An important distinction in the South is not only where you were born, but also who your people are. I remember my grandmother and aunts discussing the latest news from the community. “Oh, you know Bobbie Sue, her people are from right outside Water Valley.” Then, they would proceed to explain how she was related to her people, by marriage or birth. Usually, what would follow would be an entertaining tale or two about the defining characteristics of those people, which I soon came to understand meant: extended family. Your people, I figured out, were where you came from and to whom you belonged. Bigger than your nuclear family of origin, it was a broader heritage, encompassing not only who you were, but also where your roots began. For a child who grew up overseas and returned to the States every few years to visit, it gave me a warm, secure feeling knowing I had people to belong to, who looked somewhat like me and loved me unconditionally.
My favorite part of those discussions was when one aunt would look over at me and remark, “You know, she really looks like her Daddy.” “You think so? “ another aunt would counter. “I sure do see Bobbie Ruth in her.” Later, I would sit in front of the mirror and try to see my parents’ images in my childish features.
And so it is with the people of God. In the Gospel of John, chapter fifteen and verse sixteen, Jesus speaks, “You did not choose Me but I chose you…” (NASB) The letter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and written by the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians says, in chapter two and verses nineteen and twenty, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Also, the second letter written by the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians in chapter 6 and verse sixteen says, “…I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (NASB)
These passages are but an example of many in which God claims those who believe in Jesus as his people. Just as we reflect the characteristics of our earthly heritage, we are continually being “conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8:29 NASB). God loved us so much, before we ever thought of loving him: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NASB). No matter what our earthly background is, we now can have a place as one of God’s people, a place to call home forever.
About the Writer: Nan Haines is so grateful to belong to God’s people. She loves getting to know all kinds of people and enjoys discovering new places, which is a good thing since she’s moved twenty five times. She has been married to Jim, a pastor, for 34 years, and together they have four grown kids, a son in love, and three grand puppies.