and work harder than our biological children ever had to in order to bond.  It has and continues to mean that I’m trying to learn more about the racial issues they face that I don’t have to in America.  And it has meant working to protect them from adopting or playing the “race card” when we sense that they may be trying to use it to avoid responsibility or deflect blame. 

Many families here at Mosaic have experienced similar hard work to blend families, adopt children or engage in foster care.  Bonding is a HUGE issue in every family, particularly these family scenarios.  That is why I chose the message title I did today:  Family Ties that BOND.  We are a spiritual family, from all different cultures, family types, backgrounds, experiences, etc.  And we are called to live under ONE Father as ONE family, the church. 

So I thought it would be useful today to access one of our adoptive parents who has done more work and gotten more educated than anyone I know here at Mosaic about BONDING in families.  It may seem like Dan C. is the only go-to guy I have here at Mosaic since this is the second time in a couple of months I’ve leaned on him to help me out a bit.  It’s just that the topics Colossians brings up happen to have hit upon two of the most important issues/knowledge areas Dan has.  So, Dan, come on down! 

  • What are some of the critical factors for bonding of people together who have not been family previously?

            Trust.  Compassion.  Grace.  Vulnerability.  The ability to hand your own heart to another person knowing that they might destroy it.  There is a powerful video called “The Power of Vulnerability”.  I encourage everyone to watch it.  To those who guard their hearts very closely I would say find someone that you trust and open up a bit.  To those who find that others are opening up talk less and allow God's compassion and grace to flow through you.

  • You've done a lot of work in R.A.D. (Reactive Attachment Disorder). What is RAD and how do you see RAD operating in the church today?  What are some of the important truths about RAD that could help God's people bond in Christ?

            The inability to attach prevents one from developing relationships.  Preconceived ideas of the manner in which a particular relationship with a particular person should progress can shut down the desire or willingness to develop a relationship.  If, when someone walks through the door, I decide that they need a certain thing, I may be right or I may be wrong.  Many of us say that we should walk a mile in the other person's moccasins.  The willingness to see life through the other person's eyes allows us to have compassion and empathy for them which will undoubtedly compel us to come along side and live life together with them.

  • Does RAD spill over into sibling-to-sibling issues sometimes? What helps siblings bond together emotionally?

            Sometimes?  All kidding aside, I refer again to compassion, grace and trust. 

            For siblings that have some capacity to attach, the mere fact that they are siblings can provide a sense of unity, a common rallying point, a foundation on which to build a relationship.

            One who finds it difficult to bond to a non-family member will likely not bond any more readily to a family member, sibling or not.  The inability to attach is an equal opportunity disorder.

            For some, the inability to attach is so severe that there is a complete disconnection with the human race.  The birth home experience of our younger three children was so completely devastating that the intake doctor recommended that they never be placed in the same home together, ever.  Yet here they are, eleven years after moving in with Kathy and me, fully attached and bonded with each other, the rest of our family, their friends and others, with a fully developed ability to establish and maintain long term relationships. 

Total strangers can have a similar experience.  Have you ever met someone toward whom you took an instant disliking?  If so, you know how difficult it is to bond with someone under that sort of circumstance.  If I may be so bold, I offer my children as shining examples that no matter how tough a relational circumstance is, God's love and compassion is far more powerful. 

  • What/how did YOU have to change to bring bonding to your "second family"?

            The most difficult change that I needed make (and am still working on) was to learn to not take their attacks personally.  After a couple years I discovered that their attacks were their way of testing my trustworthiness, my ability to keep them safe.  “If I call you filthy names will you dump me?  If I destroy my room will you dump me?  If I lie to my teacher about you will you dump me?  If I break your wife's ribs will you dump me? If I falsely accuse you to law enforcement officers of being a monster will you dump me?”  I needed to develop the ability to look into their eyes when they were filled with rage and hatred and show them the love and compassion that God had shown to me when I behaved the same way.

Thank you, Dan!  The hard work both you, Kathy and the kids have done is evidence to all of us that there can be “ties that bond” people together…if we will work at it, stay with it and look to Christ for what we need.  Thanks for being a family of living example to all of us.

            So let’s wrap this up.  After this naming of Paul’s 3 Jewish-Christian brothers, he turns to name 3 non-Jewish/Gentile Christian brothers.  They are Epaphras, Luke and Demas.  They, too have something to teach us about bonding with God’s family. 

  1. We bond when we APPRECIATE OUR DIFFERENCES rather than AVOID those who are different.

With Epaphras, Luke and Demas we definitely have racially different people who have bonded their hearts together in Christ.  If you have ever lived or even traveled to other parts of the world and spent time with believers of another race, language, culture and country, you know that the Spirit of God gives a sense of immediate oneness, even if you don’t speak their language.  I’ve worshipped with other believers in some 20 different countries, most of them in languages I didn’t know.  But in every single place, God has knit my heart together with those believers.  The Spirit of God transcends every other possible difference that Satan would like to use to divide us.   

Differences don’t have to divide, but they do have to be appreciated and embraced if we are to bond as a spiritual family. 

            The saying about marriage that “opposites attract” has a lot of truth to it.  I think we as human beings are hard and soft-wired to be attracted to people who are different than us.  People more like us are often some of the most difficult to get along with, right?  God has given us grace to not only appreciate people different from us but to often be attracted to them. 

            It’s when you try to learn to live with those differences that real growth begins to take place, right?

  • Moving to a new country: at first you feel like you just love most everything about the country.  Then about 3 months…or 3 weeks…or 3 days into the experience, you hit “culture shock.”  Now that romantic, cool sounding language is driving you crazy and making you feel like a toddler.  Now that trendy night-life is depriving you of sleep.  Now the exotic people, you come to find out, are sinners with some disgusting personal and cultural habits. 
  • Getting married.
  • Developing a friendship.
  • Finding a church family.

Refreshing differences will become frustrating differences unless we learn to hang on, lean in and press forward when differences become difficult.  No marriage, no family and certainly no church ever became deeply bonded without learning to appreciate differences and see them as one of God’s ways of showing us His greatness, His nature, the power of His love to truly conquer all… and at times His sense of humor. 

CLOSE: What is God asking you to do to actually BOND with His Bride, God’s people, the church?  Just like Dan and his family, it will take LOTS of WORK.  But just like you saw and heard today and every time you see Dan’s family, none of them would trade it for what they had and were before. 

            So will you embrace the family ties that truly bond? 

How?