The simplest way to build authentic relationships and make an impact is to see those around you as your family members. But first you must know what family is…

When you approach any kind of ministry with this perspective, everything can change. Over the last few months, I’ve shared this message with you many times. It keeps bubbling up in my thoughts. As I make the transition back to my semi-permanent residency in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the lessons I learning about family continue to shape my mindset. A question forms in my brain. How can you and I and everyone else live as family?

First, what really is family? Who defines it? Look around you. Most families spend most of their time together on their phones. Have you seen modern families at nice restaurants? I’ve often wondered why they don’t save a few bucks and scroll through their Facebook feeds at home. There is nothing normal about it but sadly most people have grown accustomed to it. Seriously. I’ve done it, too. Is this true family?

One of my favorite things about being in a third-world country is the lack of wifi. For real! It’s refreshing to sit at a table and be able to laugh and talk with my friends without the distraction of notifications. It interesting because one thing almost every single team member has verbalized is the fact that “this feels like family”. Somehow, deep inside of us, there is a dream of authentic relationships inside of a context called “family”. But if this is not even what our earthly, biological families look like, where does this dream come from?

More than ever before, I’ve become convinced this dream started long before diapers, lullaby’s, and car keys. Only our Heavenly Father gets to define family because he has been family for forever. Let me explain. What I see of family around me doesn’t do a fantastic job of reinforcing connection, identity, and value. Sitting at a table scrolling through news articles doesn’t tell anyone that they are valuable. It’s only when I get a glimpses of the love within the Trinity that I see a where the threads of my dreams came from.

This glimpse of family is essential for us to see in order for us to understand God’s heart for the lost.

Inside Father is a wonderful union of three distinct persons. Three persons who love each other perfectly. They submit to each other, they affirm each other and they create together. Every task that they set out to accomplish is completed with perfect cooperation. Read John 14 & 15. It’s wild and beautiful family.

Now, you and I were created to be a part of this family. This is what Jesus carried in his heart to the cross: a desperate love of inclusion. He wanted us to be included in him as he was included in the Father. The lost are those who have not entered this wonderful reality. The love within the Trinity is the same love that comes out of it. When we enter through the life of Jesus in this wonderful heavenly Family, a dream grows within us. Could we love each other like this?

John 13:34 says, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Jesus gave us permission to not only receive the perfect love of God but to give it to those around us!

This is crazy. Allow it to soak all the way through you. Put this kind of love into any situation you face and it will transform it.

Let’s apply it to missions. How many mission’s organizations, church ministries and trips have become focused on accomplishments? I’ll make it personal: I always have to kick myself when I get back from an outreach because the first I think about is: did I do enough? Did I reach enough people? The question God asks me is very different:

Did you love them? Did you lay yourself down for them? Did you look like me?

To be honest, I still don’t know how to answer him. But this much I do: every decision I make must come from a place of heavenly love. That place is family. It’s knowing that I belong to heaven and everyone around me needs to know that they do too. I cannot make missions or ministry about what I do or it will become a performance driven business. That is not the dream within our Father.

Are you willing to look deep into this wonderful mystery with me? I am still finding words for this perspective. I invite you to explore it with me.

Family is in Heaven. Family is in Uganda. Family is here! Let’s open our minds to the endless possibilities found in the infinite Love of our eternal Father. Those who have not heard of this incredibly good news are still standing outside. We can let them in on this divine secret with just a little courage and a whole lot of love!

What if we saw the people we walk past every day as being part of our family? Not just our biological family, but our heavenly one? What if we were so aware of our belonging inside of Christ that we became fearless of rejection outside of Him? What if the perfect love inside of the perfect Family really did cast out fear?

-timothy ornelas