Updated: May 25, 2021
Written by Dianne Susman
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 4:8-11
This spring, I had the opportunity to be part of the Tuesday morning Women’s Bible study. As we discussed the book of 1 Peter together, I was reminded of the lesson the Lord had been teaching me about seeing the church body as family.
I came to the United States at 18 to pursue a college degree. I didn’t know anyone here. Everyone I knew–my family and close friends–were all back home in Malaysia. During those years, I would gather with a church on Sundays. Being an international student without a car, I hopped around from church to church. I’d either go to one that was accessible by foot, or go with friends whenever they would offer to take me. While I developed many strong friendships in college, none of them came from being connected to a church body. Gathering with the church was important to me, but I didn’t really understand the significance of it.
My Junior year, I became part of a missional community. This was started by a group of friends who desired to serve the community together. We broke bread regularly, studied the Word, and served together. That was the first time I ever experienced the body of Christ being so intertwined with each other’s lives, like a family. As a group, we were loosely connected with a local church and would gather on Sundays with them. However, we still took on a unique identity as a separate “church.”
Years later, Nate and I moved to Durham and joined Waypoint. We wanted to live intentionally among internationals but were the only ones living in our apartment complex of 500 residents. So, we started praying for a community of likeminded believers to move to our complex. Within a year, we went from being the only couple to being part of a group of 15-20 believers. Each had moved into the complex with a vision to serve our neighbors and share the love of Christ to our community. We spent time in each other’s homes regularly. Broke bread together, prayed together and served together.
All these years, the Lord has been graciously revealing to me, through the body of Christ, just how big my family is. Yes, my biological family is far away from me, but my family goes way beyond blood relations. I have been so blessed to experience the love first-hand from my church family. I cannot even count the times when we have been invited to spend our holidays with someone at Waypoint, or have been given baby equipment and clothing. Many have even given their time to bring us a meal during the first few months after our daughter was born. It sounds like how family care for each other, right? I have a family here in Durham. A family who loves and cares for me the same way and perhaps even more than my blood family does.
If you are far away from family and feeling lonely, reach out and experience the love of God’s family. And for the rest of the church, I encourage you to open your life to each other. The gospel is radiant to the world when the body of Christ loves one another.
In the words of Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors,
“Family, all in this together
Family, taking a chance
Family, like birds of a feather
Family, kick off your shoes and dance.”
I love you, my brother! I love you, my sister! I love you, my family!