I listened to an audiobook this month, Death Of A Prankster. One of the characters fumbles an engagement to an attractive woman because of his affection for/loyalty to his mother. It did come across strange. But what strikes me, is that most of the actions taken by the man, were only weird because of my culture. In a different culture where family loyalty and honoring one’s parents is more highly prized, it would have been perfectly normal.
So now listen to this:
“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
The Jewish culture Jesus lives in is one with great respect for elders and authority figures, a culture that prizes family loyalty highly. His response is subversive in a way that would never fly under the radar; it was never intended to slip quietly past people.
Jesus challenges our natural allegiances. If we are to truly follow our Savior, it will require a radical obedience. But notice that the effect of doing the will of the Father is couched in positive terms. The statement is not only a break with tradition but also a promise of new belonging.
Belonging with Jesus. Belong with all those who seek to do the will of the Father. The church, a community of God seekers and followers, gathered in a specific time and place, is intended to form a new family.
Now an interesting juxtaposition to this teaching comes in Paul’s letters to young pastors. As lays out the best criteria for a leader in the church, the qualities mostly revolve around this: do they take good care of their family?
There should be a bit of wrestling going on at this point. Does our church family displace our family of origin? This and other questions are probably to great to settle here and now, but settle them you should, if your desire is to do the Father’s will.
I think what Jesus is primarily getting at here is values and intimacy. As much as a sister whose nose will trigger the same memories as yours will always hold a deep understanding of you and your formative years, someone whose faith rests on the same Savior will experience a kinship with you of an entirely different order.
“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Ultimately though, it is not the church Jesus is referring to here but Himself. When we obey God, there is an intimacy with Jesus that is not available to us any other way. So get close.
Lord, I want to draw near to You.