Lately through direct or indirect promptings several in the IC have felt it was their duty to present me with the analogy of "the church", i.e. the IC as a "family." The logic behind their argument is that we're all part of the family of God. Every believer is a part of who we are, and we are commanded thus to love one another. Not only are we to love our brothers and sisters, but this love means that we are to interact with the other members of the family in our acceptance of them since God has orchestrated this family - we are inextricably intertwined. The people who came to me with this revelation didn't come out and say these exact words, but the insinuation was there.
After much though and reflection my response to them, which I may or may not tell them directly...(that is yet to be decided), is this hypothetical story:
Let's say you had a side to your family which was different from the other sides of your family. I know most can relate to this, as many of us have some challenging family dynamics...let's face it. So, this side of the family had decided that they didn't like you for whatever reason. In order to turn the rest of the family members against you they had shut you out of the family. They did this by excluding you from family get togethers, dinners, etc. (You knew this because they would do things like calling the wrong number - your number - to invite another family member to dinner. You didn't get invited.) They then sent you a letter in the mail saying that it was "time for you to take a break from the family." They didn't even bother to call you. Close cousins quit talking to you, calling you, even acknowledging you. One day you were called to a meeting with the parents and grandparents of the family. You were told that you were "rebellious" and needed to repent. After apologizing for doing things you didn't realize you were doing the shunning continued. Your own parents quit talking to you. Your brother was then told, "Your reputation will be severely effected if you continue to hang around your sister." So in fear he quit coming over and calling. Then the members of the family started turning on one another. Some moved away and were never heard from again. Others stayed in town, but wanted nothing to do with anyone else in the family. The stress of the family dysfunction had a serious toll on your marriage and life. You finally had enough of it and decided it was time to make a break from the family.
But there was another aunt and uncle in the family who lived in a close town who seemed different from the rest. They saw what was going on in the dysfunctional family and said it was wrong and unjust. Although you were unsure and distrusting of them, in time your guard came down. This part of the family was different, you were sure of it. They welcomed you with open arms. "Family" became wonderful again. You poured your life into the family - you gave them everything you had and sacrificed your all for them. Things seemed perfect as they should be until one day when they decided it was time for you to leave the fold. They cast you out of the family in a very cruel and unkind way. Then you had discovered that they had stolen from you. With most who steal lies became apparent, and lies emerge to cover those lies...what a tangled web we weave. This part of the family had a name to protect, so they not only turned any remaining family members against you, but they also attempted to turn the entire town against you. They even attempted to run you out of town. As a result, your remaining cousins turned against you and were bought off. Others refused to speak to you, even after repeated attempts.
You went to distant family members who refused to face the truth of what was really happening, and who wouldn't tell the truth to the rest of the family. These members were too powerful, and you felt the distant family was afraid of what they might do to them if they were to expose the truth to the whole family. So they played their part in the saga. They didn't want to know the full truth of what was happening. You finally started to stand up for yourself - you gathered together all of your strength, and you refused to be a door mat. You tried to get back what they had stolen. The distant cousins requested that you stop doing this. They told you that it wasn't your place to get back what had been stolen from you. They told you that you chose to let the things the aunt and uncle had done hurt you, that you could have done things better. They remained friends with this side of the family despite what they had done to your life. You stayed friends with this family as long as you could. But it began to tear you apart. You realized that if you didn't leave you would be destroyed.
Tell me this: Would you remain in a family that treated you this way? Would you run to them with open arms and heart after they had attempted to destroy your life?
This family may be a family by blood, but it isn't a family of the heart. Just because we are born into the same family doesn't mean we have to be in relationship with every member of that family. We can love from a distance.
The end of the story is better than the beginning:
In desperation you moved out of town far away from that entire side of the family. None of the people you had dealt with regarding the situation called you. It was as if you had never existed. One day by pure accident you stumbled upon a part of the family you never knew about. They were kind and true. They too had been effected by various family members, so they knew what you had been through. They weren't perfect, but you knew you had finally found a part of the family that you could grow to love. This family functioned with mutual respect. No one was seen as greater or less than, and there were no harsh unreasonable rules. They loved without demanding in return.