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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Joe Parker

 
Earlier this week I attended a family event in the hills of Southeastern Kentucky. There were 26 of us there, and I knew each one. I seldom see these folks, but they're special to me because we are bound by common ancestors.
 
Joe Parker met a fellow two months ago in Hawaii. Joe didn't know this man or his family when he offered to take their photograph. By the end of the day they knew they were closely connected, for they share a very significant ancestor in common.
 
Joe had moved to Hawaii a year ago seeking a change for the better in his life. Rick Hill, the "stranger", was on vacation with his wife and two children. Upon learning that Rick was vacationing from Massachusetts (where Joe was from), they began discussing people they might know in common. "Do you know Dickie Halligan?" Joe asked. When Rick said, "That's my father," Joe was stunned, for that was his father, too (Halligan died in 2002).
 
The odds against such a chance encounter are astronomically large; that's what makes the story so intriguing. To travel thousands of miles and just happen to have your unknown brother ask to take a photo of you - who could have written such a script? Truth is indeed often stranger than fiction.
 
Most who read this will agree that "family" is special. Though we rarely interact, we still value those people who are aunts, uncles or cousins. But blood-relatives are not the closest relations we can have. The wise man made that point in Proverbs 18:24: "... But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." What point was he trying to make?
 
Paul developed the idea more fully in his letter to Christians in Rome: "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:15,16). In Christ we have a common ancestor; we are all children of God.
 
In another letter Paul again stressed this new family we inherit by becoming Christians. He noted that Christ's mission was "to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons" (Galatians 6:4). Thus, when we make the decision to follow Christ, we gain an entirely new family; we are adopted into God's family!
 
When you think of this family, think big. In Ephesians 3:15 Paul spoke of "the whole family in heaven and earth". I live in Johnson City, Tennessee, but I have family in Spokane, Washington (whom I've never met) as well as in Lima, Peru (many of whom I have met). Each time I visit a congregation of the Lord's people in a place I've never been, I meet new family members.
 
And these people care for one another! That's just as it should be, for Paul commanded it: "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10).
 
Would you like to broaden your family? Do you need people who genuinely care about your well-being, both physically and spiritually? God's family is open to all (Matthew 28:18-20).
 
Timothy D. Hall
 

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