One of the funniest things about being a parent is observing the family resemblance that get passed down from generation to generation.
There are the obvious.
Height. Or lack of it.
Hair colour. And hair colour changes…. My husband’s mum was completely white by the time she was 35 (and my husband is nearly completely gray/white at 43 – and looks awesome!)
But there are other things that families do in common, traits and quirks that identify people as belonging to a family.
You’ve probably heard the sayings:
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Like father, like son
A chip off the old block.
For instance, my family, the McKay’s are notoriously stubborn. Like we will never give up. Ever.
In my own immediate family we have a funny one that can only be explained by DNA. When I was growing up I only ever ate my cereal – my weetbix, cornflakes, whatever, without milk. Dry. As a bone. Well when I had kids and started them on foods I thought I would break that habit and have you know, normal eaters. But guess what, despite my attempts, both my kids prefer and eat their cereal dry. As a bone.
My daughter has literally copied the way I answer the phone. She picks it up and then strides off to chat.
And I overheard one of my children perfectly imitate their father (who I have asked permission to share this) tell their younger sibling (no spoilers) “I am so not impressed with you right now.” That phrase got dropped like a hotcake in our family!
Without even meaning to as parents we are teaching their children how to act every second of every day, and children are learning about what are considered appropriate actions from what they see their parents do. As parents we are often modelling behaviour unconsciously when unaware that young eyes observe their actions.
Kids imitate what they see. They pick up on behaviour, language, and attitudes. They do as you do, not as you say!
Likewise in the family of God.
Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:15-16
When we give our lives to Jesus we become part of the family in an extraordinary process of adoption. Now it’s not just like normal adoption where you retain your own features and likeness – when you get adopted into the family of God it’s like your DNA changes at the very core of who you are. You have a new spiritual family and a new spiritual DNA that transforms you from the inside out to make you look like part of the family.
For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. Romans 8:29-30 NLT
God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun. Romans 8:29-30 MSG
At HKC YOUTH I get to have the privilege of watching new kids, who have just joined the family, figure out how we do stuff. They pick up on behaviour, language, attitudes. They watch what we may consider unconscious behaviour to learn how to live this new life they have, just as children watch their parents behaviour.
I get to watch kids come in broken who walk out healed. I get to watch kids come in feeling hopeless who feel hope and know that they are loved and here on purpose with a purpose.
I watched one 12 year old guy last year give his life to Jesus and then 10 minutes later jump around and worship just like one of my leaders. Same bounce same everything.
It warmed my heart, but also made me take pause.
What a great responsibility we have to live well, to model what real Christianity is, so that people want to know God and make Him known. What a great responsibility we have to model the family likeness and create an awesome family culture that people thrive and flourish in as they grow to know God more, discover their destiny and callings, step out and serve and do life together.
How you live matter.
Every time you come to church and every time you leave church you make a difference.
You never know what God has set up for you on a Sunday, a mission that only you can do, something that only you can say, something that only you can express about the heart of God and if you’re not here that person who is meant to be on the receiving end misses out. You miss out!
I was talking with my bible in schools class on Friday morning about the little boys lunch box – and how we can often feel that what we have to offer isn’t much. It’s a fillet of fish happy meal. But what you have to offer is significant. You matter.
Every generation matters.
I remember being in my late teens and looking ahead at who I could follow, who were my role models, only to notice a massive demongraphic gap of people in their mid twenties. It set a resolve in my heart to fill that gap when I got there, aware that there were people coming up behind me who wanted to know how to do relationships right, how to do marriage, how to be a new parent etc.
As a parent of a teen and pre-teen I’m watching you with adult children. I want to know how you did it right.
As a wife I’m watching your marriages.
I want to learn from those who are doing life well. I need your wisdom and grace in my life.
You know we are so incredibly blessed to be in THIS family. Say to your neighbour “WE ARE BLESSED TO BE HERE” We all have different experiences and different talents and different perspectives. If we are cultivate a culture of generosity – not just of stuff – but of those talents and wisdoms – then there great richness here, great wisdom, great encouragement, great love.
Proverbs 13:20 He that walks with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.
Together we can be stronger. Together we can do life, navigate storms and reflect something amazing to the world who feel isolated and alone.
So what is the culture we want to cultivate in our family?
What are the characteristics we want to be modelling?
1 Cor 13:13 says Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
To break it down to its most simplest building blocks we want to cultivate faith, hope and love.
