Conservative Christians seeking a way to encapsulate our most fundamental political commitments came up with “family values.” We vote “family values.” We support “family values” candidates. Even the left has noticed, countering our language with this bit of bumper-sticker wisdom: “Hate is not a family value.”
We are indeed seeing an assault on the family from the left and are rightly troubled. They want to be able to redefine the family at will and by law, forgetting that the family is a gift from God and He retains the right to define it as He wills.
Yet we know what a family is supposed to look like and don’t like it when others twist and distort that image. That said, though I am a conservative Christian, though I do indeed believe in “family values,” my family doesn’t look like most. We are an eye-catching bunch — and not because of how handsome I am. When we are out together, the first thing people notice is the size and scope of my family. God has blessed my dear wife and me with eight children who are, as I write, ages seventeen down to one. The tag on my wife’s van doesn’t say, “CLOWNCR,” though it could. It instead says, “BLE ST 8 X.”
Our Shannon, who is thirteen, likewise draws stares. Her gait is unsteady. She cannot talk. She sucks her thumb. She has the mental capacity of a one-year-old. It may be, however, that people are staring because her blue eyes are so beautiful or because her countenance is so peaceful.
Finally, our family doesn’t look like most because of our two youngest, boys who are ages five and one. Reilly and Donovan are perfectly able. They are just the right size. But they do stick out. These last two, at their births, came to us through the blessing of adoption. Their genetic ancestors hail from Africa. Our family, then, includes two genders, multiple ages, multiple eye colors, multiple abilities, multiple skin colors. However, we are, together, Sprouls. We have, by the grace of God, been made into a family, a forever family.
The kingdom we seek is the same. Our familial identity is found not in our skin color, our socio-economic strata, or our genetics. The kingdom we seek is populated not just by citizens or by soldiers, but by family. We are servants of the King, soldiers of the King, but most of all we are children of the King. We become children of the King not based on where we are born but through adoption.
It has been said that Sunday mornings are the most segregated hours of the week. Some in the evangelical church are so troubled by this that they have sought out people of color like trophies. Others, sadder still, prefer the segregation. Were we paying attention, we would be guilty of neither. There was, after all, once a great Man. He gave a famous speech, a sermon if you will, that came to be known all over the world. He suggested to the gathered masses that we ought not to worry about such things. He encouraged us to have such a single-minded passion for one thing that issues of skin color would be moot. He told those who assembled that they should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Fraternity is a wonderful thing. It is the theological left, however, that teaches the heresy that proclaims the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. If everyone is my brother, then no one is my brother. If ties of kinship extend to all humanity, then there may as well be no ties at all. Wisdom requires that we learn how to recognize our brothers. I must confess that here I am not colorblind. My brothers are not those with black skin. Neither are they those with white skin. My brothers are those whose skin is red, covered by the blood of Christ. My loyalty is grounded in the kinship that I have in Christ, not the “kinship” that is coded into my genes.
In God’s good providence, I have been blessed to meet my brothers around the globe. Naing is my brother in Myanmar. Geoffrey is my brother in Kenya. Hiro is my brother in Japan. Oleg is my brother in Russia. Mykola is my brother in Ukraine. Jaime is my brother in Colombia. I have Kiwi brothers, Canuck brothers, Israeli and Palestinian brothers, and Scottish and Irish brothers. In Christ’s kingdom is every tribe and tongue. When we enter, we lay aside every other loyalty, every other tie that binds.
We fail when we are fools enough to believe that there is something of value in our own ethnicity. Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews, saw his pedigree as something to be cast aside, tossed overboard. Can we do any less? We are by nature children of our father, the Devil. But while we—me, my wife, my children, all the saints of history, and all the saints around the globe—were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He has together seated us, red and yellow, black and white, in the heavenly places. There we rule the nations. There we will judge angels. And there we are, and will forever be, a family.