When we are conceived, we have the DNA of our natural parents, which determines, among other things, what we look like. I have my father’s eye color and Native American skin. I get my height and nose from my mother. If you saw a photo of my parents, siblings and me, you’d say, “Oh, yeah, you can tell they’re related.”
I remember that my 4-year-old niece was thrilled when my mother came to visit. Until then, she thought she was the only one in her family who had blond hair and blue eyes.
But when Grandma came to visit, my niece trumpeted her delight to the neighborhood, running outside and excitedly calling to her friend across the street, “My Grandma’s here! My Grandma’s here! And she has yellow hair, like me! And blue eyes like me! And a sticky-out tummy!” And my niece ran back inside, happy with her deepened sense of belonging.
There are also families who don’t share a clear physical resemblance. My extended family was diverse, through adoption. Vietnamese, African-American, Hispanic, Chinese, Caucasian, Korean, Japanese. We had light skin, dark skin, red hair, black hair, blond hair and we were tall and short, but we were all a part of our close-knit family, just as it is today, which I love.
We all shared the same set of rules and behaviors to which we were expected to adhere. No punching, scratching, biting or hitting — no matter how mad you were. No name-calling or taking something that didn’t belong to you. Share, with a good attitude. Say “please” and “thank you.” Be kind. Clean up after yourself. Leave a place or toy in better condition than when you found it. Encourage each other. Let someone else have the last cookie.
We’re also created in the very image of God — spiritually. We were created to be, not just look, like Him, in how we believe, behave and respond. Our big brother, Jesus, modeled this and showed us what our family is supposed to look lik, when He said “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” in John 14:9.
I love the reminder God has for us in Ephesians 3:10 “God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display His wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was His eternal plan, which He carried out through Christ our Lord”.
Now, let’s talk about “One Size Fits All.” Right. The term has been changed it to say “One Size Fits Most” or just “One Size,” which means “This is the only size and shape we are ever going to make – so make it work or walk away”. I’ve tried some of those “One Size Fits All” and even the “One Size Fits Most” pieces of clothing. Seriously, who are they kidding? I’d like to see the “All” or the “Most” those items actually fit. They are usually so shapeless and without definition they can only be called functional at best.
Equally perplexing is the idea that churches are supposed to all look alike, otherwise they just aren’t part of the “family.” It would be a sad theology to believe that all Christian churches should look or function the same.
Now, there are certain tenants of faith we must hold as true and absolute to be Christians; things that would be considered salvation issues, such as the belief that there is only one true God; who Jesus Christ is and what He did for us on the cross; or that salvation is by grace through faith alone, or of asking Him to forgive us and allowing Jesus to be the leader of are lives.
To depart from these essential beliefs is to depart from being a Christian. I’m not talking about these key things. I’m looking at family life after our adoption into God’s family.
In Romans 8:14-17 we’re told, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”
Family is so much more than physical resemblance — and, in the case of God’s kids getting together, it’s less about similar activities or church bulletin templates and more about remembering who our mutual Father is and how He sincerely wants us to grow close. Extended families don’t lose their individuality, but rejoice in celebrating both their commonality as well their own unique flavor and approach to life.
There is a world of difference between being with a group of people who tolerate you and those who celebrate you. Family does the latter. So does God.
In my family, while growing up, we often referred to the whole hoard of us simply as “the cousins.” Oh the excitement and eager expectation of being able to spend time, wrestle, run, laugh and share meals with the cousins! Playing new board games together required reading the instructions together to make sure we played the game correctly, of course. Isn’t it interesting that God wants us to do the same as we learn to successfully live this amazing life with each other? Funny how now, in the family of God, we still get to do the same thing: spend time with each other, wrestle, run the race, laugh and share in the banquet of life. And just like at Thanksgiving, when there were more people that had joined our family throughout the year, we always made sure they had a special place at the feast. There is always enough room at the table as more people are celebrated and welcomed into the family!
“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” Psalm 133,
D.L. Moody aid, “Out of 100 men, one will read the Bible, the other 99 will read the Christian.”
Life is good and there is joy in the journey as we invest time and heart into the relationship-building opportunities around us. And we must be diligent to remember the family rules: No punching, scratching, biting or hitting — no matter how mad you are. No name-calling or taking something that doesn’t belong to you. Share with a good attitude. Say “please” and “thank you.” Be kind. Clean up after yourself. Leave a person in better condition than when you found them. Always encourage each other. Let someone else have the last cookie. And don’t tell people that you licked the brownies and put them back on the plate. OK, that rule is still just for me.
The Rev. Mikki Jones co-pastors Grace Christian Center wth her husband, the Rev. Dave Jones. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should call Catherine Hicks at 609-526-8312 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.