And it was reported to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You.” But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” Luke 8:20-21
In my first readings of the Bible, I remember wondering if Mary felt hurt by Jesus’ words. Why would Jesus be so cold? How many of us would feel injured if spoken to in this way?
In my earlier years, I understood this passage to be a lesson about obedience and allegiances, about putting God and God’s way before all others. The Bible has so much to teach us about life and living and over the years as I have meditated on this passage, I have come to see additional layers of meaning and learning Jesus has for me.
Jesus was also teaching us much about what family means in the kingdom of God. Most of us care deeply about our families. In fact, most of us would put the welfare and interests of our children above most any other worldly interest. It is quite easy for our love and concern for our family to become an idol. Our rationale for choices and decisions can become guided by a very narrow self-interest if all we think about is the narrow group of our own kin.
Many of us were born into families with lots of love and nurture and where most of our physical and emotional needs were met. But what about all the world’s children who are born into families where their needs for love and nurture have not been met. Were those children less beloved by their Heavenly Father, that they should suffer lack? What kind of meaning can we make for all of those who were born into families with hardship or want, pain or abuse?
I think Jesus spoke and taught this lesson to help us understand that in God’s kingdom we really do need a different concept of family. This new definition of family becomes critical. The church, the body of Christ becomes the new definition of family so that it is clear that we are not just to love and nurture our own nuclear families, but to recognize our relation and responsibility to a family that is much larger. In this way, all families, all children, all people have the opportunity to find a place of belonging and support. In this cradle and model of nurture called the Church, each person, no matter what the circumstances and state of their birthfamily, will have the support needed to grow into the fullness of life that God intends.
When Chris and I began Christ’s Children all those years ago, we were the parents of a brand new baby and we thought a lot about what it meant to open the circle of our family to include others. Opening our homes and hearts does come with a cost. And try as we will, we never know for sure if our choices were always best. But, it has been a great gift to experience that wider view of family that Jesus taught us. We have been grateful to become God’s family to others and to belong to them just as they belong to us.
It is my prayer that God would continue to bring this teaching alive in the hearts of God’s people so that the church would rise up to love and parent and nurture-to truly be the family of the Kingdom of God—so that all people would have love and support and a safety net that comes not from having a birth family who can provide, but from God’s family who provides for all of its children. We are most grateful for those of you who help us with your gifts and prayers as we are the family of God here in Minneapolis.