Choosing Your Ancestors
By David Faust
Are there any bad apples on your family tree? If you are curious about your ancestry, you can take a DNA test. Comedian Jim Gaffigan jokes, “You do learn things from those genetic tests. I discovered I wasted a hundred bucks.”
My dad claimed that our family is distantly related to William Penn and John Chapman (better known as Johnny Appleseed). I can’t prove I’m related to these famous Americans, but I ponder the possibility while I stir applesauce into my oatmeal.
Even if we can identify our ancestors, we don’t get to choose them. I would have been a better basketball player if I were 6 foot 4 inches tall, but my DNA made me stop growing at 5 foot 11. Ancestors I never knew determined the color of my eyes and the shape of my face.
Prior generations have a spiritual impact, too. From Adam and Eve till today, sin has tainted humanity and tilted us toward disaster. Theologians argue about the nature and extent of the damage, but there’s no denying that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Thankfully, though, we can choose the spiritual family we call our own. When we receive the Lord Jesus, God gives us “the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13).
Here is a remarkable promise: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27). We get to choose our spiritual ancestors! By God’s grace we “are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (v. 29).
THE DIFFERENCE IT MAKES
Why does it matter if we are “Abraham’s seed”? Here are four ways our spiritual heritage makes a difference.
It affects how we think of God. He is not only our Creator and Judge; he is the Father who adopted us, the Redeemer who saved us, the Teacher who instructs us.
It affects how we view others. The gospel transcends social barriers that devalue, distract, and divide. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
It affects how we see ourselves. We are members of God’s intergenerational family. Our worth isn’t determined by the titles we wear, the income we earn, the esteem others offer us, or where our name appears on an organizational chart. “You are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4:7).
It affects how we think about eternity. By faith, Abraham followed the Lord to a place he had never seen. By faith, Moses led the Israelites through the desert to the Promised Land. The Lord has in store for us “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade . . . kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). By faith, we align with God’s covenant people throughout history who have looked forward to that eternal inheritance. We join a family of believers that includes Abraham, Moses, Ruth, David, Esther, Mary, Peter, John, and Paul. When we all get to Heaven, what a family reunion that will be!
Personal Challenge: On a piece of paper or in your personal journal, write “Because I belong to Jesus Christ, I am . . .” and then write what comes to mind about your identity in Christ. (For example: “I am . . . forgiven . . . adopted . . . part of God’s family . . . not alone . . .”)