We are family
Lucy Olofinjana, our Senior Communications and Media Officer here at CTE, shares our Reflection of the Month for February 2020...
‘How pleasant it is when God’s people dwell together in unity’. These words from Psalm 133 sum up my experience of building friendships and collaborating with Christians from across the diversity of the church family.
I’ve had the privilege of seeing God’s church at work in so many ways – being dedicated as a child in the Ichthus charismatic church, growing up and coming to a faith of my own in a local Baptist church, being part of a local ecumenical planning group for Soul in the City in my teens, being married to a Baptist minister (from a Pentecostal and African-Initiated-Church background), and working for both the Salvation Army and the Evangelical Alliance.
At the heart of the church unity I’ve experienced has always been a love for God and a sense of family – as well as a true desire to see our world impacted for good and people find peace, freedom and joy from the one true source, Jesus.
But for me, what sums up the true unity of God’s family is a simple bowl of bolognese.
It happened one summer's day, when I travelled up to Chester to explore with local church leaders how they can work together to make Jesus known in their place. Using the Talking Jesus research as a springboard, we had some fascinating, honest and practical conversations, thinking about how the people around us respond to hearing about Jesus, and how churches in the area might collaborate further in making Jesus known.
Afterwards we were welcomed back to the home of a family from one of the churches. There we had the opportunity of filming their story – hearing how, together with the family next-door, they opened their homes to local people, giving them the chance to build friendships and also to build a relationship with Jesus Christ. The story of how they helped one lady find peace and hope in Jesus, after the tragic loss of her young daughter, brought us to tears.
And then we shared a bowl of bolognese.
Simple enough. But also so profound.
It was in that kitchen, sharing food and fellowship with complete ‘strangers’, that I really understood what being part of God’s family was all about.
Because the thing was, we didn’t feel like strangers.
We felt like family.
No, we were family.
What united us wasn’t location or blood, our football team or hobbies. We were united in our shared identity as God’s children. And it felt so natural to spend time together – like we’d known each other for years.
Being involved in local ministry in south-east London, I’ve seen the power and potential of God’s people coming together in unity. After all, we can achieve so much more together than we can apart – as Ecclesiastes 4 tells us, ‘a three-fold cord is not easily broken’.
And so often that unity is rooted in prayer – joining with other Christians to pray together for the places where we live, work and worship. Kneeling together before our father in heaven, we see the foolishness of focusing on those details which divide us, and the joy and power which comes when we focus on seeing God’s ‘kingdom come, (His) will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’.
Of course, unity isn’t always an easy journey. I’ve seen fellow Christians saddened and wounded by the pain of not being heard as they seek to share their heart’s-cry about the reality which their part of the body is experiencing.
Through all this I’ve learnt the importance of living out Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 12, ‘If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness’.
Let’s seek to make this a reality as we go about life as part of God’s family. Let’s ‘rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn’ (Romans 12:15) – being real and honest with one another, and truly being there for each other, in the good times and the bad.
Because, after all, we are family.
Lucy Olofinjana is Senior Communications and Media Officer for Churches Together in England, and has previously led a range of church programmes focusing on unity and evangelism.