Being part of the family of God

There was once a little rat who lived in an orphanage. Her parents had been thrown in jail for attempting to secure funds in an expeditious but illegal manner. Her name- let's call her Lydia Snivel. Lydia lived as she had been taught by her parents. She stole whenever she could and never showed any consideration for others.

Then one day Mr. and Mrs. White came to the orphanage. They fell in love with Lydia and adopted her.

The first day at dinner, Lydia ate hunched over her plate. "Why are you doing that?" asked her new mother.
"This is the way I've always eaten." said Lydia. "It's so that nobody takes anything from my plate."
"You don't need to do that here." said Mrs. White. "Nobody is going to steal your food here."

Later, Mr. White caught Lydia stealing from his wife's purse. "What are you doing?" he demanded.
Lydia was frightened. "I just wanted a little money!" she said.
"You should have asked." said Mr. White as he gently took the money and put it back into the purse. "You don't just take things without asking."
"That was how my old family did it." said Lydia.
"You're not a Snivel anymore." said her father. "You're a White, now."
Lydia hung her head. "I don't know how to be a White." she said. "I guess you want to take me back to the orphanage."
"Don't be ridiculous." said the father. "You're part of the White family, now. you'll always be part of this family forever and ever. We'll help you learn to act like a White. Me, your mother, your brothers and sisters and your grandpa."
At this, Lydia felt a peace she'd never known before.

Being part of God's family is a profound thing. Many people don't think about the fact that once you accept Jesus as your savior, you are adopted into His family. Each one of us who calls himself a Christian proclaims that we are children of the Creator.

Some might say that we are all children of God, since God created us all. In a purely physical sense, this is true. But there is much more to a parent-child relationship than just the creation of a new being. After all, it was the Snivels who bore Lydia, but from the moment she was adopted, they were no longer her parents. In fact, it can easily be said that they gave up the rights to be her parents when they committed the crime for which they were arrested. That's how it works with us, only in our case, we're the ones who abandon our maker. God is holy. The first time we sin, we are turning our backs on God and all that He stands for. How marvelous and wonderful that He chooses to give us the opportunity to reconcile. And this not merely as His creatures, but as His sons.

Yes, sons. Not sons and daughters. John 1:12 Why the obvious omission? Because in ancient Israel, daughters were not heirs of their parents. It was only in the most unusual of circumstances that women were allowed to inherrit their fathers' property. Female Christians are given the title of sons because they are heirs of God just like the men. Heirs of what? In a word, everything. God made it, Jesus rules it, and as we sang in our medley today, we are joint heirs with Jesus. (Ladies, if you feel weird about being a son, just keep in mind that we're all the bride of Christ, too.)

But wait, it gets better. Paul speaks of adoption in his epistles. The law in Paul's day said that once a person was adopted, they could never be disowned. We have that same promise.

Romans 8:38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature (thing), shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. In the Greek, the language used here is absolute. There is no possibility of anything seperating us from our Lord, not even ourselves.

So if we are irrevocably children of God, what are we supposed to do? The children of a nobleman are expected to act like nobility. No, not spoiled, but selfless, brave and compassionate. Children of kings are expected to act like royalty. How, then, are children of God supposed to act? well, it's no coincidence that we are called "Christians", meaning "little Christs".

look at 1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. We are royalty, we are priests, peculiar from the world, holy.

That's not to say that it will happen instantly. Like Lydia, we behave in the manner we're used to. It is only with the help of our Father and those siblings who have come before us that we learn our new nature.

Which brings me to my favorite point. How are we supposed to act toward each other? Before I started using the moniker "Pastor Oren", you'll remember I went by "Brother Oren". There's a reason for using the title "brother". It isn't limited to monastics. All of us who are children of God are brothers and sisters of one another. I know that there are a great many people in this world to whom a sibling relationship means nothing. This is not what God intended. God could have made us so that we'd hatch fully grown from eggs laid by a single queen as He did with termites. This isn't what he wanted for us. He created us as family units for a reason. It's His intention for spouses to be best friends, for parents to care for children, for children to support their parents in their old age. The sibling relationship is no less important. Brothers and sisters are meant to be friends and allies, helping and supporting one another in both physical and emotional terms. This relationship is so sacred that if we fail to love our siblings, God does not count us worthy to worship him. (Matthew 5:23, 1 John 4:20,21)

If we are to have this much regard for our earthly family, how much should we have for God's family? There is no doubt in my mind that every verse which talks about how we treat our brothers refers not only to our earthly brothers, but our Christian brothers as well, perhaps even moreso.

If we look at Jesus as an example (as is a generally advisable practice) He treated His earthly family with honor and respect, but in his heart, he never really considered them His family. Not biologically. After all, He was alive long before He was born to Mary. He never called Mary "mother", but always called her "woman". In terms of origins, he was not related to his earthly family at all. But look at what he says...

Mark 3:33 "Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked.
34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers!
35 Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."

Jesus didn't reject His earthly family. He accepted them as part of His greater family.

This holds an excellent promise for each of us. If we have lost our parents, if we are without siblings, if we have no children, we still have our church family. Right here are our children and brothers and sisters. And here among us is God, our Father. He has promised to be a father to the fatherless and a husband to the widow. I can tell you this is very true. I stand before you preaching this day because when my fiance abandoned me, God took my hand and told me to cling to Him. We are the bride of Christ, after all. So instead of being Ms. Moore's groom, I concentrated on being Christ's bride, and I have not regretted it for a moment.

My challenge to the unsaved is the same as ever. Come and be adopted by Jesus, the Everlasting Father. Find out for yourself how wonderful it is to be part of the family.

For those who are in the family, practice being a brother or sister to your fellow Christians. Don't hesitate to tell them "I love you" and find some way to make their lives a little happier. But most of all, I encourage each of you to find the happiness I have found by concentrating on belonging to Christ.

Pastor Oren Otter
September 24, 2005