Our theme for this year is Welcome home and there’s a good reason for it. I pray regularly that God will bring into our church the hurting, the lost, the lonely, and the broken. What these people will need most is: love, care, support, understanding, acceptance, friendship, and rules. These are the things that a good home provides and they are also what our church can deliver. But it will mean that we will have to be very clear about the rules for achieving this because hurting, lost, lonely, and broken people are all too often hardened, bitter, self-pitying, and very negative people who don’t live with ‘house rules’. When Paul wrote to the Ephesians he went to great length to explain to them what the church was, what people could expect from church, how a church was led, how a church helped a believer to grow and become like Christ, and the rules for living within the ‘household of God’.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God Ephesians 2:19
HELPING THE HURTING,LOST, LONELY, CONFUSED, FRIENDLESS, & BROKEN
If you’ve fostered a child, you’ll understand what I’m saying. Children who are made wards-of-the-State have often been hurt in unimaginable ways and quite possibly have never experienced true love. When foster parents offer to take in such a child, it is often heart-breaking for all concerned. A child who is hurting, lost, lonely, confused, friendless and broken, is hard work—just ask any foster parent who has attempted it!
in whom [Christ] the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:21-22
When Paul wrote to the Ephesians he was writing to a church comprised of Jews and Gentiles who saw the world very differently and came from radically different backgrounds, and often didn’t get on very well to put it mildly. But Paul tells them that Jesus has now “broken down the wall of hostility between them” and brought them together into the church.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility Ephesians 2:13-14
While Jewish converts were familiar with God’s moral laws and even His instructions for how a family should function, these Gentile converts in the Ephesians were not. Paul later tells the Ephesians that when it comes to selecting elders, you should only consider the candidates who “have one wife” and “have their household in order”. This gives us a clue that there were possibly many in the Ephesian church who, in typical Roman practice, may have been married to several wives (polygamy) and quite probably had several ‘concubines’ (‘sex-slaves’). In setting the church in order, Paul describes what families should look like: parents who love each other; parents who love their children; children who obey their parents; fathers who teach their children about life and God; and how the family unit is a bastion of spiritual warfare against the forces of darkness. And all the while, this single, celibate, apostle, has an even bigger picture in mind: what the local church should be like. Despite being comprised of people who have just come out of lifestyles of immorality or religious arrogance, he sees the local church as a big family where everyone must learn to live in Christ together (Eph. 2:5; 2:21; 2:22; 4:16).
In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:22
Paul’s strategy for healing the broken was to minister Christ to them by the power of God’s Word. This was because what the hurting, lonely, self-pitying, despondent, really needed was not what they themselves thought they needed — more attention, more popularity, better looks, more money, more wishes to come true — but the True Source of Satisfaction to their deepest and greatest need: Jesus.
In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit Ephesians 1:13
That He might sanctify her [the church], having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word Ephesians 5:26
THE POWER OF THE WORD WITHIN THE COMMUNITY OF THE CHURCH TO BRING HEALING
People who are hurting and consequently feeling misunderstood and isolated, often become very bitter. In the Old Testament there is a story about a school of prophets who were served a stew that was very bitter and tasted like poison (bitterness is indeed a poison and it causes hurt people to hurt people). They called on Elisha for help. He instructed them to take meal (a very finely ground flour) and cast it into the bitter stew (2Kings 4:41). When they did this, the bitter stew became safe and savoury to eat. This is a picture of what the Word of Christ does to a bitter and broken soul. He and His Word takes a bitter, lonely, hurting soul and transforms it into a healed, whole, and attractive soul. Thus, Paul told the Ephesians-
¶ Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Ephesians 4:25-31
HOUSE (of God) RULES
Based on the above passage we can see that the Apostle Paul gave the Ephesians some important ‘house rules’ for their church. We might summarise the house rules of Ephesians 4:25-31 in this way-
Speak the truth – leaders should not shy away from correcting the wayward
Don’t withdraw if someone in the church upsets you – if someone innocently offends you don’t let your anger lead to the sin of slander (especially if it was a leader)
Forgive quickly – unforgiveness gives the devil an foothold in a church to weaken its effectiveness
Be a contributor – both within the church community and in the world so that you can share with anyone in need
Speak positively about the church – let your words build others up not tear them down
Cooperate with the Holy Spirit – Christ has sent the Holy Spirit into the world to assist in the outworking of His plan of redemption through the church, therefore resist the Devil’s temptation to be a rebel and cooperate with the Holy Spirit in praying for your church (remember, bitter criticism and slander is your admission of prayerlessness)
In the meantime, please continue to take a moment to welcome those who are new to our church then be on the look out for those who may feel left out. This is what families do, especially church families, and it’s what makes a house a home.