The African understanding of family is broad. But then there’s God’s family- how do i become part of this family and what does it mean to be a part of it?
How Do I Become Part Of God’s Family?
The only access we have to God’s family is by believing and receiving what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross.
“The cross of Christ makes all of us children of God who kneel at the bottom of that cross crying out for true mercy and true access into God’s family.”
Topics & Timestamps
0:23 – What is Family?
1:32 – African Understanding of family
1:51 – Ubuntu
3:03 – Communal parenting in Africa
4:40 – The neighbors are also family
6:20 – God’s family
6:43 – Addressing the misconceptions about God’s family
8:25 – Earthly families should mirror our heavenly family
9:00 – Access to God’s family
10:48 – What does it mean for Christians belonging to both families?
11:05 – Jesus on family
Top Quotes: How Do I Become Part Of God’s Family?
“Ubuntu suggests that there’s an inter dependency and interconnectedness that exists between the whole and the individual.”
“All our attention, our devotion, our gifts and talents are supposed to be used for Jesus – his glory, his mission, his work and his church.”
“The only access we have to God’s family is by believing and receiving what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross.”
Other Content On This Topic
Orphans, Adoption and The African Extended Family
Christians In Community: Redeeming The Concept Of Ubuntu
Christian Community Isn’t An Optional Add-On For Believers
Welcome back to this very short video series where we are exploring how our culture interacts with love. We want to look at various critical expressions of this truth but most importantly hear and see what the Bible has to say about this. Today we are talking about family and brotherly love.
What Is Family?
” A fundamental social group in society typically consisting of one or two parents and their children.” This is definitely a sufficient definition for Google or a dictionary but most people would not use these terms to describe what family is for them. In fact, the Latin word ‘Familia’ if we dig a little bit deeper has this understanding of both those who are related to each other biologically living in this household but also those who work within this household. And so, the idea of family or the word family has a broad meaning.
Family Differs From Person To Person
In fact, while I was doing research for this video, I asked many people what family is for them. Some spoke about the people that make up their family, some spoke about the purpose of their family. And the majority of people actually just used the emotive language to describe what family is for them; words like: love, honest, safe and kindness. And this is what they saw as family to them.
Ubuntu – The African Understanding Of Family
In Africa, the idea of family also carries a wide and broad understanding. In fact, we can illustrate this by using concentric circles to paint a picture. At the centre, what holds all these circles that we’ll speak about shortly is this philosophy or understanding or belief called, ‘Ubuntu’. Loosely translated – the whole is because of its individuals and the individuals are because of the whole. And so, Ubuntu does not ascribe value or more worth to one or the other.
In fact, it says that there’s an inter dependency and interconnectedness that exists between the whole and the individual and how they need each other to be a society that is thriving and really flourishing. So, the first circle we see would be the nuclear immediate family with parents and children. The second circle after that would be the families that the parents come from with their parents and their siblings. And then outside of that would be the families of your parents’ siblings – what we would call aunts and uncles. But we’d have to pause here because in the African understanding of family, we see how broad this category can be and then we see the beauty of this interconnectedness and interdependency that we spoke about.
Communal Parenting In Africa
All my mother sisters I would consider my mother’s as well and all my father’s brothers I would consider my fathers as well. And that ensures that if anything would happen to both my parents, I am never left without parents to look after me. And so, depending on where your parents were born in relation to their siblings it will then determine the title that you give to your father’s brothers; as older fathers or younger fathers. And the same applies to your mother’s sisters. Depending on where your mother is born in relation to them will determine whether you have older mothers or younger mothers, or a combination of both if your mother is born in the middle. In my case my mother is the last born therefore I only have older mothers because my mother only has older sisters.
So where do we find space then for uncles and aunts? My mother’s brothers and all her male cousins would be considered my uncles my father’s sisters and all his female cousins would be considered my aunts. If your brain is in a spaghetti right now just pause the video take a deep breath rewind and run this again.
Family That Is Not Blood
But then there’s two outer circles and the first outer circle would be the people I share a street with or the neighbourhood with. All the parents of that street or that neighbourhood are also my parents. So, my friend’s father is my father, my friend’s mother is my mother. So much so that the community feels the responsibility of raising each kid and they see it as a blessing. So, if there’s good behaviour from the child that is a reflection on the collective efforts of the community. If there’s bad behaviour from the child that is a reflection of the state of the community.
