Text Size: Zoom In

Family Resemblance

September 1, 2018

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:1-2

I am the third in an extended line of Joe Stowells. As a young boy, I realized that my name often brought quick recognition and statements like, “Oh, you’re Joe Stowell’s son.” My dad, Joe Stowell, Jr., pastored a large, successful church. He was highly respected as a preacher and was a leader on several ministry boards. He was, in fact, a household name within our denomination and was recognized for his service to Christ with an honorary doctorate from Wheaton College. I was proud of my dad and felt honored to be his son. Being known as his child was a primary source of significance for me. I always felt it was an honor to bear his name.

But I have to tell you that the honor also brought some expectations. Given my dad’s great reputation, I was keenly aware that my actions would reflect on my dad, and that others’ perception of him might well be shaped by what they saw in me. And, when I forgot about my identity as Joe Stowell’s son, there were always a few “behavior cops” nearby to remind me! I’m not interested in being your behavior cop today, but I am deeply interested in God’s reputation that has been entrusted to lives like yours and mine. You are probably already getting the point: God paid a major price to adopt you into His family, ran the risk of calling you His child, and promised you a better-than-anything-on-earth inheritance. There are no material possessions, fame, or power that can compare to the significance that you have in being His child!

So, when people find out who you are, they may just be wondering what your Father is like. What they see in you may be the only thing they ever know about our God. Since God is loving, gracious, just, honest, faithful, patient, generous, and merciful—just for starters—the family resemblance should be finding its way into your relationships, your career, and your family on a regular basis. In Philippians 2:5-11, Paul reminds us that even our attitudes should reflect the heart of Christ. We should choose to think of ourselves as servants and to obey God with a humble and surrendered spirit even to the point of personal sacrifice. Hey, after all, that’s exactly what Jesus did to let others know that His Father desired to serve our sin-lost lives with the love of His saving grace.

You know, I have to tell you that I’ve always wanted my dad to be proud of me. To this day, I have found great satisfaction in having heard him say that he was glad to be my dad. On a much greater scale, I want God to be pleased to be known as my Father! Keeping up the family reputation is a sure way for you to know that He is pleased with you.


  • What about you? Have you experienced the privilege of becoming God’s child?
  • Read the list of family expectations in Ephesians 5:1-12. What specifically can you do to upgrade the family name?
  • Peter tells his readers that they may experience some suffering for bearing the name of Jesus (1 Peter 4:12-19). Have you experienced suffering or ridicule as a Christian? Did it derail you?
  • How has the “family resemblance” been reflected in your life over the past week?
  • What impression are your co-workers, friends, and family getting of Christ by watching your life as one of his followers?
  • How does knowing that you bear the name of Christ impact your sense of significance and self-worth?