Jason E. Fort
The Family Name
The Fort family crest pictured above may or may not be our official crest. A project my uncle did back in college supposedly led back to our family being French Huguenots, but this is an English Family crest. There is also another crest from France, same spelling, where the central focus is a lion holding a club. Whichever one started our particular line, both these coats of arms represent strength.
But the crest is only one representation of the family.
The people from a family are who really matter. And that is something that is lost on society these days except for the most wealthy and elite. Everyone gets so hung up on which group they want to be associated with, which sexual identity, which political identity, which national identity, which professional identity, etc. But what about your family identity?
Although I think certain things have been done throughout world history to make people forget about the significance of the family name, God Himself knew what he was doing when he included as one of the Ten Commandments, 'Honor your father and mother'. This command is not something to motivate pride - but honor. And one doesn't have to look much further than the parable of the talents taught by Jesus in the book of Matthew to understand this. Especially if you look at it from the perspective I will try to explain.
In the parable, Jesus decribes a master who entrusts his servants with talents, units of money, for a limited time. He trusts the servants to handle the money not just with care, but he expects them to make the best of the value of the money (although in the parable, the master does not tell his servents exactly what he expects). Two of the three servants invest the money and the value increases to more than they had originally. The third servent buries the money somewhere until the master returns. Upon the master's return, he is pleased with the actions of the first two servents because they used their opportunity to honor their master, but he banishes the third servant for giving back to the master exactly what he started with, because he wasted opportunity.
So what does this have to do with the family name?
Oddly enough, the words I am typing here were inspired by this parable, wise advice from my own father - and the younger but intellectual perception of my youngest brother. Without going into details, after a family get-together, my father spoke on Jesus's words, and my brother spoke on how honored he was to carry the family name. And I was inspired to help others see how these same thoughts and wisdom can be shared and experienced by all of us...
even if you are not blessed like my brothers and I with a united family to raise you.
So how can this relate to others, what could society learn from this, and how is it available to all people?
First, let's look at the parable again. What if we see our times here on Earth as temporary (which it is) or a limited opportunity, and what if we don't get to take our names with us when we perish (not that we'd need to)?
Our family name is passed down by our parents. Regardless of what society and media want us to think, what we do in life reflects a lot of what we were taught growing up, and what we do with that knowledge. If we honor our father and our mother, then we use the knowledge they teach us wisely, and other people will see that in our actions. And when people see those wise actions and then associate us to who our parents are, typically they think of the parents' family name. So if we don't squander the opportunity to honor the family name, our parents will be pleased with us. And we can pass that knowledge on to our own children, and they can do the same. And so on, and so forth; that is the way God intended the family to work. Unfortunately, what has happened in society, is the value of family itself has been tarnished, and people don't even care about the family name near as much anymore. People are brought up without both parents; individuals learn to just look out for number one, and the selfishness which has become so prevalent in society passes on down to other children, and the vicious cycle continues. Before long, there is nothing to entrust from a predeccessor anymore, and we have many of the problems we have today.
What if people started caring again about what their parents say? Well obviously, due to increased numbers of divorces, fewer nuclear famillies according to biblical design, and influence by the world to always look out for number one, that is a challenge. But what if you have a family of your own? What if it is still early for you? What if you decided that you wanted people to know that your parents taught you well, and you started to show that in your actions on a daily basis? What if, because of the hard work and effort you put into it, your children learn from you, and pass on that knowledge? Despite the dangers of the obstacles I mentioned above, you'd still be making the best of the opportunity given to you - to honor that family name.
Now I know, some of you out there that read this, may have grown up in a broken home. Some people may even be orphans, who still persevered by looking out for number one, and they happened to make out pretty well in life, so far. If that applies to you, you are to be commended; there is something to be said for perseverance. But maybe, just maybe, some folks out there could read this and say, well that's all fine and good Jason, but what about those of us who just didn't have that advantage or upbringing?
A fair point - but to give you the answer, I still wanted to use my brother's story.
You see, through ups and downs of the family, and in my brother's life himself, he has learned something from my father; something that my other brother and I can also say we've learned a little more about through the years just because we are older. My brother has learned the importance of making family a priority. Our father did that his entire life. My mom was always the glue that held us all together, and even mended little breaks along the way - but our dad's focus on family was the driving force, always moving the family forward. Through planning, through his work, even through his goals for fun things, the focus of family by our father was evident. And my brother simply sharing his realization with all of us motivated me to write this. And it made me realize something else.
Even if you don't have an earthly family name to treasure; even if you don't have that advantage of still having a mother and father who raised you; even if you've screwed up a lot in life and feel like you have no family name left to honor anyway - the Bible tells us that there is a family name that you can share with millions of others. There is a family of which you can join because of a gift given to us by the Grace of God, in the name of Jesus Christ. For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, that whoever so believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. How is that for a family legacy?
The name of Christ is available for us to share as Christians. We can join the family of Christians around the world. We can bring honor to His name by following His commands, and we can pass that information on to other family members. And when we see it as an honor to do so, it becomes infectious; we want to pass it on. We need to pass it on. This is available to people from all walks of life, from murderers to thieves to adulterers, from traitors to abusers, and all you have to do to join this family is believe in Christ and what He did for us with all your heart. But if you truly believe, you will know to turn from those worldly urges and ways.
Will you mess up along the way?
Absolutely... just like my brothers and I screwed up plenty when we were growing up. Yet somehow our father forgave us, just like our heavenly Father forgives us through His son Jesus.
But here's the thing: God has given us ALL lives; limited opportunities while we are here on Earth. He is our ultimate Master, just like the father of myself and my brothers was our master (and boy did we know it :) ). What if I could tell you that being part of this global family, a family of believers, enables you to make the best of an opportunity in a new life, a life in which you are born again - and at the end of your opportunity, when you finally get to meet our Father in Heaven, He sees the work you did with your opportunity, and He says, "Well done, good and faithful servant?"
The opportunity is there for the taking for all of us, regardless of the earthly family in which you were raised.
So what do you say? Wanna join my Family? Oh sure, the world wants you to think bad things about the name of Christ sometimes... but hey, there's a certain book that told us all that was going to happen.
Funny how that works.