“My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease. Even my own family stands at a distance.” (Psalm 38:11 NLT).
“So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him.” (2 Corinthians 2:8 NLT).
Like smoke’s residue, the stench of his rebellion clung to him. The waves and billows of David's sin had pushed him to the floor. He felt unable to stand. God may have accepted him, loved him, and put away his sin from him, but David thought himself a shadow of his former glory. Friends and family stood afar off as he endured the agony brought on by his rebellion. He said, "My loved ones and friends stand away, fearing my disease. Even my own family stands at a distance" (Psalm 38:11 NLT).
Years later, a man in the church of Corinth was in a similar predicament. He had ostracized himself through his own error. But the time for restoration had come. “Reaffirm your love for him,” Paul urged the church.
Family and friends may stand at a distance, but God’s people do not. They are a new family and people-group for the wayward sinner. When Christ and his blood come rushing in to heal the repentant, a new member is added to the family. Angels sing. The Shepherd Son rejoices. The Spirit celebrates. The Father kills the fattened calf. The family is made new, reunited to God and one another.
We must recall this: the church is to be a family for all believers, some of whom have lost loved ones, friends, and family because of brokenness and sin. Some might mourn with David, “Even my own family stands at a distance.” Watching, waiting, a biological family has been burned one too many times to believe a real change has taken place. But the church knows Christ, how he takes enslaved followers of darkness and brings them into his kingdom. A transfer occurs. The battle is not over, not in the least, for flesh rages against Spirit, but renewal has come. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
We do well when we remember this aspect of the local church. The church is many things — the pillar and ground of the truth, a disciple-making center, an outpost for the gospel, an earthly manifestation of the kingdom — but we are also a refuge for sinners, a new family for those covered by the blood. When the congregation gathers, it is all too easy to forget this, for pain in the soul is not always detectable in others’ outward appearance. Remember, some in your church have lost everything and feel ostracized by family and friends, perhaps because of personal sin, possibly because of the gospel itself. We must work to behave, as much as we can, as Christ's new family, a place of healing and restoration and grace for every tribe, nation, and tongue.