My wife and I are the proud parents of three outstanding young men. Our two oldest sons, adopted as babies, now serve in the United States military. Our youngest, a definitive genetic-match that neither of us can deny, is a rising high school senior. The three share no common DNA, yet all three are brothers in the truest meaning of the word.
The two oldest are only six months apart, and rearing them was like having twins, though they couldn’t be more different. One is blond, blue-eyed, and has the kind of skin that requires 50-plus SPF. The other is African-American with eyes and hair as dark as coal.
When they were not yet three years of age they began to recognize their differences. The ultimate revelation came as they were once acting out the roles of Woody and Buz from “Toy Story,” complete with props and costumes. One paused from play to look at his brown cowboy hat. He thought for a moment, screwed up his mouth, and wrinkled his brow.
He crossed the room and laid that well-worn hat against his brother’s skin. Then he laid it against his own. He repeated the comparison two more times, and finally, like the apple striking Newton’s noggin, he exclaimed, “Cool! You’re brown like Woody’s hat!” Play resumed without further interruption. It was a realization that simple and that profound.
Growing up together, they were daily explaining to classmates, neighbors, and teachers that yes, they were in fact siblings, despite their nonidentical appearances, and together we were all family. Aren’t we all?
The Apostle Paul, likely borrowing an early creed from the earliest church, wrote, “God does not see you as a Jew or as a Gentile. He does not see you as a servant or as a person who is free. He does not see you as a man or as a woman. You are all one in Christ.” Paul wrote those words nearly two millennia ago, and while rooted in his own context, we are still trying to learn the underlying truth of what he said: We are family.
Accepting this doesn’t mean we become “color-blind” so that “we don’t see race” or other differences. Of course we see differences; of course we see the variegated manifestations of being human! But diversity of race, religion, ethnicity, or gender is not allowed to become a barrier. Rather, these are affirmed, appreciated, celebrated, and brought into the manifold family of God.
Our world has serious problems, and I’m not so naïve that I think Bible verses and a chummy story about my children are enough to solve these problems. Still, it is a start, and I believe that what happens in the microcosm can occur magnificently in the whole. Like politics, adapting Tip O’Neill’s favorite phrase, love “is local.” It begins small, at home, realizing that those with whom you live are in fact, your family. It is a realization that simple and that profound.