Pastor Anna Morgan
“The Family of God”
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
What does it mean to be included in the family of God? Does anyone know what it’s like to be an outsider? Tamar was an outsider. In Genesis 38, we learn about Tamar’s story.
Judah was one of the brothers who sold Joseph into slavery, and then he left his family and married a Canaanite woman. In an agrarian society, every family member was essential to take care of the land. If you left your family, you were leaving your family short-handed and abandoning your responsibilities.
Tamar married Judah’s firstborn son, Er, but Er died before they had children. In this time, women were not considered to be fully part of their husband’s family until they produced children.
A childless widow was vulnerable because she did not have a secure place in her husband’s family or protection from other men. As was the custom of the time, Judah instructed his second-born son, Onan, to marry her and provide heirs for his brother, but he refused to do so. He too died.
Judah blamed Tamar for both his sons’ deaths, and he sent her back to her father’s house to wait until Judah’s youngest son grew up. But years passed, the son grew up, and Judah never sent for her.
So Tamar decided to do something. She heard that her mother-in-law had passed, and that Judah was travelling to participate in a sheep-shearing Canaanite religious festival.
Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute along the road, and Judah approached her to sleep with her. She asked for his seal, cord and his staff as a pledge of his payment.
Months later, when word came to Judah that Tamar was pregnant and guilty of prostitution, he commanded for her to be burned to death. She then sent his seal and staff to him with the message that she is pregnant by the man who owns these.
Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again. Genesis 38:26 (NIV)
Judah had a responsibility to Tamar as his widowed daughter-in-law, and not only had he failed to protect her, he himself had took advantage of her. Judah immediately realized his wrongdoing and repented.
Why does the Bible call Tamar righteous? She tricked her father-in-law into sleeping with her. However, if she hadn’t done this deed, we might not be here today. If Judah had not returned to his family, he would not have gone to Egypt to purchase food for his family during famine and proved his change of heart to his brother Joseph. Without the food Joseph provided as a result, the family might have died out in the fourth generation. Had their family died out, Jesus would not have been born. Jesus is a direct descendant of Tamar.
Some of us are more like Judah - insiders who sometimes neglect the people we are supposed to take care of. Some of us are more like Tamar, outsiders who are a little messed up. What can we learn from Tamar?
Take Action. Tamar took bold and courageous acts of faith to include ourselves in the family. Don’t just passively wait for someone to include you. Believe that you belong in the family of God, and include yourself.
Build bridges of relationship. Tamar realized that she could not survive alone. As Christians we don’t get to opt out of church. If we don’t connect ourselves to the church, we will die spiritually (1 Corinthians 12:13-14). Sometimes we have to create space for (new or godly) relationships in our lives.
Share your story. Tamar got tired of being alone and invisible at her dad’s house. Be willing to be known. Galatians 6:2 instructs us to bear each others’ burdens and fulfill the law of Christ, which is to love God and love people (Matthew 22). We bear each other's’ burdens when we listening to each others’ stories.
Pay the price. the most valuable relationships are the ones that cost me the most. Hours of time, emotional hurt will inevitably come up, missed opportunities for other relationships and things. If you’re not willing to make the investment you’re not going to have the relationship. Tamar took the risk to be part of Abraham’s family,
Give grace because that’s what God does. It’s no accident that God is building an intercultural church in downtown Chicago today; this is a miracle. God designed us to be together as one church family living life with people who are different from us. Invite people into your life who are different from us and hear their stories. It’s going to take long-term relationships to get it right. Tamar had faith that even though Judah had abandoned her, that she belonged in his family.
Family works through the tough stuff together because we know that we belong together. We are called to forgive others because God forgave us. Joseph told Judah that even though he meant to harm him, that God was using his actions to save many lives (Genesis 50:20). God is working in all things for our good (Romans 8:28).
Reflection/ Discussion Questions:
When have you felt like an outsider? Have you ever felt like an outsider of God’s family?
What are some actions you can take to include yourself in the family of God?
How can you be more intentional about carrying others’ burdens in your family, in your workplace, in your church community?
What areas of your life or relationships need more grace from you?