It is nearly unbelievable that DNA technology is so mainstream that it has become the stuff of entertainment. You can go to Target this weekend, purchase a kit and within a couple of weeks have an online account to tell you about your biological makeup. The ads tell us it is a great conversation starter around the Thanksgiving or Christmas table.
Who are we? Who am I? Did our ancestors come from Italy or Greece? England or Ireland? Is that story about our great-great-grandfather being Russian plausible?
Knowing our story is informative and fun. We might bond with someone we’ve just met because we were both raised with the same traditions from our shared dominant heritage. Those types of conversations can really bring us together.
But we can go too far.
We can try to use our heritage to decide who is one of us, and who is one of them. We can begin to categorize people into the good and the bad. We can lift up those who are like us, and think less of those who aren’t.
In the eyes of Jesus, there is no them.
One of his consistent ministries was breaking through the boxes we build to maintain our categories.
Tax collectors were a them, yet Jesus ate with both Zacchaeus and Matthew. Samaritans were considered a them, and Jesus chatted with the woman at the well and made a Samaritan the hero of one of his better-known stories. Romans were definitely a them, but Jesus healed those Roman soldiers cared about and told his followers to go the extra mile. The poor were a them, and Jesus identified with them—you did it also to me. Women were a them, yet Jesus counted many among his followers. The unclean,including lepers and the possessed, were a them, but Jesus risked being considered unclean as he touched them to bring healing.
One of the chief complaints leveled against him by the religious authorities was his insistence that everyone belonged. He ate with sinners, healed those who weren’t worthy, and gave people the impression that God loves and wants to be in relationship with them. How dare he suggest that someone’s sins were forgiven! That was the job the gatekeepers, the authorities.
Our DNA tells us something about ourselves, but it is far from the whole picture. We are each a unique combination of chromosomes, personality, and experiences. It is fun to know and share our story.
Our faith reminds us that despite our differences, we are one. We have all been created in the image of the same God, and that Jesus died for the salvation of the whole world. We may come from different places, but it is the same Holy Spirit that lives within each one of us.