Family is important. It is how God brings us into the world. It is the incubator where we are raised and nurtured. It is responsible for so much of who we are and what we become. Furthermore, we’ve all seen how communities can crumble in the absence of strong families.
And yet . . .
Family is like any of God’s gifts in that it can be distorted by us. This can happen quite innocently—without any malicious or evil intent on our part and in almost a subconscious manner. We’re so accustomed to speaking of “our family” and “my family” that we can easily forget that our families really belong to God rather than us.
Once we get in this mode of thinking, family becomes our domain where we want to see our will done. For example, it’s natural for us as parents to want our children to get married and provide us with grandchildren. Yet how many of us have ever considered the possibility that God might have something else in mind for them? Then there’s always the possibility of pampering our children inside the family bubble rather than preparing them to live as salt and light in the world. One parent went to every school activity their children were involved with—even to the point that it was interfering with their job performance. When I started to suggest the possibility that maybe they didn’t have to attend every single activity—they wouldn’t even allow me to even finish the sentence. If they had, I was going to point out that by not going to every activity they would give their children the opportunity to develop empathy for other children whose parents were unable to attend the majority of school events because of their work schedules. These kinds of things are part of the larger temptation of viewing our families as our little kingdom rather than unleashing them into God’s kingdom.
The Christ said, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35). When He spoke these words, His own family was nearby (v. 31ff). If they didn’t hear Him speak these words, they were certainly reported to them. Was Jesus disowning them? Was He being thoughtless? We know Him better than that. But He was saying something important about connections. He was saying that what ultimately connects us as people is doing the will of God. It’s not DNA—it’s submission to our Father. Water (of baptism) is thicker than blood!
In all of this there is absolutely no repudiation of the loveliness and blessing of our biological families (how could there be?), but it does provide some much needed perspective for how we look at them. However else we see them, we must look at them from a kingdom perspective. That means that we recognize that the most important factor in our families isn’t that everybody’s is in the same physical location or that they all participate in every family tradition—it is that they stayed linked by doing the will of God. According to Jesus, this is what true family is. Seeking His kingdom first means we view families this way. We won’t minimize our physical families but we won’t worship them either. Sharing the same DNA is special, but sharing in the following of Jesus is what we were created for!