• Ivor Greer

Looking back and looking forward

Are you interested in looking back to your ancestors? Did you know that you could order a DNA testing kit for under £50? One company said that over the past 16 years, they have helped millions of people find new family members and discover their ethnic origins. This can be fun to explore but there can be serious consequences.


There may be unwelcome surprises – as we see in the TV show “Who do you think you are?” Another company says “The cells in your body have 23 pairs of chromosomes. Your chromosomes are made of DNA, which can tell you a lot about you.”

Science is discovering more and more about how God’s creation works. In Psalm 139, David said: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; …”

We are all made by God and in his image yet each of us is unique. Sin can, and does, distort that image, but God has no surprises. In April 2016, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, [see photo] had a surprise. A DNA test was arranged by a newspaper – with his permission. He discovered that his father was not who he had thought. The Archbishop’s response amazed journalists and the watching world:

“It is a testimony to the grace and power of Christ to liberate and redeem us, ... I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in Him never changes.”

How liberating to find our identity in God and not in ourselves, our parents or our circumstances.

Then, as we look forward, we want to plan. But will we be fit enough to fulfil those plans? The government hopes that genetics could be used to develop “predictive and personalised health care” for all. To make a start the Health Secretary announced, in November, that the NHS were planning to sequence the DNA [photo available] of every baby born in the UK, starting with a pilot scheme of 20,000 children.

Babies are tested already for carefully selected conditions which can be avoided or lessened with treatment soon after birth. So why not extend this routine screening by sequencing their entire set of genes? But there are significant ethical considerations. Not all potential conditions identified can be treated. People often prefer not to know about these risks before it is necessary – so what should happen to this health information on the new-borns when they reach 18? Frances Elmslie of the British Society for Genetic Medicine comments, “We have endless discussions about testing children for conditions that don’t manifest until later life.”

In any case our health and our future can never be totally predictable. Jesus told a story (in Luke 12) about a rich, successful farmer who thought differently! He built a bigger place to store all his goods and expected to relax, “eat, drink and be merry”. But God said that he would die that very night. The story ends with a warning “… a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

In our uncertain world let us review our priorities and seek to develop a richer relationship with our creator God?

IVOR GREER

December 2019

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