In a conversation with my mother one day about sibling conflict, it was reassuring and of comfort to reflect on the relationship we have in Jesus. She recounted a particular time that was during the army enforced mass evacuation out of Phnom Penh city into the rural areas of Cambodia. It was the beginning of the reign of the murderous regime called the Khmer Rouge. She was giving some counsel to an acquaintance, known through her primary school days but who, somehow, many years later, held some rank in the army. In the chaos of war, my mother, being separated from four of her children, had needed this man’s assistance to search for them. At this point in time this man had a sharp conflict with his sister and her husband. This army man had wanted to bring his sister’s family to the safety of his village, but the sister’s husband was refusing. The conflict was so sharp he had thoughts of leaving his sister’s family behind. In a conversation sitting by a tributary of the Mekong River, my mother picked up a small tree branch and began to make cutting strokes through the still water. “See,” she said to him,
family is like this body of water, no matter how hard you try, you cannot divide it. You can’t separate it.”
He understood. He persevered with his sister and the family did end up going to this man’s village. Subsequently, that family survived the genocide of the Khmer Rouge. With this man’s assistance, our family, once separated into different areas and not knowing each other’s whereabouts, was eventually united two and a half years later.
Separation, through many circumstances in life, can bring much sadness, whether in the stresses of war or persecution. Societal, familial, and social upheaval leading to separation can bring about a much-disquieted heart, even in the temporal relative peace that we have in Australia. Often relationships are disrupted. The ties that bind are often strong within the bonds of family relationships and this is often encapsulated in the phrase, “blood is thicker than water”. Nevertheless, earthy bonds without the love of God are inevitably breakable, bringing about separation, often accompanied by ensuing sadness.
The first true and absolute comfort to the Christian, being saved from sin and having Christ’s imputed righteousness, is the inseparable relationship we have with God. Inseparable because it is God’s power at work in His unbreakable and everlasting covenant. This is the outflow of the Holy God who loves His children. The Apostle Paul puts it this way:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? ……. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The second comfort in this inseparable relationship is that, if we have God, we are also inseparable from each other in the love of God. The outflow of this love of God is that He has placed us in each other’s lives to bear the fruits of the spirit as we care for one another, comfort one another and be God’s agent to provide for one another when needed. In God’s inseparable family, there is much love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
The third comfort is that through God’s grace, we can reflect on who God is: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in eternal inseparable relationship, one God. In this aspect, Trinity is in relational unity. Let us therefore strive to live in unity with one another even as our loving God moulds His children to be like Him.
A truck came in the night to take this army man, his wife, and several children away – he is survived by one daughter. Whilst we can be physically separated in the world, perhaps for two and a half years or even, like our dear friend and his family, never to be seen again, we can be assured that for those in Christ, we are inseparable in Christ. What a blessed thought!
Wow Joshua, thanks for sharing such powerful stories from your family’s history to illustrate these principles. Yes indeed, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.