There is no denying the importance of family. My husband and children are my first priority and God’s gift to me. When my husband is discouraged, it’s a privilege to come alongside him and encourage him. When my kids are sick, my husband and I are there to nurse them back to health. Our relationships go much further than caring for one another, of course, but often these tangible expressions are the means of expressing our importance to one another. My husband and I are united through the covenant of marriage and have the great responsibility from God of shepherding our children.
I imagine you would agree that family is important. There’s another family that is of great value to the Lord: the family of God.
As Christians we are adopted children of God. Paul tells us of our new bloodline when he writes: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:16–17). We are children of God and a fellow heir with Christ. Before the foundation of the world God had us in mind. He created us and then he adopted us as his very own children.
But it came at a price.
In order for us to be brought into God’s family, his Son had to die. God gave his Son for us to be called sons. We know that Jesus’s death wasn’t short and quick. It was long and agonizing — and it was for us.
Even before his death Jesus affirmed the importance of being a part of the family of God. Addressing the people while his mother and brothers stood outside, Jesus said, “‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matthew 12:48–50).
Jesus isn’t making a statement that our biological families are no longer important (see Matthew 15:3). Rather, he is stating that following him is far greater. He takes priority, and so does his kingdom — so much so that those who follow him are counted as his brother and sister and mother — his family.
A Colorful Family
Maybe the best news about our adoption into God’s family is that it is not dependent on us. He doesn’t call the righteous, he redeems sinners. God also doesn’t look at our outward appearance to determine whether he will adopt us. He doesn’t discriminate based on ethnicity. His concern is the heart. We know that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We are saved by faith alone through grace alone — all our boasting is in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8–9). The gospel is for all nations.
We know this is true, and yet so often we allow the differences in the color of our skin to dictate whether or not we accept people. God doesn’t discriminate in his family. Racial reconciliation has been accomplished in Christ. There is no distinction. Those who trust in Christ for their salvation are adopted, and therefore we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. As a result, we should be united in Christ. He’s got a colorful family, and therefore so do we. Russell Moore puts it like this in Adopted for Life:
Our adoption means . . . that we find a different kind of unity. In Christ, we find Christ. We don’t have our old identities based on race or class or life situation. The Spirit drives us from Babel to Pentecost, which is why “the works of the flesh” Paul warns about include “enmity, strife, jealousy. . . .” When we find our identity anywhere other than Christ, our churches will be made up of warring partisans rather than loving siblings.
What would it mean, though, if we took the radical notion of being brothers and sisters seriously?
What would happen if your church saw an elderly woman no one would ever confuse with “cool” on her knees at the front of the church praying with a body-pierced fifteen-year-old anorexic girl?
What would happen if your church saw a white millionaire corporate vice president being mentored by a Latino minimum wage-earning janitor because both know the janitor is more mature in the things of Christ?
Different and the Same
As we begin to view members of our churches as members of God’s family and thus as members of our family, our prejudices begin to crumble. Racial reconciliation is not only possible; it’s a must because we are the very family of God.
One way for us to truly love and care for the Church is for us to get a big God view of the family of God. Understanding the family of God is yet another weapon against racial intolerance in the church and beyond.
As we recognize, accept, and embrace our new family, we experience the walls of hostility abolished, torn down, no more. Only in the family of God can people so distinctly different be the same (equal in creation and redemption) and counted as sisters and brothers in a new family.
This post first appeared at desiringGod.org
Trillia Newbell (@trillianewbell) is a wife, mom, and writer who loves Jesus. She is the author of United: Captured by God's Vision for Diversity (Moody, March 2014).