- Faith says I believe in God and what He says and am willing to build my life on His Words and His ways. Faith believes in something greater than what we can see and something greater than what the world sees. Faith believes that God is good and the best is yet to come. It believes that nothing is impossible and that God works out all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Faith says I belong. Faith doesn’t paint a face on and fake it but it isn’t limited by circumstances and doesn’t let feelings dictate behaviour or relationships. Faith doesn’t eliminate problems or obstacles. It just believes God is bigger than the tallest mountain standing in your way. When we have faith we lift our eyes from what can be a mess around us, to God, who has a plan and who is at work always. A person of faith chooses to see the cross and resurrection, the creative power of God and remembers His faithfulness and how He has come through for them in the past.
- Hope believes the best of God, the best of life and the best of each other. It lives life through a filter of optimism and positivity instead of negativity and cynicism. It gives people grace and understands that everyone is different, uniquely created and gifted by God and that yes, they may process information and communication differently from you, but that’s not wrong, it’s just different. It believes in good intentions and the best for everyone. It makes room for everyone to be themselves and who God has called them to be and cheers people on into their destiny and success. It celebrates the abundant generosity of God.
- Love. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35 1 Cor 13 says…. “Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.”
We speak the truth in love.
We encourage people in love.
We make room for people in love.
We communicate in love.
We minister in love.
We lift people up in love.
The world out there is a dysfunctional family. The church should be a place where we are different. Where we act differently. Where we communicate differently.
God’s plan to change the world is the church. By our love and connection to each other, our bond as family, our commitment to grow and to do things with faith, hope and love, we show the world that God is real. We show them a place to belong and be safe. We show them something greater. The church is God’s showcase of what He can do with a bunch of ordinary messed up people – it is a demonstration of HIS love and power.
We show the family resemblance when we have faith in God for everything, when we live life with optimism and hope and when we love each other with a real authentic practical love.
We show the family resemblance when we let faith, hope and love be the grid for how we communicate, how we connect and how we celebrate people.
We love God here. We love Him completely and passionately. We love people here. No matter who you are and what you’ve done you are welcome here. We are not perfect, but we are growing as Paul said, in every way more and more like Christ.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.
Wow, what a powerful challenge. Am I living my life in a way that a) is modelled after Jesus and b) that I would be comfortable other people copying?
Am I live in such a way that those who know you but don’t know God will come to know God because they know you?
Am I living in such a way that those who are observing me will learn how to be more like Jesus and will see His love and life reflected through me? Am I setting a good example?
One of the things I love about being a family is how you can pool on the gifts and wisdom of others.
When I’m cooking a roast I always phone my dad for advice on how long to cook it.
When something needs mended, well my kids don’t even ask me know, they just arrange it with Granny.
My sister in law is a doctor and has been invaluable often in giving medical advice for all the scrapes, breaks and allergic reactions that are part of living in our family.
It is the same here in the family of God. Practically and spiritually we have so many awesome people here that we can learn from and do life with! Everyone has something to teach us and if we approach relationships with humility we will receive the benefit of their wisdom and we will honour those around us.
I’m so grateful for every one of you and what you bring to the table, what you bring to the family. I’m grateful for your life experience, the lessons you have learned, the challenges you have overcome. I’m grateful for the call of God on your life, and I don’t mean just ministry experience here, I’m grateful for the doctors, teachers, nurses, plumbers, engineers, artists, mothers and whatever you are. We are rich in experience when we do life together.
God has created a family on purpose. Not an organisation or a corporation. But a family. We are created to live together, to build each other up, to empower and equip each other. We are here to help each other live well, live authentically, live whole.
But it is in our human nature to say “I can do it. I did it my way.”
Now I confess this attitude has got me in trouble more times than not. It is the reason I have am an amputee.
When I was 4 I got a new tricycle. It was shiny and pretty. I wanted to ride right now. My dad had been gardening and said that he’d go wash his hands and that I was to wait. Hrumpf I thought. I can do this. I’m Claire McKay. That is the seed of all my issues. So I jumped on. Now at that time we lived in gloriously hilly Dunedin and our grassy area was out the back on a raised area which then led down to a retaining wall. Anyway I like said, I jumped on my shining pretty new tricycle only to discover that my feet didn’t quite reach the pedals… but I was on the move anyway. Across the grass, into the garden and then flip, into mid-air and over the retaining wall at a drop of about 1 and a half metres. Smash went my finger! As a result I am missing the top joint and about 2 cm of my little finger on my left hand.
Now the moral of the story is that we should listen and respect the wisdom of those who are a few pages ahead of us in life. I should have listened to my dad. Yes. Lesson learned the hard way.
