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Faith and the flesh

Many of us have seen the commercials advertising DNA kits that can be purchased for under $100. We’re told if we’ll spit into a tube or swab the inside of our cheek, they’ll tell us if we’re 13% Tanzanian, 12% Cherokee or 14% Belgian—or all of the above! It’s presented in a here’s-the-truth-that-will-transform-your-life sort of way. On an extended commercial I watched online, a participant who had just filled his tube with saliva is dramatically informed that “The story of you is in that tube!”

There is more where that came from. On one commercial we’re told of one guy who thought he was German, but turned out to be Scotch-Irish (or at least 52% of him anyway). Then on another, it’s a woman who thought she married an Italian man but it turned out he was Eastern European. Finally there was the clip I came across of an actress who was disappointed to find out that she was European as opposed to a more politically correct heritage. These are offered up to us to show why we need to purchase their product and apparently it’s working—one of the companies (Ancestry) sold 1.5 million kits on Black Friday!

Before we get overly fixated on the physical, we should remember a conversation Jesus had with some Jewish people that is recorded in John 8. He tells them, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples” (v. 32 ESV). One of the things that distinguishes disciples from pretenders is that they are serious about following the teachings of Jesus. Christ went on to promise them if they did this they would “know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” He was promising nothing less than complete spiritual liberation!

They responded to this incredible claim of Jesus by telling Him they had traced their ancestry to Abraham and they “have never been enslaved to anyone” (v. 33)—conveniently overlooking their centuries of bondage to the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and currently the Romans. Christ is making a spiritual appeal and they want to lean on their lineage. He is looking for faith and they want to be judged by their flesh (DNA).

There’s nothing wrong with flesh (God made it and Jesus came in it). And there’s nothing wrong with purchasing a DNA kit and finding out more about your family tree if you’re so inclined. What is askew is to imagine there is some kind of transcendent, spiritual connection you have with God or others because of your flesh (Titus 3:9). It is equally erroneous to suppose that you are better or worse because of where you come from. It seems to me that’s the kind of thinking that has been the basis for a lot of destructive beliefs and behavior down through the ages. Life with God comes not as a result of physical birth but through the birth of water and Spirit (John 3:5-7).

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