So, I would not smirk if I get reprimanded by my friend’s parents because I understand them to be my parents as well. This even trickles down to my friend’s siblings – for example, I only grew up with sisters never had any biological brothers, but my friend’s brothers were my brothers as well, and my sisters with my friends’ sisters. And then comes the final outer layer – This is a general respectful understanding that people have intrinsic value because they belong to a community. So, if I would act irreverently towards this person, it would not only violate their personhood because they belong but in turn it would violate my personhood because I belong. So, I would act with respect because a lack of it has ramifications for us as a family but ultimately for us as a people.
Pause To Praise God
This would actually be a moment to pause and praise God for graciously blessing Africa with such a rich understanding and experience of family. But he does that to ignite the longings in all our hearts for our true family and that is God’s family.
Addressing Misconceptions About God’s Family
But before we even get there, I think it’s fair to clarify at least two misconceptions about God’s family. The first misconception is that by the virtue of existing you automatically gain access to God’s family. Well, that is not true. The only access we have to God’s family is by believing and receiving what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross. There’s only one access into God’s family and that is through the one man’s blood – Jesus. So outside of God’s family at best we relate to God at a creaturely level relating to our creator. At worst we relate to him as an enemy because we’re shaking our fists in his face wanting to compete for his glory. And God will do all to protect his glory even if it means our destruction.
The second misconception is because of this interconnectedness and interdependency that we experience in Africa, and people would then assume that because their grandparents or parents were Christians or are Christians then that means you are automatically a Christian as well. That is a big misconception.
Access To God’s Family
In fact, we see the cross of Christ as the equalizer between all people, all races, all generations. And the cross of Christ makes all of us children of God who kneel at the bottom of that cross crying out for true mercy and true access into God’s family. So, our longing for belonging and companionship-this close intimacy God wired in us from creation.
So, when our families on earth are functioning properly, they are supposed to be a mirror of the camaraderie that exists in God’s family. And when they are not functioning properly, that brokenness is meant to make us weep at the loss of fellowship but at the same time to stir in us longings for our true home and that is to be in God’s family.
Here are a couple of verses to help us reflect on this; John 1:12, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Colossians 3:11, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.” See what John is doing here, he’s telling us what is the only way to access God’s family. And what Paul is doing is showing us that once we’re in, how is God’s family meant to look like.
So again, in God’s family there aren’t any concentric circles but instead there’s a straight line that crosses continents, tribes, nations, people, generations therefore setting an equal footing the bottom of the cross where we all cry out for true access into God’s family. In Colossians, Paul paints a picture of all the unique differences that exists in God’s family. All this uniqueness is not lost because they’ve suddenly become Christians. Instead, all these differences can finally find shape and meaning in God’s family. Outside of God, all these people lived in their separate boxes doing their own thing. But it is in and through Jesus that these boxes are opened and they’re brought into God’s family and their unique differences are celebrated and used to actually benefit each other, to point each other to the glory of God. Hence God’s family is the only family that will matter in eternity.
As A Christian You Belong To Both Families
So, does this mean as Christians we need to do away or perhaps even distance ourselves from our earthly families? Well, by no means unless it is undeniably necessary to do so. In Matthew 10: 34-39, Jesus commands us to leave our families to follow him. But there’s a lot happening underneath this command; Matthew 10:37 clears the air for us and gives us Jesus’s direct meaning, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” At first you might think this is very radical.
But what Jesus is actually saying here is that the love we have for our families should look like hatred in comparison to the love we have for him. All our attention, all our devotion, all our gifts and talents are supposed to be used for Jesus – his Glory, his mission, his work, his church. So, any other love in comparison to the love we have for Jesus, that love should look like hatred in comparison. Notice that he doesn’t say you mustn’t love your family. But instead, he says you must love him more because everything else including our families will find true meaning and shape and purpose if we have our love and hearts focused and dedicated to Jesus fully.
So, let’s circle back and ask the question – what is family? Well, it is people who love each other and the world around them, not in and of themselves but because they have been loved first by love himself and that is Jesus Christ who binds them and holds them together. That’s what family is and so we long for the day where we see the removal completely of the sin that so easily entangles us making it hard to do family. But that day when we see our Lord face to face – our stabilizing force that binds us and makes us a family, we will perfectly love each other and glorify God from that love that’s shared in his family.