Summary: All of us are more alike than we are different, even those who are well outside our values. We need to see the broken as brothers and sisters in search of God, and to feel urgency about reaching them.
If blood is supposed to be thicker than water, meaning that we have a primary responsibility to our families, then I guess we had better know who our families are. I guess we’d better know who our blood kin are if blood is thicker than water, as the saying goes, and there is some kind of special responsibility to our own kinfolks. Who are our families?
Someone said to me this week, as she was reflecting on her future, "I have no family, you know." Well, I probed a little bit. I knew that she had no living brothers or sisters, and I knew that she had never been a mother. But I thought I knew of some others who were family. "Well, yes," she said, "there are some cousins. But I hardly know them. I don’t really consider them family." So I probed some more. I asked her if she had some good friends? “Oh, my, yes! I have great friends, devoted friends, the kind who will help you in every need." Then I asked about her church. “Oh, my church is wonderful. There are some people there who would do anything for me. I have a great church family. Oh! Church …family. I guess I do have a family, don’t I?
You see, family is broader than the folks who have the same last name or who sprang from the same great-grandparents. Family are the people who care about you, who have been through a lot of things with you, who have struggled when you have struggled. Family are the folks, whoever they are, who have sweated and prayed great drops of blood with you. Family is much broader than merely the official relatives.
Someone else called me the other day to tell me of the death of his good friend, a man with whom he had done many things over the years, someone he had cared for during his long illness and protracted dying. As we talked, I sensed that this loss of a good friend was no less painful, no less agonizing, than the loss of a blood brother. The mere accident of being born from the same parents and raised in the same home is not the only thing that makes us brothers. We are also brothers when we struggle together, live through pain together, share disappointments together. Family are the folks, whoever they are, who have sweated and prayed great drops of blood with you. Family is much broader than merely the official relatives.
I want to think with you about the broader human family in which we live. There are people all around us who are or who can become our family, our brothers and sisters.
The apostle Paul, speaking to the polite skeptics on Mars Hill in ancient Athens, decided to teach them about being one family. This Jew from Tarsus in Syria ... of a different race from these Greeks, speaking a different native language, having a different religious background, being from a culture quite unlike theirs ... this argumentative man representing a tiny, unheard of religion, decided to tell the cultured Athenians that they were like him and he like them. Probably not as easy message to hear.
But Paul asserted that all of them were of one blood. One family. And being of one blood had some very definite consequences.
The first thing that Paul taught the Athenians was that because we are all God’s creation, because we are all of one blood, we are more alike than we are different. Now the differentness is there, it is important, but there is more to bring us together than there is to separate us.
"God who made the world and everything it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth … [this God] has made of one blood all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live."
To put it in plain and simple terms, God has made us all alike and yet God has also made us all different. God has made us of one blood and yet God has also allotted each of us different times, different boundaries, different ways, different styles. But the thrust is that God has made us family; God has made us of one blood, though we are different.
Now there are many ways to talk about this truth. If I were to recount the history of this congregation as a multiracial family, I would get no argument from you. We have achieved a great deal of the family feeling on that level. We are more alike than we are different, even though there are differences.
If I were to speak of the way we have been able, to some degree, to cross over other barriers, I would find agreement. One of our newer members told his deacon that he was attracted to this church because we spent no time parading our goodness or flaunting our righteousness. We just recognize that we are all simply sinners saved by grace. That’s a good tribute to the family feeling we’ve achieved. We are more alike than we are different, even though we are different.