Growing up, I attended a small and fairly conservative Christian school. While I’ll always be grateful for the time I spent there, there were many years where I felt out of place: I was one of the only students whose parents were divorced.
Today, that might sound strange. Sadly, divorce is an all too common reality, and many kids are growing up in single-parent or blended-family homes. But back then, in my small corner of the world, it felt like I was the only one. Through no fault of my own, I was an outsider, at least in my own head. I believed God’s biggest blessings were reserved for those families that seemed to have it all together, and I—I was just surviving. I was a Christian, and in that sense I belonged, technically, but only as a black sheep.
The Christians in Galatia knew what it felt like to be black sheep. As they read the Old Testament, they saw how God loved and blessed the people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, over and over again. The Galatian Gentiles were grafted into the family of God because of Jesus. But they were the black sheep of the family because they weren’t Jewish. Or at least that’s what they thought.
This is why it was so easy for false teachers to convince the Galatians they needed to become Jewish through circumcision and obedience to the law; only then could they really be Christians. But Paul showed them another way to read the Old Testament, to see themselves in the story, not as outsiders, but as real and true descendants of Abraham and heirs of God’s promises.
Long before the law was given to Moses, there was Abraham, and he was an outsider until God invited him in, not because of anything he had done, but simply on the basis of faith. Abraham had two sons—Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael was the son of the slave woman, Hagar, and the result of Abraham taking God’s promises into his own hands. Isaac, on the other hand, was the child given to Abraham and Sarah. His birth was unnatural. It was miraculous. And it was through this miracle child, Isaac, that God’s promises came down through history.
Like Isaac, the Galatians were “unnatural” children of God. They, too, were part of God’s family by way of a miracle. “Now you too, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise” (Galatians 4:28). God’s family is made up of men, women, and children who enter in by faith, in fulfillment of the promises God spoke to Abraham. Being a Jew or a Gentile means nothing. What matters is Christ.
Though I spent years feeling like an outsider, a child of divorce, I understand now that divorce and brokenness and my inability to keep it all together are among the many reasons why Jesus came. As He said, “It is not those who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick” (Mark 2:17). We can belong to the family of God, not because of who our parents are or because of how well we obey, but simply because Jesus paid the price and invites us to enter in by faith. Thanks be to God!
Written by John Greco