Father Abraham had Many Sons

A children's song goes, "Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Father Abraham.” The simple song reflects the promise of one of the great Old Testament texts anticipating the scope and blessing of the gospel to come many years later in Jesus.

So many discussions about race focus on our differences and, because we are different, the problems confronting us. Are there differences between us? Of course. Do problems, seemingly insurmountable problems, stand in the way of progress toward mutual understanding? Toward unity? Yes. And they seem to have intensified in recent years.

Some shout, “Black lives matter!” Others respond, “Blue lives matter (too)!” Some, seeking higher ground, also shout, “All lives matter!”

People talk past one another. We’ve misplaced the art of listening and trying to understand other perspectives. And so a sense of weary fatigue settles over us… We aren’t making much headway.

But should we expect better? Is this the way it’s supposed to be?

In Genesis 12 God says to Abram, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12.3 ESV)

In this very important text, God promises that the (at that time) childless Abram would be the source of blessing to all the peoples of the earth - all kinds of people. This promise indicates that the hopelessness of Genesis 1-11 would give way to hope.

People everywhere would experience God’s blessing and favor through Abram (who would become Abraham - father of a multitude). Paul picks up this theme, explaining that, in Christ, we are all part of the promise made to Abraham - we part of his offspring in Jesus Christ through the gospel.

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29 ESV)

The gospel makes those who believe it the children of God. It eliminates superiority and inferiority because the gospel places believers in Christ. We become part of his family. In that sense, the gospel is bigger than color and race. It unifies people at a deeper level than whatever commonality we find in racial and cultural definitions.

At the same time, our racial identity doesn’t change as we are joined to God’s family - nor should it. We all uniquely image God - everyone displaying the glory of God as members of his family.

The gospel holds the only true hope for racial reconciliation - because it levels all of us before the cross of Jesus Christ and raises all of us to become who we were created to be - sons of God in Christ.

“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!'" (Galatians 4:6 ESV)

If we are family, how then should we live? We should live in hope and eager expectation of being united with all of our brothers and sisters at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19.9)! How do we live in that hope now? A couple of simple suggestions.

Value what God values. How? He created us uniquely in his image - there is something glorious about each race of people that God enjoys and intends for us to enjoy.

Love people. How? Love reaches out for relationship. Make a friend with someone who is different than you.

Love inquires and listens well. I’ve had friends share with me their experiences as African American males driving in a car. I’ve never been pulled over for no reason. They have. The Washington Post reported the following in July 2016 (quoted from the Denver Post):

In October, President Barack Obama told a gathering of police chiefs in Chicago about one way he had experienced racial bias before coming to the White House — while driving on the road.“Most of the time I got a ticket, I deserved it. I knew why I was pulled over. But there were times where I didn’t,” he said. “There are a lot of African Americans — not just me — who have that same kind of story of being pulled over. … The data shows that this is not an aberration. It doesn’t mean each case is a problem. It means that when you aggregate all the cases and you look at it, you’ve got to say that there’s some racial bias in the system.”

This is something to talk about. To listen and understand. To try and have some conversations that can actually move to rectify the situation. But change must start with a willingness to listen and understand.

The children’s song about Father Abraham continues… “Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you. So let’s just praise the Lord.”

John ButlerComment