We have a very interesting relationship with the word “family” today in Western culture. It invokes within us a mix of impressions, thoughts and emotions. On the one hand we may recoil, calling to mind all the abuses and destruction that has taken place within the family throughout history, and perhaps even in our very own lives. Strained relationships. Tension. Abuse. Marginalization.
And yet we can’t let go of it either. Why? Because the notion of the family is the only conceivable context that we humans have of the most deep and intimate kind of belonging. Nothing in all of life offers the power of belonging and presence like family does. It is a belonging that does not come and go based on mood or status. It is the place with other people that we call home that nothing else in society can rival or compete with. Clubs, cults, memberships, institutions, teams – nothing comes close to the depth of belonging that powerful family has.
Indeed, we are confused when it comes to the notion of family today. On the one hand we want freedom and liberty without any constraints. On the other hand we long to have a place in this crazy world where we truly and completely belong.
Now here is an aspect of Jesus’ mission that I had not caught so clearly until now. How did he see his mission in this world? What was his aim? A new religion? A new club? An army of rebels to throw down the chains of oppression? Here it in his own words.
“And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”¹
When Jesus called people to follow him he wasn’t merely raising a fan club. He called them to a new kind of family. Any true healing must inseparably include a profound change in the way we relate to others in life. Jesus came to give himself up so that we may come to know God. And as we come to know God a radical knew reality opens up – we are reconnected with our fellow humans. Our drive for relationship is given to us by the One who made us and therefore as Jesus bridges the gap between God and humanity, he also destroys the walls that we build between one another.
Jesus’ good news of forgiveness and reconciliation transforms our daily relationships with others just as much as it changes our relationship with our Maker. And it invites us into a new family, an inseparable community of those who have come to know the power of his story in their lives as well. This is a family that you can’t get booted out of. A family that is jointed on the deepest and more fundamental level possible.
Yes, Jesus came to show us the way to a life with God that transcends even death itself. But he also came to build a new family that will be our home as we make way through the everyday challenges of a fallen world.
1) Mark 3:33, English Standard Version.