"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval . . . By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going." - Hebrews 11:1.8
"Are you related to Ronnie Naylor?" That was a question I was often asked when I was a teenager. Same first initial and same last name – however Ronnie had a growing criminal record and I didn't. At that time I didn't even have a minor speeding violation. His and my family tree came from completely different roots. As the frequency of Ronnie's name increased in the list of local arrests, I knew I needed a quick and pithy response to the question of my relationship to him. The response was simple – "Ronnie and I don't swim in the same gene pool!"
Our DNA makes me uniquely me and you uniquely you. Biogenetics have become assets in seeking answers to curing some of the most deadly diseases and in deciding between the innocent and guilty in the courtroom. Knowing one's genetic makeup is important.
In the 11th chapter of Hebrews we find a litany of our spiritual ancestors – some familiar: Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses – and some less memorable – Enoch, Barack, Jephthah. As people of faith who place our trust in Jesus, it is helpful to understand the spiritual genetic makeup of our ancestors.
As we ponder our faith family tree it becomes evident that all were willing to sacrifice their personal welfare for the good of the larger community. Abraham and Sarah were settled into Heron – might even say they were in "retirement" with everything they needed. Reason would tell them to stay in Heron! But God calls and promises a better life for the future generations if they travel to Canaan. So they do the faithful, not the reasonable and pull up stakes and move out. That DNA of fearless sacrifice for the welfare of the larger community is seen in all of the ancestors mentioned in the family tree in Hebrews.
There are moments each day when we will be called to move out of our comfort zone in looking out for others. It might mean speaking a righteous word in the face of an unrighteous act or doing a compassionate deed for the welfare of another person. Let us remember the gene pool in which we are called to swim. By faith may we jump heart and head first into that pool.
God of our ancestors, instill in us the courage that would make our ancestors proud. Amen.
Bob Naylor has served in parish and national staff ministries and now is the lead consultant for a clergy and church coaching and planning ministry, In Church Imagining. He is the author of a recently released book by Pilgrim Press, What Church Leaders REALLY Need to Know.