It is a privilege to be part of a family. Whether we are born into a family or adopted into it, there are both blessings and responsibilities that come with being in the family. Different families have a different heritage and emphasize different things in life. In today’s Arkansas Democrat Gazette there is an article about The Bale family and their involvement with Arkansas Children’s Hospital. The relationship started with John Bale’s grandfather who was instrumental in the development of the hospital. It continued with his father. When the present Bale’s grandchild had major health problems it was the Arkansas Children’s Hospital that was able to save his life and give him the care he needed. The article said that the Bale’s have given a million dollars toward the present campaign to add on to the hospital.
Most of our families don’t have that kind of ability or maybe even a cause like that. But families have a heritage. Joshua, challenged the people of Israel to make a choice of which way they would go in life. They could choose to serve God or follow the idol gods in the territory around them. Then he said, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” The family heritage was clear. What is the heritage your family is passing down to the next generation? Is it something that will make the world better or is it something that will just make it harder on people?
If we are followers of Christ, there is a family heritage there as well. In Ephesians 5:1-2 Paul wrote, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” If we are in God’s family we need to be part of the heritage of God. If we are his children we need to walk like Him in love.
I remember a time when a person wrote an article in one of the papers associated with the church in which he complained about the preacher talking too much about love. He said, “He is soft in his preaching. He talks about love every way you turn. Even when he does mention hell it is always around the subject of love.” If you were to use that standard then Paul would have been pretty soft in his preaching. He constantly returned to the topic of love. Love ought to be a fundamental mark of every Christian’s life. Jesus said it was by the love we have for each other that people will recognize that we are His disciples (John 13:34-35). So “Walk in love.” Make love your normal way of life.
But notice the way Paul described the love we should have as His followers. “Love just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us.” The love of Christ is certainly not some anemic, sentimental feeling of infatuation. His love had teeth in it. “Greater love has no one that this, to lay down his life for his friends.” That is the love of Jesus for us.
Jesus gave himself an offering and a sacrifice to God out of his love for God and for each of us. The Godhead as a whole loved people, those made in the image of God. God longed for all people to be saved (2 Peter 3:9). But He would be true to His nature and creation. He tried to draw men to him in love but He never forced anyone to be His follower. He made us with free moral agency and never violates that right of choice that is planted in each of us. He longs for all to follow Him, but only when the following Him is based on the loving choice of the individual.
What God could and did do that related to us being saved without harming man’s ability to choose for himself, was to make the offering for sin through which all people could turn from sin and back to God and be fully forgiven of every wrong. What if one of your grandchildren were kidnapped by some terrorist organization and they made contact with you to ask for a ransom for his freedom? No matter who we are or what we have we would do whatever was possible for us to do to get the ransom for our child or grandchild.
When Jesus made his offering to God for us it was a sweet smelling aroma to the Father. How can we as Christ’s followers today be such a sweet aroma to God? In 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 Paul thanked God for triumph in Christ, which “Manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from life to life and to the other an aroma of death to death. And who is adequate for these things?” Several times in the Book of Revelation he describes the prayers of the saints as being incense providing a sweet aroma to God.
In God’s family our heritage is one of love that willingly sacrifices for the good of other.