“Gathered to His People”

Categories: M. W. Bassford, Meditations

Throughout the Pentateuch, a formula is used to mark the deaths of the godly. It says that So-and-So “was gathered to his people”. Now that I know my own time is approaching, I find myself reflecting on the people to whom I will be gathered.

The list begins with my parents. My father was faithful in all his house as a servant, and he loved to study the Bible more than anything else. To the end of my days, my most central memory of him will be coming down the stairs after school and finding him seated in his old blue recliner, his Bible open in his lap and a stack of Bible helps on the floor next to the chair.

My mother's Bible saw just as much use, even though she took much better care of it. She too lived out her faith, especially in her care for the vulnerable and downtrodden. She volunteered for suicide hotlines. She worked in food banks. She went to trailer parks to teach women to read so she could teach them the Bible. The quietest and most overlooked woman where she went to church was guaranteed one friend, and it would be my mother.

My father’s father was a Christian too. He was nicknamed “Pat” because in his youth he loved to tell tall tales, drink, and fight like the stereotypical Irishman. In maturity, though, he assembled faithfully in the church building down the gravel road from his farm. When it was built, he mixed all the cement in the foundation by hand. Four of his six children will be joining him in his reward.

My grandmother was the biggest reason he settled down. She was a full-blooded Polish Catholic off the boat who met him by chance in Chicago. My mother said she was one of the meekest women imaginable.

My grandparents were married by a gospel preacher because the priest demanded money, but the preacher would do it for free. That won her loyalty and her attendance at services. Both of them were baptized one Lord’s day because she dragged her husband down the aisle with her.

Beyond that, my great-grandfather also was a Christian. He was the son of a Methodist preacher and was brought into the Lord's church by his wife. I suppose her relatives also were Christians, though I don't know anything about them.

Similar tales could be told about my ancestors on my mother's side. Her mother was a disciple too. In my mother's youth, they worshiped at the local Christian Church because it was the only one within walking distance. However, my grandmother knew that it wasn't right to use the instrument in worship and told my mother so. Along some branches of that part of the family tree, I can find members of the Lord’s church practically back to the Restoration.

I have always felt a tremendous responsibility to live up to my family. When the true faith has been so faithfully handed down from generation to generation, how could I be the one to break the chain? I have never met most of these people, but I think they will receive me gladly.

I know, though, that most brethren can't say the same. What if your dad was an alcoholic who beat you black and blue? What if your mom was bipolar and committed adultery with every willing man in town? What if your family tree is filled with child molesters, thieves, and drug addicts?

If you are faithful to Christ, the good news is that your people aren't your people. Instead, your true people are the people of God. Your spiritual family tree starts with Abraham and includes millennia of forgotten men and women who spent their lives quietly seeking the Lord and doing what was right. None of them were perfect, but all of them have been counted righteous.

These are all your people, and I and mine are your people too. We may not share earthly ties of blood, but we are bound together by the blood of Christ. Like the patriarchs of old, we will be gathered to them, and by the grace of God, all of us will be welcomed to a seat at the table.