When my nephew was about four-years-old, The Tigger Movie came out, and apparently it resonated with him. One day, as he was riding in the car with his parents, he announced, “Mom, Dad, I love you, but I need to find my real family.” My sister tried to explain to him in a gentle way that they were his real family. He replied, “No, my Tigger family.” I was thinking of that as I was reading a chapter of J.I. Packer’s Knowing God, which focused on our adoption into God’s family. I found a new perspective from which I could see that my earthly, biological family might be less my real family than the family God destined me to be part of before the foundation of the world.
Packer gave me this view of family and adoption when he pointed out that one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to help us to “live up to our position as royal children by manifesting the family likeness (conforming to Christ).” Some people go on genealogical quests to find their real families. There are a couple of popular websites that assist with diving into one’s genealogy, and of course, you can get DNA testing to help find your family origin. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but it is easy to get caught up in searching out information that is of little value in one’s everyday life and of no eternal consequence. I realized that, for believers, the Bible is our introduction to our eternal family that we have been adopted into. We learn about those who have gone before us, and we find out what pleases our Father and what displeases Him. We are instructed on how we can best bring honor to Him and the family.
A couple of weeks ago, my roommate’s closet shelf and rod collapsed. We purchased some replacement brackets and rod holders, and I was able to get the closet back in order, with the shelf and rod more secure than before. I caught myself boasting about how much I love being my father’s daughter. I learned from Daddy how to use tools and fix things myself. I get real satisfaction from working with my hands and obtaining a good result. It really is the mark of my father’s influence in my life. But what about the mark of the Heavenly Father in my life? Can people recognize that I am part of God’s family, and I have been taught by Him? Do I boast in that familial relationship, and tell others how much I love Him?
In God’s Word we learn that adoption trumps DNA every time! Scripture tells us that faith, not genetics, makes us part of God’s family: “And [Jesus] answered them, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?. . .For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.’” (Mark 3:33, 35) John the Baptist told the Jews that their genealogy was of no account, and “God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9) In Galatians 3:7 it is further explained, “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” If, as Packer wrote, the Spirit is to help us learn how to be part of Gods family and resemble Christ, then the fruit of the Spirit is what demonstrates that we belong to the family of God. These qualities ought to be the mark of the Christian and make it clear that we are associated with Jesus Christ who demonstrated these virtues.
Our earthly family has importance. God instructed us in Scripture how we are to relate to our families and care for them. But boast in them? No, that is not consistent with Scripture. Our boasting should only be in the cross, whereby the means of our adoption was finalized. It is usually good when a small child looks up to his father and wants to be like him. But if we have been adopted as a son or daughter of the Heavenly Father, we should no longer look to the example of our human family. Instead, we fix our eyes on Jesus, knowing that being transformed into His likeness means taking on the characteristics of God as a true family member does: “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:6) We are allowed to call on God as Daddy!
It is clearer to me each day just how fleeting this life is. I dread facing the mortality of my parents, but as time passes, it is increasingly before me. Though I have great hope for them through Jesus Christ, it pains me. I sense that just as there is no marriage in heaven, our family relationships will not be the same in the life to come. Yet, our Heavenly Father will not change. He is my Daddy and my Comforter, and He will be with me whatever comes. I need to look to Him and conform myself to being a member of His clan. Some say that it is difficult for those who have no father, or who had a bad father, to accept God as a loving, adoptive Heavenly Father. But there are pitfalls for all of us, whatever our earthly family is like. It is a blessing to have a father who helped me to understand God’s love for me. But as a result, I need to guard myself against looking to the wrong father for my identity, safety, and security.