Thursday, April 17, 2014

This Is My Family

          Life of Christ 67

          Jesus has had a long day. In our vernacular we would say a stressful one. It opened with a confrontation with the Pharisees over the healing of the blind, dumb, possessed man. It continued when the Pharisees, unforgivably, accused Him of doing His miracles because He was possessed by Satan. After tangling with them over that, they then asked Him to do another miracle. He rightly refused, and explained that Israel was in worse shape now by rejecting Him than it used to be during its periodic struggles with idolatry.
          Now, still in the middle of a great crowd of people, someone interrupts Him to say that His family has arrived and wants to speak with Him. Jesus, seemingly harshly, refuses to see them, and says that those around Him with the desire to do God's will are those whom He considers as His family (Mark 3.31-35).
          Before I discuss what I believe Jesus is saying here let me first briefly discuss what He isn't saying. I do that because this passage has been the root of a great amount of misunderstanding, and thus misapplication. First, Jesus isn't dishonoring His mother. We know this because Jesus was the Living Word, and the Living Word wouldn't and couldn't violate the written Word. We also see, more practically, that He was repeatedly careful to ensure that His mother was tenderly cared for, both at the beginning of His ministry, and at the end.
          Secondly, this isn't Jesus calling for a complete separation between the Christian and his unsaved family members. Again, we see this when we compare scripture with scripture. For instance, Peter instructs saved wives not to leave their unsaved husbands, but to live with them in genuine holiness so that they will be drawn to Christ (I Peter 3.1). There is a natural state of relationship, born in blood, cemented by many mutual experiences, and preserved in gratitude, that should always mark the loving Christian and his earthly family, saved or lost.
          I have seen this passage used by some deceitful or inept religious leaders in an attempt to cut off all communication between saved and lost family members. In so teaching, they do an injustice to the example of Christ (His own brothers didn't believe on Him at this point yet He continued to talk to them [John 7.3]), and the larger context of our family relationships as explained in Scripture.
          Well, if it isn't Jesus dishonoring His mother, or calling on Christians to ignore their lost family members what is it then? I believe He is teaching us that the closest earthly relationships we have, as His people, are others of His people.
          I've always been very close to my family, whether the one in which I grew up or the one that God has blessed me with now as a husband and father. I'm a domestic creature at heart. I never went through a rebellious phase. I was never disowned by my parents. Yet. My sisters and brother and I are all on good speaking terms. But the simple truth is that those with whom I am closest on this earth are the believers with whom I regularly assemble at the corner of Lavergne and George in Chicago, Illinois.
         We see each other several times a week. We share each other's ups and downs. We spend holidays together. We eat in each other's homes. We go on outings together. We work, pray, minister, study, sing, laugh, cry, and live life together. It isn't that I don't love my parents or my brother and sisters for I most assuredly do. Rather, it is that in my church, surrounded by those who are actively seeking to do the will of God, I find another group just as close, if not closer, to me. In other words, I find in my church the family of God.
          The word 'family' is used one times in the King James Version New Testament (Ephesians 3.15), and the context isn't of one's parents or siblings, but rather of God's people's relationship to one another. Jesus, interrupted during ministry by His probably sincere yet wrong-headed earthly family, looked around at those who had given themselves to do the will of God and said, 'This is my family.'
          I feel so sad for people who come to Christ but don't come to church. They miss out on such a huge blessing. God didn't design the church to replace our families, but He did design it to be a family. And I find great blessing in the family of God.
          How about you?

If you would like to listen to the audio version of this blog you can find it here on our church website. Just press 'launch media player' and choose We Preach Christ 38 'The Blessing of the Family of God'.

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