Written by Elizabeth Bart Children's Ministry Director “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
“One in Christ.” What a strange statement. How can many be one? How can people throughout history, across the world, from different cultures share oneness? It seems strange, but if we downsize for a moment, how do we say that we are all part of our immediate family? It’s often based on a name.
Did you know that you took on the name of Christ? In fact, Paul tells us that we’ve been adopted into the family of God. Let’s look at adoption. My brother and sister-in-law adopted a son. He now shares their name, and any future biological or adopted children will also become part of the family. By name, my nephew is their heir, but if only his name changed, then he wouldn’t experience the love and gifts and joys of being a son to his parents. This is important. When we enter into the family of God, we become an heir. We share the gifts, joys, trials, finances, responsibilities and reputation of God.
While Jesus reconciled us to God, (put all the adoptive papers through to the judge) we still have to live with him as our family. What does that mean? We have to have faith, believe that Jesus did what he did, is doing what he’s doing and will do all that he promised. For example, I was born Elizabeth McDaniel. When I was married, my name changed. I am now Elizabeth Bart. I had to learn to live into this new status as Jacob’s wife. It takes time, energy and dedication, and in some ways is ongoing. This is the same with God’s family. In daily, moment-by-moment, renewing our mind and living in a way that is pleasing to the will of God like Paul talks about in Romans 12, we have to continually learn to live into being part of the Family of God.
So when we become part of the Family of God, we share in the promise that Paul tells the church in Galatia. The promise that God gave to Abraham. Family was everything in Abraham’s day. Your family lived, worked, failed, flourished...together, with generation working with generation after generation. God purposefully chose a man who came from a culture who understood the need for family, in order to point us back to this deep need for Family. God promised to Abraham’s family longevity and flourishing if they entered into relationship with Him. This is the same promise that Jesus now offers to us. Jesus lived, died, and rose so that we could enter into a full relationship with God. We can enter into God’s Family.
The Family of God is for each of us. But, we are sinners, so we must continually humble ourselves and lean into the grace that we have received from Jesus, so that we can in turn give that grace and love to others. I am not exempt! I must lean into the grace of Jesus. In my past, I have such deep hurt from people in the Church who did not want to pursue Jesus, but rather their own desires. And yet, that hurt is minuscule in comparison to the rich gift that I have received from being a part of the Family of God, the Bride who is the Church. I have always loved the concept of family. Everything in my life is driven by unity with other people towards a goal. It took me a long time to realize that this desire is because the Church, when pursuing Jesus, is the greatest Family that I could ever have. I still don’t understand all the implications of that, but I want to passionately pursue Jesus alongside all of you.
I bring all this up because as we gather together on a Sunday, we are saying that these people are my Family. In the Family of God, the Church is the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5). A bride and a groom make a covenant together, which is the same as us choosing Christ as our Savior. No matter our differences (Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female etc), we must live into relationship with the rest of the Bride. Those who attend our church, who think differently from us at our church, who drive us bonkers at our church, as well as those from other churches who proclaim Christ as Lord!
It’s the differences between us that should remind us of the incredible, multi- faceted God who leads our Family. In 1 Corinthians 12:17, Paul explains this need “If the whole body [the Church] were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is there are many parts, yet one body [one Church].” It is essential for us to live in relationship with our Family. The Family of God is about reconciliation and filling the gaps, caring for one another, and following after Jesus by “lay[ing] aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us” (Hebrews 12:1). The Family of God is such good news to all humanity that we must pursue every endeavor with this in mind! This is my prayer.