This past weekend, millions of people around the world celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. Here in the United States that most often takes the form of parades, parties and of course, donning a shamrock or two or wearing something green. For some, it is a time to remember their legitimate family heritage, but that’s not the case for the vast majority of party-goers. Even though the best testing methods from ancestry.com wouldn’t turn up a trace of Irish heritage, that doesn’t stop droves of people from dressing in stereotypical Irish clothes, eating Irish stew, and even mustering up decent Irish accent for a few hours.
And you know what? St. Patrick’s day isn’t the only time this happens. A few weeks from now, we’ll change nationalities again for Cinco de Mayo when we’ll pile up Mexican food and listen to Latin music at Mexican themed-parties to celebrate a little-known Mexican military victory over France in 1862. (Not Mexican Independence Day as it is widely thought).
But please hang on before you either applaud or reject this blog as a statement on cultural misappropriation. My point isn’t that we shouldn’t take part in cultural celebrations. I’m all for having fun and think it’s good to step outside of your own traditions and try to understand and experience things that are different. And I’m personally a fan of any reason that calls friends and family together for fellowship and food!
My point is rather to be careful not to go too far with this tendency to pretend. Words, actions, clothing or other “externals” can never do anything to actually make you something that you are not. And that’s especially important to remember when it comes to church. Many people walk through church doors every Sunday wearing ‘church’ clothes, speaking ‘church’ language and associate with ‘church’ people. And on the outside, they look very much like Christians. But the reality is that a DNA test of their spirit would prove that they are not part of the church at all. That’s because you don’t become a part of the church by entering a building, carrying a Bible, knowing hymns by heart, or wearing the right clothes. You are a Christian the same way you are Irish, or Hispanic, or any other ethnic group… that is, you are born into it.
Jesus answered (Nicodemus), “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3
Every person who has ever lived comes into this world spiritually dead, and no matter how you modify your appearance or actions on the outside, you can’t alter that reality. But the wonderful truth is that God didn’t leave us in this condition with no recourse. Ephesians 2:4 says that because of His compassion and great heart of concern for our situation, He sent Jesus Christ to pay our penalty for sin and change us from the inside out.
When you accept His sacrifice on your behalf, you are born into His eternal family and your “spiritual DNA” changes forever! The Father adopts you into His family and renames you as His own. And He doesn’t require us to learn a new language or adopt strange traditions to become part of His kin. All you need to do is believe. Romans 10:9 says “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
So in this lull between cultural holidays, pause for a moment and prayerfully evaluate your own spiritual ethnicity. Are you truly in the family of God, or are you just playing dress up?