Who Is Your Family?
A number of years ago, Coca Cola and Walmart teamed up to produce a Christmas holiday commercial. The theme was on sharing and that there is room enough for non-biological relations to be considered as part of our extended family. In the ad the young man calls his judo coach, co-workers, and his allergist among some of the persons he considers “family”. You can watch that commercial by clicking this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXXPIk4v6aw
Jesus scandalously redefined his family!
Mark 3:31-35 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him. They stood outside and sent word for him to come out and talk with them. 32 There was a crowd sitting around Jesus, and someone said, “Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you.”
33 Jesus replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 34 Then he looked at those around him and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. 35 Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
His blood family were standing right outside! They would have heard, at least through the grapevine, what he had just said! Why did Jesus say that? I don’t believe that Jesus minimizes them without reason. He had given them a chance to be his Family on Mission when he first launched into ministry, but they rejected him. They didn’t accept his mission or defend him when their hometown synagogue tried to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:16-30)! And so Jesus moved on to find a new “family” that would be conducive to accomplishing the Father’s purposes. He went to Peter and Andrew’s home in Capernaum. He went there because they had shown interest to be his followers earlier. (John 1)
Jesus doesn’t make this matter of redefining family pertain just to him. He brings the same challenge to those that wish to follow him.
Luke 14:25-27 Many people were traveling with Jesus. He said to them, 26 “If you come to me but will not leave your family, you cannot be my follower. You must love me more than your father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters—even more than your own life! 27 Whoever will not carry the cross that is given to them when they follow me cannot be my follower. (ERV) Other translations render verse 26 like this:
26 “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. (NLT)
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters (ESV)
What is Jesus communicating in all that, and does it mean anything for us? Is Jesus declaring that those that follow him are no longer to give their blood family primary allegiance? If I don’t leave family, I can’t follow Jesus? Now granted, he doesn’t call all people everywhere to abandon family. Being a hard-line literalist isn’t wise or productive. But we shouldn’t so easily dismiss away the demands of Jesus either by simply spiritualizing them. I think the truth lies somewhere in between. I’m not one hundred percent sure what this all means, but I do know that it calls us to stop and think about our priorities and allegiances. I’m certain this call of Jesus is a matter of the heart.
How dare Jesus make such demands upon my life you may ask yourself. Who does he think he is? Your Creator and King. And we know he is good. He wants us to have abundant life! But that seems to only come with self-denial and particular allegiances. Jesus says there will be great reward for those who do put him #1.
Mt 19:29- And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.
I don’t think that this repayment and abundant life he promised just refers to heaven; I firmly believes it begins now! The richness of relationship, and experience, and growth in relationship with Christ is something a person cannot experience if they don’t deny themselves and come to live in dependence upon Christ as their all in all (instead of their blood family). This is part of my personal story and experience. We would never have attained such richness of relationship with the Family of God, and growth and depth of relationship with Christ if we weren’t willing to prioritize the Family of God over our blood family and move out West to pastor in Saskatoon.
Blood family doesn’t last forever, but the Family of God does. Who is your family? Have you wrestled through that question and settled it in your heart? How do you understand these words that Jesus speaks to you: “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.”?