Family Resemblance in Foreign Christians
“I sat down with a Christian
from far across the sea.
I had never seen his face before,
but I knew what he believed.
And we called each other ‘brother,’
and our hearts were filled with love
for we share a loving Savior
and a promise from above.
There’s a family resemblance,
and it shines on every face.
There’s a family resemblance;
it’s the same from place to place.
We’re the image of our Father,
and we’re glowing like a bride
from the family resemblance
of having Jesus Christ inside.”
My mother is a songwriter, and she wrote this song “Family Resemblance” many years ago. I’ve heard this song since I was a child, and as an adult, I have really grown to love it–especially this verse. I’ve experienced this moment several times, where I have felt a deep affection for a Christian from another culture.
It always blows me away with how large and yet how tightly connected the family of God’s kingdom really is.
When I first came to China to study in 2011, I was introduced to two house churches close to where I would be staying: one that was bilingual in an American family’s apartment and one that was all Chinese in a shared apartment. Between the two groups, I was with Christians nearly every day of the week, and I have never experienced such closeness to the Acts 2 church as I did during my time with the brothers and sisters there.
The missionary family brought me in to much of their time together so I could have niceties from the US that I didn’t have easy access to on my own (like grits and real coffee, access to social media, and American cartoons and books), and the Chinese group took care of me whenever I had questions or needed help. It was even in these groups where I met my future husband!
I’ve gone back to visit China three times since my year of study was over. I always make a point to visit the group I worshiped with, and it is always one of the best experiences I can express, to know that dear friends I love are faithful to God, growing in spirit, and serving people in their community.
Especially in a place like China where freedom of religion is not a privilege given to the brethren there, it is nice to know that everyone is safe and still able to worship.
I’ve been in China this month visiting my husband’s side of the family, and we’ve been able to worship with the Chinese house church twice. The first time I went, I was surprised that I started crying when I hugged a dear sister of mine there, Xiaoli. She and her husband Zhuzi have been the overseers of this house church, organizing events and maintaining the apartment where the group meets. Xiaoli is a dear sister of mine I’ve known since before she was married. To be able to hug her neck is always a blessing.
I think the tears started flowing because, like my mom’s song says, “our hearts were filled of love.”
This happens Stateside too. About a year ago, my husband and I were invited to attend a Latino ministry conference, and one young man from Colombia, David, introduced himself to us. We started chatting, and it just struck me how the three of us—my husband from China, David from Colombia, and I from the US—so quickly clicked as good friends. My husband and I also had an Iranian-American brother visit us not too long ago, and he was the same way: after just a short amount of talking together over dinner, it was apparent to us that we had a deeper connection.
This has happened again and again in my life with brothers and sisters from all around the world—South Korea, Madagascar, England, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brazil, Ireland, Sierra Leone, Germany, etc. It is amazing to see the “family resemblance” in people from everywhere on the globe, whether they are abroad or in the States.
This is one of those occurrences that, even though it is amazing, it should not be surprising.
In Acts 1, Jesus told His followers that they would go to the ends of the earth to be His witnesses to others. And in Matthew 18, Jesus said that when even two are together in His name, He is there too. The Scriptures also tell us in John 10 that the sheep know the Shepherd’s voice, and I believe this is true in each other as well as in the teachings of Jesus; there is something obviously different when meeting another Christian.
In foreign Christians, there may be some differences in our cultures, but the words from the Scriptures are the same. The Kingdom of God is a culture that is above all others, and it is a culture of which we are all a part.
Besides my mom’s song, there are others that often remind me of this “family resemblance” that transcends distance, culture, and language. I have a recording of some dear friends in Brazil singing “We Shall Assemble” in Portuguese, and now whenever I hear that song, I hear it in Portuguese and am reminded of how one day we will all be together at the feet of God, giving Him “glory and honor and dominion.” Whenever I hear “We Are One in the Spirit,” I can hear my brothers and sisters singing it in Mandarin, praying through song that our unity be restored.
And of course, whenever I hear “When We All Get to Heaven,” especially in another language, I hardly ever have dry eyes. Truly, “When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!”