But how often do we want to do things our own way instead of listening and receiving the wisdom of those around us, in the family, when they share their experiences when it comes to dating, marriage, parenting, money, ministry….?
We can read in 1 Sam 14 an account of Jonathan and his armour bearer which demonstrates a great attitude when it comes to doing life together.
The Israelites and the Philistines were at war. While Saul relaxed under a pomegranate tree with his men, Jonathan and his armour-bearer left camp quietly to see if the Lord would work on their behalf, believing that “nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few” (1 Sam. 14:6).
Jonathan and his helper were about to cross a path between two high cliffs. Armed enemy soldiers were stationed above them on both sides. They were two men against who knows how many. Interestingly the Philistines were armed to the hilt and there was a weapons ban in Israel so only Jonathan and Saul had any proper weapons of any kind. The odds were ever not in their favour. When Jonathan suggested they climb up after them, the armour-bearer never flinched. “Do all that is in your heart,” he told Jonathan. “I am with you, according to your heart” (v.7). So the two climbed the cliff, and with God’s help they overcame the enemy (vv.8-14).
Take note of 1 Sam 14:7
Do all that is in your heart. NKJV
“Go ahead. Do what you think best. I’m with you all the way.” MSG
“Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.” NIV
“Do what you think is best. I’m with you completely, whatever you decide.” NLT
The armour bearer was there to assist and support the warrior and there had to be a high level of trust, communication and co-operation for them do work as a team. When the warrior said move, they would move as one. The warrior depended upon the armour bearer to be there in the thick and thin, ready for action. The armour bearer trusted that the warrior was looking of for the both of them, that the aim was not only to survive but to power on into victory. The armour bearer respected the right of the warrior to direct the action because of his battle experience.
It’s interesting to note that one of the things that Jonathan is mostly remembered for in the Bible is his friendship with David. We read of several instances where they encouraged each other and supported each other through difficult circumstances, where they had each other’s back and acted as armour bearers for each other. I wonder if the reason that Jonathan’s armour bearer could act with complete confidence in Jonathan was because as a younger person he had watched the faithfulness and strength of the friendship between David and Jonathan. He could trust Jonathan because Jonathan had trusted David and because David had trusted Jonathan.
When you model great relationships and honour the generation above you you sow into the generation who are coming up behind who are watching how you navigate life, how you navigate relationships, how you navigate authority and how you receive correction and advice. When you do this you set the next generation up to win! You set them up to overcome and to succeed.
Together we should all be armour bearers – and all have an armour bearer. We should all have that person who is there to support us, defend us, work with us, but we should also all have that person who is able to speak into our lives honestly and directly, and that we will respond with the openness and willingness of the armour bearer. When we have a culture of faith hope and love, of building each other, of celebrating each other, of empowering and equipping each other we should also have a culture of receiving it, just as the armour bearer received instruction from Jonathan and stepped out with him into victory. It takes humility to let someone have that place in our lives. We should be open to let people speak into our lives, not in a controlling cultish way, but in a way that honours the experience and wisdom of people, and that recognises that God speaks THROUGH people as a part of the transformational process.
We need to hang out with people who throw water on the fires of our fears and throw gasoline on the passions of our dreams. Kris Vallotton
If you’re stuck in life, or hit a wall in an area of your life, or entering a new season, find a big person that you can talk to. A Yoda to your Luke Skywalker. And listen, really listen to what they encourage you to do. Hear their heart. Even if it is a hard truth that God is using in an iron sharpens iron context. And then weigh up what they suggest or encourage you to do. Even if it is a hard choice. God often uses human beings to speak His words and it is often hardest to hear His voice this way.
A big person – a mentor – can often see things from a different vantage point. Blindspots are called blind spots for a reason. Life doesn’t get better by chance but by change and having someone like a mentor in our lives can help with the flow of change.
A mentor can look from their page of life and apply the lessons from their life to help us navigate our seasons well. When we have an attitude of humility to listen and learn we can stand on the shoulders of giants and go further and faster.
What is one thing you can do today to develop the family resemblance?
Do you need to be here more consistently – you need to show up?
Do you need to work on communicating in a way that builds people up, not tearing them down?
Do you need to be humble and learn from those around you?
Do you need to talk to a someone about being mentored by them? Or to do you need to offer to someone to be their mentor and do life with them?
Do you need to listen and take on board the advice of others?
Do you need to grow in faith, hope and love so that you’re reflecting what your Dad is like?