Like probably most of you, I have a mixed bag of earthly family members. Among them are several of the most brilliant and accomplished people I have ever known, yet also there are some who would balance out the intelligence and success spectrum from the other end. Among relatives as well are some of extraordinary faith who embody a heritage that extends back to the foundations of the Swiss Reformation, yet also are some who have rejected faith values rather definitively.
I most especially love the analogy of the church as a family. Surely all of you at TSF hear me speak in these terms weekly. There is plenty of New Testament material that does the same, speaking of our adoption into the spiritual family, terming us as brothers and sisters in Christ. And for so many people, this new family is especially precious when the earthly family is in dysfunction and disarray.
As did Matthew and Mark, in our passage today Luke tells the account of the earthly family of Jesus being nearby and sending word to him within the crowd of their presence. He does not choose to drop everything and run out to embrace them …
Luke 8:19 – Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”
21 He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”
Joseph is apparently out of the picture, perhaps dying at a relatively young age. Jesus had half-brothers, though we should rather accurately surmise that they were not early followers. And to use a modern, street term, Jesus appears to “dis” his family. He rather identifies his true family as those who hear the word of God and put it into practice. Note that this is more than studying it and understanding it, but not applying it. (But recall that it is his brother, James, who will later write that we should be doers of the Word and not just hearers! He got the message!)
But how do we balance human family and spiritual family? That can be a challenge. We have responsibilities with our biological family, especially as parents. And when we become attached to the greater, eternal family of faith, we should not just blow off our earthly relatives. Of all people, we should first want them to understand truth and be a part of the true and better family – that of the redeemed sons and daughters of God through our brother, Jesus Christ.
But what a wonderful blessing it is to have an eternal family that is built around a common faith in the greatest of all truths! It is always for our personal good that we maximize this divinely-established gift. Just as it is a bit crazy to only check in with close family on Christmas and a 4th of July picnic, it is actually crazier to not work to be intimately involved with the eternal family that is found in the church of Christ.