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“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.’”

(Mark 3:31-35)

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.

Spiritual Leadership in the Home

“So he showed them the entrance to the city and they struck it with the edge of the sword. Yet the man and his extended family, they sent away.”

(Judges 1:25)

Having been given the covenantal promise of protection, the man revealed to the house of Joseph where the hidden entrance to the city was and the soldiers gained entrance. Once inside they put the city to the edge of the sword (literally, to “the mouth of the sword”). Much as we discussed above, with MårDj (charam — see verse 17), this language speaks of devoting to death everything living within the city. And, as we noted above, this only makes sense in light of a surprise attack upon the city and a surprise attack only makes sense if we understand the entrance to be a secondary, unguarded entrance of which only the inhabitants of the city knew.

In putting the city to the sword, they do provide safe passage for the man who betrayed Luz to the sons of Joseph…but not just to him alone. We discover here that it is his entire, extended family that is delivered. The Hebrew term for “family” that is found here is hDjDÚpVvIm (mishpachah), which refers not only to one’s immediate family, but also to one’s extended family as well — one could translate this even as “clan.” In the historical reading of the text, this only makes sense as the man moves the region of the Hittites (to the north) and establishes a city — a task that would have been all but impossible either alone or with just one’s immediate family. Yet, with an extended family, the result seems far more plausible.

While this deliverance is a reminder of the deliverance of Rahab and her family when Jericho fell, it is also a reminder of the principle of covenant headship. As the head of his family (and clearly, of his extended family), he has the right and privilege of negotiating on behalf of his family as a whole. The family suffers with him in failure but the whole family benefits when he does what is right.

What is fascinating is the change of direction that God providentially seems to give this man, for this account is not just about the deliverance of an individual, but of a family. The city has fortified itself as it soon will be under siege and this man sneaks out with no indication that any of his family is with him. Of course, we don’t know the motivation for this — perhaps he was seeing if this was a safe way to exit the city and would then go back for his family. At the same time, there is nothing to indicate he was trying to save anyone’s skin but his own. If this latter case is true, through his capture by the sons of Joseph and his betrayal of the city, not only was his family delivered…but he was delivered from his own sin of not caring for his family.

One of the plagues on the culture in the west is how often men seem to abdicate their responsibility and their role in their family. Many desert their children, leaving them to be raised by their mothers alone. Many choose to spend their money on themselves rather than sacrificing to provide for a family. But even when men do not desert their financial responsibilities to their families, they sadly abdicate their spiritual responsibility to lead their homes, once again, laying that burden on their wives.

Men, we have a covenant responsibility to lead our households in spiritual things. We must be the primary teachers of our family when it comes to the Bible, to theology, to spiritual living, and to covenant faithfulness. We teach in our actions, we teach in our lifestyle, but we also need to teach intentionally by opening up the Bible, reading it to our families, and instructing them in its meaning and application. And it also includes praying for and with our families as well as teaching them to pray. But how do you teach what you do not know? We must strive to be the “experts in our home” as we are the masters of our homes. That’s the heart of being a spiritual head. The question for those men who are reading this is will you? The question for those ladies who are reading this is, will you encourage your husbands to do so?