December 8, 2017
“And he answered them, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:35
It is difficult to emphasize how staggering these words were to Jesus’ hearers. In the ancient Mediterranean world, family was everything. Your family was the place where one was supposed to find connection, protection, identity, and answers to the most important questions of life. You lived to bless and further the life of the family. Within the family, the most important bond of life was the sibling bond of brothers and sisters. Siblings always had your back. They would never leave, forsake, or betray you; they would lay their lives down for you.
Joseph Hellerman, a New Testament scholar, notes that the ancient world was in a transition that left people feeling disconnected and disenfranchised, lonely and anxious, desperate for meaning and identity. The church, he points out, was offering the world the opportunity to be a part of an incredible family, one marked by love and composed of brothers and sisters who belonged to the Lord of the universe. One of the reasons the church grew in the ancient world was that it offered a real and loving family. The family of the church was a powerful and attractive thing.
The church is meant to be that kind of family. We work and live to bless the family and further the family mission. We find our identity in the family. We make our decisions in the family and for the sake of the family. We grow up in the family and take on the family likeness as we are shaped by the fellowship of the family.
Is that how we treat life in the family of the church? Do we treat the church as a product to be consumed when we are in the mood for it or in need of it? Or do we see the church as the family of God, the place where we find connection, protection, identity, and the answers to all the most important questions of life? Do we live to bless and further our own purposes, or the life of the family of the church?
We are meant to live as family, as brothers and sisters in Christ. That means that we are to love, forgive, encourage, protect and build one another. We are to give of our lives to the family to build it up and further the mission and work of the church.
This is a time of year that is for many, even in the family of the church, a lonely time. In a season when so many turn their eyes inward toward their families, the lonely yearn to be brought in. This is a time of year when the family of the church has a wonderful opportunity to show beautiful love by making sure that none of our brothers and sisters feel alone. As you look around, are there brothers and sisters you can show the love of family?