When I was approached to write for the bulletin by brother Siang Yee, I thought for a long time on what to write about. At that time, I could not think of a topic that is close to my heart. However, following a recent trip back to Kuching, Sarawak, for Chinese New Year after three years of not being able to because of COVID-19, I decided it would be apt to write about the importance of family, whether those bound by blood relations or the family we have in the church.
Family is important because it is within this unit that one finds comfort, solace, a sense of belonging and the strength to overcome challenges in this world, of which there are many. It is also the same unit which we will share joyful moments in life with. Family will be there through thick and thin, thus they are an invaluable asset as we navigate this world. We don’t have to do it alone.
What about our family in the church? How did we end up becoming brothers and sisters in Christ? In Mark 3:34-35, Jesus defined that whosoever shall do the will of God will be His brother, sister and mother. In 1 Corinthians 12:14-20, the apostle Paul says the church is one body with many members, each member being an important part of the whole body. We can also see in Romans 8:16-17 that members of the church are the children of God and also fellow heirs with Christ. Jesus has provided us with a spiritual family within the church, in addition to the one we already have through blood relations.
Now, having this family in the church, it is imperative that we work together to exhort one another and also offer support to those who may need it in this life journey. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, it is mentioned that two are better than one, for if one falls, the other will lift up his fellow. This is why being together helps us to cross the finish line in this Christian race (Hebrews 12:1-2).
In a family, there will be episodes of bickering, which is only natural in human relationships. There is a saying that blood runs thicker than water, and that no matter how big the fight is, the family unit stays together. However, we know that in the secular world, family feuds sometimes escalate into serious outcomes such as lawsuits or being estranged from the family. Thankfully in the Christian family, Jesus has set ground rules on handling disputes between brethren, as laid out in Matthew 18:15-17. The church is a family that we have in addition to our own immediate family.
Nothing is permanent in this world, and one day our families will also leave us or we will leave them. James 4:14 describes our life as like a vapour that appears for a little while and then vanishes. My grandmother, whom I spent much of my childhood with, left us in December 2021. I was unable to fly back to Kuching at that time in view of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. Returning to her almost empty house on this trip made me feel as if time stood still, but the reality is she is gone forever. It made me feel nostalgic with a tinge of sadness as I stood in that house looking at the table where she proudly displayed the photos taken with her children and grandchildren. The same is true with our family members in church. We have, over the years, brothers and sisters who passed on. However, we take heart that we will see everyone again on the other side of the rainbow in Heaven, where we all aspire to be in. Jesus, in John 14:1-3, told us about the many rooms/mansions prepared in Heaven for those who follow him.
I have been asked recently how I coped during the two years of lockdown in Singapore? People wanted to know how I handled loneliness, especially for someone who has no family members here. For me, my Christian family was there during the COVID-19 restrictions, and I got to celebrate Chinese New Year with them even though I was away from my immediate family. For that I am very thankful.
In conclusion, I would say: always keep your family, whether those who share blood relations with you or your brothers and sisters in Christ, close and dear in your heart and mind for they will be your pillar of support, as we navigate through this journey of life together. To me, God has created a special family in this place we call our church.