Gary Klahr and Steve Barbin were long-time best buds. In their 20’s they had met in a bar and something just clicked between them. They often frequented Jennings Beach and Southport Harbor near Fairfield, Connecticut where they grew up. Gary was best man in Steve’s wedding. When Gary was drafted to play football for the New Orleans Saints in the NFL, Steve was the first to congratulate him.
On a winter morning in 1998, a social caseworker phoned Gary and began to ask him some questions. Given the nature of the questions, he thought she was exploring what interest he and his wife might have in adopting a child. Instead, she had some seismic news for him: He had been adopted. The unanticipated revelation so unnerved him he immediately called his friend, Steve, to see if he could find some solace or at least some support.
Steve had just hung up the phone from talking to a social caseworker. She had just confirmed that he also was adopted. Gary and Steve would discover they were in fact brothers, two of the thirteen children born over an 18-year period to a vagrant couple in a village 50 miles north of New York City, a community so impoverished and crime-ridden the city would later tear it down.
A few days after the phone call Gary would learn that the girl he had dated for six months, several years before he married, had been his sister who was nine months younger than he. Nine of the children (one had died in a traffic accident) had been adopted, each by a different family; unbeknown to the others, all lived within 50 miles of each other.
Different life trajectories. Four had been adopted into Jewish homes; five by Catholic families. Different names; different gifts. Different interests; different stories to tell. Some short; some tall. Some muscular; some diminutive. No two the same, in fact. I’ve been in a group like that. So have you.
Following the launch of the Christian church, the most frequent simile to describe it is family-related. It won’t surprise you that beginning in the book of Acts to the end of the New Testament 148 times the writers use some form of the term brother to describe the church. After all, they shared the same Father and the same Elder Brother.
“All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a separate and necessary part of it.” (ICor 12:7NLT) As dissimilar as our origins, we’re adopted into a common family, bound together by a common gospel, anchored by a common Book, energized by a common mission, inspired by a common hope. Me and my brother. And you. God calls us His church family.
By Don Jacobsen