I have a huge paternal family. My dad was one of 9 children and his dad was one of 14 children. I’ve got so many relatives it’s difficult to keep track of them all. In fact, growing up we just couldn’t be certain who was a relative and who wasn’t so the Marks family picked up the habit of just adopting stray people who wandered too close.
Over the years I’ve sort of lost track of some of my 36 first cousins. This is true because more than 95% of them live in Canada, I was born in the States, I now live in Phoenix and I’ve not been back to Canada in 9 years. When I was growing up we went to Canada once or twice a year (usually for the whole summer) but by and large I grew up in the States. What I find interesting, however, is that even though I’ve been so separated from the rest of the family and grew up in a completely different country – yet still, I recognize my family. I see a reflection of myself in them. You would think we would be so different because of our separation – but we’re really not.
One of my cousins showed up on my doorstep the other day and I’ve barely seen him in ten years. But he seemed to fit right into my family as if he’d never been anywhere else. His mannerisms, quirks of speech and even knowing where things ought to be in the refrigerator were eerily similar. It’s amazing how much we resemble each other.
Reflecting on this I realize the family of God is much the same way. It’s not about similar worship services or styles – it’s about the Spirit of God that inhabits the people of God. You can recognize it even when you’re separated by cultures and distances and time. I’ve met Christians in foreign countries that have almost nothing similar to me in terms of culture but our shared faith in Jesus truly makes us family. You can sense His Spirit, they seem eerily similar and the marvelous Spirit of God transcends languages and borders and binds us together in a way no biological family can duplicate.
This is a marvelous gift. Still, I think we get too myopic about what is happening in our own country, our own church and our local economy. We forget that if we are truly Christians then we are part of a greater family that extends throughout the earth.
And many of our family members are suffering horrifically too. We would do well to remember this. It’s easy to pop out a credit card to buy a new dirt bike, committing ourselves to several years worth of payments for a toy we might use twice a month. In the meantime, our family members are being murdered in India and Indonesia and Africa.
Recently a missionary friend of mine told us about a fantastic children’s outreach in India. Thousands of children are hearing about Jesus – and violent Hindus have murdered 2 leaders and beat another nearly to death. A missionary friend of mine in South Africa reported how church planters are building churches in East Africa, risking their lives to free sex slaves from the cult armies tearing Uganda apart. Another missionary I know puts his life on the line every day in a Muslim country secretly telling young people of the life giving message of Jesus.
Are you a Christian? Have you turned from a self-directed life living any way you please to a Jesus-directed life? Have you made Him the King of your life? If so, then these people are family. They may be separated from us by distance and culture and language but they are family. Were we to meet them we would sense His Spirit, they would seem eerily similar.
So, I think maybe we ought to be less quick to pop out “ye old credit card” and quicker to give the same amount to the ministries who support these people. I’m not trying to toss a guilt grenade here – I’m just tossing out something we ought to think about. No – something we ought to DO something about, not just think “gee, that’s too bad for my cousins.”
Goodness sake – wouldn’t we do something for our biological family? How much more for our family members that will be with us for eternity?
After all – they’re family….
Patrick C Marks is the author of the hilarious short story collection “The Far Frigid North” (Kindle price just .99, http://amzn.to/t0TCeA), the suspense novel “Legend” (Kindle price $1.99, http://amzn.to/uwHATL) and a Christian apologetics, non-fiction book about evolution and creation called “Someone’s Making a Monkey Out of You” (Kindle price $2.99, hard copy $15.95, http://amzn.to/snubN1). He is also a husband, father, pastor, and a poor excuse for an oil painter – but he likes getting his fingers colorful anyway.