“Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Family is a powerful force, and it defines us from our earliest moments. It shapes our ambitions and gives us what we need to chase them. It teaches us how to live with others and influences our hopes for all the relationships we will have. And yet, it appears that the ‘family’ Jesus speaks of now is pointing us in a whole new direction.
Jesus expands the definition of family to be a network of relationships that opens up our homes for a whole host of others who may be different from us.
Jesus moves our understanding of family to mean more than a place of genetic origins to an understanding that family is being a group of people that is marked instead by the choice God has made to love us as his children and the choices we make because of our response to God’s love.
He says that “whoever does the will of God is my mother and my brother and my sister.”
Family is a primary concept in the Bible
The book of Genesis begins, not with talk of nations and tribes… but families. Of course, there are other great metaphors to describe the relationship between God and humankind, King and subjects, Master and slaves, but, it always comes back to family. Sometimes God’s faithful people are referred to as the bride of the Bridegroom, and our disloyalties are compared to adultery. But, most of the time we’re referred to as God’s children, God’s daughters and sons who bring God great joy as well as great dismay.
So coming to God and God’s Kingdom is really like coming home to family.
I wonder about the ‘family’ Jesus speaks about to us in our time. I wonder how it is like those other families we are a part of with all their power over us. I wonder how God’s family can be a place where we are never enslaved, but always set free to be all that God calls us to be. This family of God is a place where we appreciate each other’s differences and know that as children of God we are created to be what God calls us to be.
I’m not entirely sure that I, or perhaps any of us, have yet experienced that ‘family’ in all of its fullness. For all the truth that most every congregation I’ve ever been a part of has liked to think of itself as ‘family,’ more often than not they and I fell back into our basic understandings of ‘family.’ We tend to equate it with what we have known instead of what Jesus calls us to know as family.
Sometimes that’s not totally bad, and sometimes it’s not so good either, especially when the going gets tough and there are family disagreements which lead to disowning, or not appreciating to the fullest some members of the family.
I wonder about your experiences of family when it comes to your spiritual relationships with others.
- How have you experienced ‘family?’ Have you experienced the ‘family’ Jesus points us to now?
- What stories come to mind when you think of how you were and are continuing to be shaped by your family?
- Do Jesus words about family make you want to help all those in your spiritual relationships?
- How have you experienced the ‘family of God’ in your congregation or community of Christians, does it match Jesus’ description here? If it doesn’t, how might we move closer to this in our experience?
- If you are not in a congregation, where and how have you experienced the ‘family’ Jesus points to now? How would you describe your experience to someone who has not shared this?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.