Our Family Identity

A couple articles caught my attention yesterday that I keep thinking about.

First, this one from India: almost 300 girls in a particular district have had their names legally changed, complete with a renaming ceremony last weekend. You may think that out of the millions who live in India this is no big deal, but these are 285 girls who were previously named “Unwanted” who are taking new names. In our culture, names don’t always carry the meaning they do in others, but can you imagine growing up with a name like that? Every assignment turned in, every application or form filled out, & every check you write reminding you that you’re not wanted.

The other article, out of eastern Russia is the story of two 12 year old girls who have just found out they were switched at birth. After 12 years within a few miles of each other, they’ve discovered they are not biologically connected to the people they’ve been living with all their lives. They are getting to know their/each other’s families and both girls are staying in the homes/families they’ve always known, showing there is more to family than biology.

It reminds me of the prophet Hosea, who was instructed, as a life size object lesson for Israel & Judah, to name two of his children “Not Loved” and “Not My People”. But God promised a day when they would be given new names, they would be called “The One I Love” and “My People”. His people had rejected Him, but He promised to once again restore them and remind them of His love.

In Hosea 8, the very altars they’d built to make sacrifices to atone for their sins had become just another place to further their sin. Verse 13 states that the people “love their rituals of sacrifice, but to me their sacrifices are all meaningless.” It wasn’t their ritual that made them part of God’s people. In fact, their ritual meant nothing because they had “forgotten their Maker.” How often are we in danger of doing the same thing? How often do we show up for Sunday services, or youth group, or small group, or Easter or Christmas services as a matter of ritual, but ultimately forget our Maker? Do we really think our traditional observances make a difference to God? How often do we plan a message or lesson or service just because it’s that time of the week and we have to have something to say or do when we stand up on the stage again?

If we forget our Maker in deference to personal preferences or traditions or weekly schedules, how much different can we expect our fate to be from that of the ancient Jews? Although, their consistent rebellion would leave its mark on their relationship with God, it could not kill the Father’s unquenchable hope. “For someday the people will follow the Lord. I will roar like a lion, and my people will return…And I will bring them home again.” (Hosea 11:10,11) He knew He would one day call His people together to bring them home again – people from every tribe and nation who’d been adopted into His family.

Church, we’ve been given a place in the King’s family to which we don’t naturally belong. May we never take for granted the new identity He’s giving us as His children. And may we live every moment seeking to know Him and make Him known.

“I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices. I want you to know God; that’s more important than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6)

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