Water is Thicker Than Blood
In another congregation they had a children’s sermon, much like we have here. One Sunday morning the preacher was trying to get across the point that there are some things that money can’t buy. He said, “It can’t buy laughter, it can’t buy happiness, and it can’t buy love.” To really drive his point home, he said, “What would you do if I offered you $1,000 not to love your mom and dads?”
The room was quiet and the only noise you could hear was the rustling around of little bodies looking for their moms and dads. Finally, a small voice broke the silence and said, “How much would you give me not to love my sister?”
I am sure you have heard the old proverb, Blood is thicker than water. That proverb has been around since 1130, when German Author Glichezaere penned his book Reynald the Fox. In that text he actually wrote “The bond of blood is not diluted by water”. When the book was translated into English it said “Blood is thicker than water” and has been a part of the American vernacular ever since.
It would be a waste of our time for me to stand up here today and tell you that family is important. We all recognize the value found in the family relationship. Even at our worst moments of getting along, when we would rather not see one another, we still realize deep down that family is important.
Growing up my brother and I would fight like cat’s and dogs, with sticks and pipes or anything else we could find, but if you said one cross word about him I would tear into you quicker than you could blink. It was just inherent that no matter what we were fighting about when we were younger, family was important and blood is thicker than water.
We are in the middle of a conversation about the call that Jesus has made for us to be a community of believers and not just a crowd of religious folks. Over the past few weeks I have been going back to this one point, the community of believers that God established through the blood of Jesus should be the most important thing in our lives. But I fully understand there are some problems with that.
First, there are a lot of people who get left out.
Sure I can say that we are one big happy family and for some of us that idea is easier to swallow than others. While this is not a family church, there are some members of this church community that are married into another family and related to a third family. And we have to be careful, with that. Some folks are three and even four generations deep. And while we are blessed to have large family groups here, at times that can be a struggle as well. It’s harder to get into a group that has blood connections and a life long history together.
Let’s be honest, there are times when we use our time together to have a mini family reunion. We get so wrapped up in talking about family, or sickness, or jobs, or our crazy uncle on our dad’s side that always shows up at the family reunions half drunk with a hair piece that looks like he found it on the side of the road, that we tend to forget that there are other people around. And if you are on the outside of that conversation looking in, not only do you not know who they are talking about, you are pretty sure that your life is much better not knowing.
When we first got into ministry our biggest struggle was how do you handle the holidays. You see ministers have to work on Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Easter, and on a usual Sunday we would go out and eat with a group from church, but on holidays everybody else would go out with their family. We would go to a restaurant alone and see Mom, Dad and all the kids sitting together as one big happy family. Our families were at their homes, in a different city. We didn’t have the opportunity to be with our own families during the holidays so after church we would go home and eat a bologna sandwich and feel sorry for ourselves.
So we need to be careful when we talk about families. We need to make sure that while we are a family, we are an inclusive family, a place where everyone gets the opportunity to sit at the adult table and join the conversation.
Next there are those whose family doesn’t provide a loving environment or who have experienced problems in their family.
I don’t want to spend too much time on this point, but it needs to be mentioned. It’s a bit naive to believe that everyone grew up in a home with a mom and dad that showered them with love and attention. While we like to think that bad things only happen in the world, the truth is that the church is filled with broken people who allow their actions to show their brokenness. So in every church there are people who were used as a punching bag, or were disgraced, or worse abandoned by their family.
If your family was a source of pain in your life then this talk about family stirs up emotions that you would like to forget; memories of pain and hurt. Instead of hearing words of peace and comfort you are left with words of hurt and frustration. Those feelings are magnified when you see our family members here fussing and arguing with one another.
So when we talk about family, some of us need to redraw the picture in our minds. And those of us who were blessed to grow up in a good home, we must be careful to help foster the type of community that God calls us to be. And while there may be folks here today who know all to well the struggles that I have mentioned, those fears do not negate God’s call for us to be a community of believers, a family that supports and encourages and loves.
One of the reasons I love the book of Acts is because Luke tells us what a community of believers is supposed to look like. Hopefully you remember that the church began in Acts 2 and right away there is this sense of togetherness.
The believers studied what the apostles taught. They shared life together. They broke bread and ate together. And they prayed. ... All the believers were together. They shared everything they had. ... Every day they met together in the temple courtyard. In their homes they broke bread and ate together. Their hearts were glad and honest and true. They praised God. They were respected by all the people. Acts 2:42, 44, 46-47a
When they were added into the Body at their baptism they were added to the great community and you can tell that they enjoyed being together, spending time together, doing things together, being around each other. They were family. But at this point, all the Christians were Jewish Christians. It’s not until Chapter 8 that we hit our first big snag.
In chapter 8 we run into a blood problem, specifically a half blood problem. The church community is no longer purely Jewish, now there are those half breeds; Samaritans. And if blood is thicker than water, these two groups have no chance.
They worship at different places, the Jews in Jerusalem and the Samaritans in Gerizim.
They emphasize different parts of the Old Testament.
They have different traditions, different customs.
