“And his mother and brothers came and standing outside they sent for him and called him. And there was a crowd sitting around him and they said to him, ‘Look, your mother and your brothers, they are looking for you.’ And he answered them saying, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking around toward those who were sitting about him he said, ‘Look! These are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.’”
The notion of family is one of the few things that all people have in common — that is we have one. At the same time, every family is unique. Some are large and others are small. Some are healthy and tight-knit and others are unhealthy and rather dysfunctional. Others still, it is sad to say, are toxic. Some are ever-present and some are essentially non-existent, abandoning their responsibilities. Nevertheless, as babies still need a mother and a father to be born into this world, that notion of family still is a common thread that we share.
There are other kinds of families as well. Some are adoptive, for example, where adults choose to ingraft into their home a child or children that is not biologically theirs but who will become spiritually theirs. There are also brotherhoods that form (or sisterhoods) where people find themselves connected closely as a kind of family. This often can be seen in military groups or in the life of people who share a time of distress. It also takes place in churches, where you are surrounded by people who will walk alongside of you during both the joys and crises of life. At times, these relationships will be closer and more intimate than ones held between biological connections, and rightly so.
This is the kind of family of which Jesus is speaking above. The funny thing, if you look at the broader context, is that his natural family has begun thinking that Jesus is out of his mind (Mark 3:21). He is teaching so much and preaching so much that he wasn’t eating right (Mark 3:20). How fun it is to imagine Jesus’ mother in an ordinary, average way — worrying that her son wasn’t eating enough. That certainly would have described my own mother to a tee. And so, they come to take him home, invariably to make sure that he gets some sleep and a good meal.
If you know the story, you know what happens next — Jesus rebukes his natural family and embraces those who are following him as his family — once again, a picture of the church. How often it is that Christians have to leave homes and natural families behind for the Gospel. How often the Gospel functions as a sword and divides families down the middle. How comforting it is to be reminded that when families are left behind for the Gospel, God will give you spiritual families in abundance.
Yet, there is one nuance about Jesus’ statement that is often overlooked. Jesus defines what it means to be in his family — to be in the church, the spiritual family of believers. He says, “Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother, sister, and mother.” Did you catch that? “Whoever does the will of God…” The mistake that people sometimes make in the life of a church is that they assume that the persons sitting around them are their spiritual family yet they do not also ask the question, “Is this fellow church member trying to do the will of God?” To borrow from Paul’s words it in Romans 12:2, with a renewed mind are they trying to discern what is the will of God so that they can do what is good and acceptable and perfect?
There is a saying that goes: “Blood is thicker than water.” That simply means that our blood relationships will be closer and more indelible than the other relationships we have. The response to this saying is that Christ’s blood is thicker than human blood. And thus, the bond we have to Christ and to His Church will be tighter even than the bond we have to our family relations, this is a reality to which my own life can attest. Yet, we must never leave out doing the will of God because there are those in the local church who will purport to be a part of the body but who are not. They are impostors and antichrists whether they realize it or not. Just as Christians should never choose loyalty to family lines over loyalty to Christ, they also must not choose loyalty to local churches, denominations, or traditions over their loyalty to Christ. For, in doing so, they will often be aligning with those who are not obeying the will of God.
Pursue God in His fullness and you will quickly find who is truly the family of Christ.