Just then his mother and brothers showed up. Standing outside, they relayed a message that they wanted a word with him. He was surrounded by the crowd when he was given the message, “Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside looking for you.” Jesus responded, “Who do you think are my mother and brothers?” Looking around, taking in everyone seated around him, he said, “Right here, right in front of you—my mother and my brothers. Obedience is thicker than blood. The person who obeys God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” – Mark 3:31-35, The Message
I believe in the family. It is a wonderful thing to have a family around you that loves, supports, laughs and cries together. I grew up in such a family. So did my wife. Prayerfully, our kids are growing up in a family like that. But I am under no illusion that my experience is typical. In fact, I do not have to reach far into the lives of the people around me to witness the incredible brokenness that exists in most families. To some, their experience of family is so broken that the idea of something transcendent that Jesus offers seems like a cruel joke. Why would they want to be a part of another family when their own blood has been so destructive?
Yet the Jesus kind of family does transcend. As Peterson says in the Message, “Obedience is thicker than blood.” In the individualistic world of 21st century America, we read these words and miss their intensity and the controversy they invoke. Jesus is challenging the whole foundation of what we think family is about. In the Kingdom of God, it doesn’t matter what kind of family you come from. In fact, in another place Jesus infers that those who are worse off when it comes to their blood family will receive an abundance in the Kingdom:
Mark my words, no one who sacrifices house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, land—whatever—because of me and the Message will lose out. They’ll get it all back, but multiplied many times in homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land—but also in troubles. And then the bonus of eternal life! This is once again the Great Reversal: Many who are first will end up last, and the last first. – Mark 10:29-31, The Message
I have seen this with my own eyes. People who effectively had no family, but found true family among other followers of Jesus. I have come to believe that this is one of greatest acts of mission the church can embark on together. When we act like a family – a Jesus kind of family – we create an environment that is welcoming, hopeful, and full of love.