Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household~ Ephesians 2:19
This morning as I sipped my coffee I came across a heartwarming story on my newsfeed. It was about a South African high school student who was abducted from the hospital shortly after birth. Unbeknownst to her biological parents, their oldest child lived all of her seventeen years just a few miles from the family who never gave up hope of reuniting with her.
The girl’s identity was uncovered when her classmates mentioned repeatedly that she bore a striking resemblance to a younger girl who also attended the school. Eventually the two girls met, felt an immediate connection to one another and became friends.
The younger girl invited her new friend home for a visit and introduced the girl to her Mom and Dad. The parents were stunned by the resemblance between the two girls and called the police. The court ordered a DNA test and the results were irrefutable. Their child’s new friend was her older sister and their long lost daughter.
There is little in this world that I love more than a happy ending, and this particular ending moved me to tears. Then I started thinking about some of the deeper implications for the girl.
It would be wonderful to discover that you had a whole new set of people to love. However, it would be rather jolting to go through life believing a set of facts about yourself and your family, only to discover that none of those facts were actually true. It would be unnerving to have to learn to adapt to a whole new set of family values as a young adult. That darling girl and her family will be in my prayers.
I was still contemplating all the details of the story as I poured another cup of coffee and continued my reading through the book of Ephesians. Ephesians is a New Testament book that teaches Christians about the unique identity that they have as believers in Jesus Christ. The book of Ephesians makes it clear that when we are in Christ we are:
Dearly and deeply loved- Ephesians 2:4,5:1
Holy- Ephesians 1:4
Redeemed and forgiven- Ephesians 1:5
Called and chosen- Ephesians 1:4,1:18
Cherished works of art- Ephesians 2:10
A beloved member of God’s family- Ephesians 2:19
All in all, not a bad identity. One could certainly do worse than to be a chosen, forgiven, dearly loved, member of the household of the living God. With all families the blessing of belonging comes with a corresponding set of obligations.
In a biological family the responsibilities might include the expectation of respect, kindness, helpfulness and involvement in the day-to-day goings on of family life. The expectations in the family of God are not all that different. God lavishes on us the riches of grace and the joy of truly belonging and asks in return that we:
Seek to fully understand the totality of what we have been blessed with- Ephesians 1:17-19
Live in such a way that others see God’s workmanship in our lives- Ephesians 2:21, 4:1
Never forget how scary it was to walk in darkness- Ephesians 2:1-3
Remember always that we are saved due to God’s kindness rather than our own goodness- Ephesians 2:8-8
Grow-up to look like Jesus- Ephesians 4:15
Treat others with deference- 5:21, 6:1-9
Love people like God loves people- Ephesians 4:2, 5:2
Serve others- Ephesians 6:7
Talk to God about our needs and struggles-Ephesians 6:18
These expectations would be onerous and soul crushing if we were expected to live up to them on day one. Perhaps the greatest proof of God’s great grace is that He does not expect us to grow into our new identities overnight. Rather, God is mercifully patient with us. He does not demand perfection but He does long to see some real effort on our part. His constant mercy is proof of His love for us. Our spiritual efforts are proof of our love for Him.
We make an effort not by tackling the whole list at once. That method is doomed to failure. Rather we should pick one thing at a time and work on it till we get it right. Then we move on to the next thing and the next thing after that. If we commit to this course of action consistently over time, one day we will wake up looking an awful lot like our big brother Jesus.