And the result was that the Jews and the Samaritans simply avoided each other. We notice in the Gospels that a good Jew would travel miles out of their way so they wouldn’t have to step on Samaritan soil. But, in Acts 8, we find Philip preaching to the Samaritans. “… when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized." Acts 8:12
So word goes out across the land that there is this inclusion in the family of God, inclusion that they have never experienced before. Now if blood is truly thicker than water, then we have a problem.
But we are smart people and we can come up with a way that will allow both groups to worship and still feel good about ourselves. We can have two different churches, we can have the Jewish church and the Samaritan church. You can worship the way you want to and we will worship how we are comfortable. We might invite you to attend our Gospel Meeting, but don’t feel obligated to actually come after all we don’t really need to fellowship with each other, just say on your own side of the tracks and we will all be happy, but it gets worse.
In Acts 10, we really cross the line, because we've gone from those half-breed Samaritans to the Gentiles. Sure Cornelius fears God, but he’s a Gentile. Even the apostle Peter struggles with it and finally God convinces him to go preach to the Gentiles. It is only when God sends the Holy Spirit on Cornelius and his house that it becomes evident that God's hand was at work. And Peter said to his companions, "We can't stop this. They have a right to be baptized."
We see the struggle in chapter 11 when Peter arrives back at Jerusalem. The word spreads about what has taken place and the Jews aren't happy, and the scripture tells us they “took issue with him". And Peter says what any respectable preacher would say, "It wasn't my idea! I fought it from beginning to end, but God told me to do it."
God changed the rules and the Apostle Paul shares the new rules with us in Galatians 3:26-28: "You were all baptized into Christ, and so you were all clothed with Christ. This means that you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. In Christ, there is no difference between Jew and Greek, slave and free person, male and female. You are all the same in Christ Jesus."
You see the rule has always been that blood is thicker than water, But God says because of the sacrifice of Christ the water of baptism has become thicker than blood. In Christ, the old categories and divisions have been broken down and done away with. The church is supposed to be a place where you can be accepted regardless of what your background is, and who your ancestors are, and despite all the black sheep you’ve got in the family. The truth is that water is thicker than blood.
My friend Mike Root wrote a great little book back in 1992, titled “Spilt Grape Juice”. And in that book he gives a masterful illustration of the church. “While sitting in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport some time ago, I decided to use my layover time wisely by working on a sermon for the next Sunday. As I sat there watching and thinking, I began to write a sermon entitled The Church of the Airport. The airport was filled with people who had many things in common.
1. We all shared a common belief – flying was the best way to travel.
2. We shared a common goal – arriving at our destination.
3. We shared a common facility – the airport.
4. We were all alone in the airport.
The Church of the Airport was complete with rituals, traditions, goals and a building. But, sadly enough, this church has about the same level of relationship building as many congregations. How many people are part of a group that calls itself a church and have much in common, yet are alone in the church building? If this is happening with any group claiming to follow the New Testament, they have not only missed the boat, they have missed the ocean it sails on.”
Mike’s analogy hit me squarely between my eyes. The church was never intended to be a group of strangers who happen to gather in one room for an hour every week and look at the back of each others heads. The church is a body. The church is a family.
The church is the place when your physical family is in trouble you have someone to lend a helping hand. When tragedy strikes these are the people who have promised to be there for you. When you have a moment of joy these people will rejoice with you because they truly care for your soul.
The water of baptism is thicker than blood. Baptism is the point at which the church gathers around somebody and says, welcome to the family. And there's something significant about that, because you were born into an earthly family that you had no choice about. You didn't get to choose your dad or your mom, your brothers or your sisters. If you could've, you might have chosen different ones than you got.
But when you became a Christian, you were born again into a family that you did have a choice about and that God had a choice about. And in this community, there is something greater than just genes drawing you together. There is the water of baptism, and the blood of Jesus Christ behind that baptism that means so much.
We are a community, but we are more than that. We are a community built on truth, built on a common faith in Jesus Christ. The idea of family and fellowship isn’t just a warm fuzzy feeling of getting together and hanging out having fun. The tie that binds us together is founded on the truth that we have accepted the lordship of Jesus Christ, and we have been baptized in His name.
As we close this morning I want to share one more text with you. It’s found in Romans 12:9-18 (Read Text)
We are called into a community with other people who share a common goal. We must be people who will weep with one another when things are going bad, and who will rejoice with one another when things are going good.
We are called into a community of people you can encourage and be encouraged by. People you can share your weaknesses with and find strength to do better. People who will hold you accountable for living the way you want to live and the way you know you ought to live. People who will pray for you. People who care.
If you aren’t experiencing that kind of relationship with the church, then I want you to know you’re missing out on something special. If church is a place where you slip in the door unnoticed and slip out unnoticed and you don’t build a relationship with anyone else in this congregation, then you’re missing out on one of the greatest blessings that God has offered to us.
Perhaps what I’ve described sounds inviting to you. You’d like to have that kind of a family relationship, and you can. Just like the Samaritans, just like the Ethiopian eunuch, just like Paul, just like Cornelius and the Gentiles. The waters of baptism can bring you into contact with the blood of Jesus Christ, and bring you into a community that is stronger than anything you’ve ever experienced.