For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.
If you are fortunate, you share your surname proudly in your community, knowing that it bears a history. Perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to see a stranger break out into a smile when they suddenly realize, “Oh, you’re Tom Smith’s son!” or “Is Hugh your grandfather?” Maybe it’s the physical resemblance that’s done it. “Of course that’s your mother, I can see it in your eyes!” As soon as the stranger knows your lineage, they can make a connection.
Of course, sometimes the connection is negative. “Oh, X is your older brother?” “Your mother gave me such a hard time when she was in my class.” For better or worse, living in a community means that we bear the good and bad of our family history.
So it’s only natural that newcomers, strangers, and foreigners are often greeted with suspicion. “Who are your people? What did your father do?” There is no immediate association to be made with an unfamiliar surname or an unknown past.
The gentile believers in Ephesus did not have generations of common ancestry with the Jewish Christians or even with each other. They represented every culture, race, and background in the ancient near east. Much like our American cities, there would have been homogenous pockets and neighborhoods that largely ignored each other outside of basic trade and commerce. The temptation then, as it is now, would be to build walls along familial, cultural, and class lines.
But Paul reminds the believers that they all share a common ancestry. You may be a Smith or a Schoenfelder, but God is our father. We are all created in His image and all bear the family resemblance. It doesn’t matter if our family name is revered or despised or unfamiliar in the community because we are still among brothers and sisters in Christ.
If we are to claim lineage in God, we must reject labels like illegal, illegitimate, or any other word that categorizes human beings as anything other than God’s children. We must embrace our whole community as our family.
“Am I my brother’s keeper?”
“Jesus, who is my neighbor?”