Family Roots – Romans 1
If you were to meet me, you wouldn’t have a hard time figuring out my ethnicity. My fair skin, blue eyes, and blonde hair immediately reveal strong western European roots. Truth be told, I’m a bit of a mutt—a healthy mix of French, Scotch-Irish, Welsh, and Swiss-German ancestors.
Along with these telltale genes, my parents also passed on a strong Christian heritage. Both my mother and father were believers as were their parents before them. In fact, on my father’s side, our Christian heritage stretches all the way back to the early Swiss Anabaptists who were persecuted for their faith, had their property confiscated, and eventually fled to the New World in search of religious freedom. With a heritage like this, it’s easy to forget my true roots.
It’s easy to forget that I’m the progeny of pagans.
Even though Christianity plays a significant role in my family heritage, it didn’t always. Flashback a 1500 years and those Swiss-German ancestors weren’t worshiping Jesus; they were worshiping Woden. My Scotch-Irish forbearers? Celts who deified the natural world and were led by druids.
In fact, dial back far enough and you wouldn’t find any of my family worshiping Jesus or even Jehovah. When David was singing and dancing before the one true God, my grandmothers where singing and dancing before Nerthus. And when Jesus Himself was crucified at the hands of the Roman government, my barbarian ancestors were slaughtering human beings in worship to their devilish gods.
Not exactly the kind of thing that you want to bring up at the next family reunion.
For those us who come from generations of Christians, it’s easy to forget where our true roots lie. We read the Scripture and immediately identify with God’s people, Israel, but few of us actually have that physical heritage. Instead we’re more likely the product of polytheistic tribes that lost the knowledge of the one true God just like today’s passage describes. The truth is, were it not for Christ who opened the way for all peoples to be made His people, we would still be on those ancient high places sacrificing to distant, demanding gods.
In Romans 1, Paul reminds us of where we come from:
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as god or give thanks to him but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles… they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator. (verses 21-23, 25)
If we’re honest, this tendency—this idolatrous DNA—is still present with us. We may not serve Woden or Nerthus, but we serve different gods and cover our sacrifices with euphemisms of “choice” and “independence.” When it’s all said and done, we are just as desperate, just as condemned as our pagan ancestors.
But in the midst of this condemnation, Paul brings us some wonderful news. Beginning in verse 16, Paul writes,
I am under obligation both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish… For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it, the righteous of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
I’m grateful to those first Christian missionaries like Paul who took the gospel to Europe where my ancestors lived. And to men like Patrick and Fridolin who continued the work by going to brutal, pagan tribes to share the good news. But more than anything, I’m grateful to a God who longs to have worshipers from every tongue and tribe and nation. Because while I may not be Abraham’s biological daughter, I am his daughter by faith. Better still, I have been made a daughter of God Himself through union with His Son Jesus Christ.
And that’s a heritage I hope you’ll recognize in me immediately.
photo used with permission – Kelli Campbell
Hannah Anderson lives with her husband, Nathan, and their three young children in the haunting Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. As a pastor’s wife in a rural setting, no two days are ever the same which suits her short-attention span perfectly. Hannah is passionate about helping women discover their God-given identity as His image bearers and is the author of Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image (Moody, 2014). She also contributes to a variety of Christian publications, and you can find her on her blog, SometimesALight.com, and on Twitter @sometimesalight.