Jesus says: Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother (Mark 3:35). Rachel P has been thinking about this since the service a couple weeks ago. She writes:
It brought up so many conflicting thoughts and feelings about family, loyalties, and understanding who Jesus speaks to. I remember setting off to live “by faith” many years ago with my newly wedded partner, and trusting that we would be looked after. We deliberately tried to separate ourselves from the strings of family – strings that urged us to be a bit more sensible and secure in our economic planning, strings that invited us to numerous family gatherings and to partake in “capitalist” traditions which we rejected in the light of Jesus’ call to the poor. The work of Christ was important and we needed to get out there and give love and a message of hope to people who were on the margins. “Who are my mother and my brothers?” rang loudly in our thoughts.
Now 30 plus years later, I think those drives and noble aims were a bit twisted. I actually feel like I am on the margins now and need a message of hope for me.
I also question the idea of putting Jesus before family. In my context, my parents were inspiring, putting the call of God before family. They weren’t alone. Quite a few of my relatives left to go to other countries to preach the “good news”. But at what cost? A 3-month-old baby being left for weeks while his parents journeyed to Africa to discern God’s call. A 5-year-old who was put on a train for three days and sent to boarding school on the other side of India. It broke some of the parents’ hearts, but it was done in the name of following Jesus.
Another memory surfaces: of parents who were busy at a bible study, when their teenage daughter desperately needed their one on one attention to assure her she was worthwhile. And then a more current example: my mother insisted on going to church to demonstrate that “God comes first”, even when adult children were visiting from the city and precious time could have been spent with them. Again, it all feels a bit twisted.
However, I also stand back and think that, when my parents weren’t available to me (and this can happen so frequently, without necessarily any malicious intent), there was another family who could be there. These were the people who listened to my hurt, who embraced my weaknesses and have been there for me with food, money, rest, laughter, prayers and sustenance. Some of them were even related to me! They were and are from an awkward little community of people who still bravely call themselves Christians, despite all the odds. They have been part of my journey and continue to offer healing. They have spoken to me in my context and indeed have been my mother and siblings. Ω
Reflect: How have you experienced Jesus’ interpretation of family? Has it been painful and isolating? Or has it been life-giving and liberating? In what ways?
Thanks, Rachel, for such a personal and challenging engagement with the text.
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