The Church as Family
Brothers and Sisters in Christ
I remember growing up and often hearing the statement, “blood is thicker than water.” Usually, the statement was said in the context of remembering that one’s biological or physical family was more important, and more enduring, than people in the church. When I became a Christian, all of a sudden the statement made all of the sense in the world. It wasn’t that I now “agreed” with the statement at all. Rather, now having spiritual eyes to see, I understood the shallowness and lack of understanding to which that statement pointed.
One of the most striking and life-altering accounts in the life of our Lord is in Mark 3:31-35. While teaching the people, someone comes and informs our Lord Jesus that his mothers and brothers were outside looking for him. It would have been the perfect time for our Lord to highlight the importance of His physical family, and talk to the people about not neglecting their family, etc. Instead, our Lord uses this instance as an opportunity to shape the people’s perspective concerning eternal things. “Answering them, He said, ‘Who are My mother and My brothers?’ Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.’”
Our Lord was not trying to humiliate His biological family, or trying to downplay the importance of one’s physical family. We have countless passages that teach on the importance of taking care of one’s family, and the blessing and special privilege, even of children, for instance (see Ps 127). Rather, Jesus was taking the opportunity to remind the people of placing their biological families in right perspective. Ultimately, it is those who obey God and His will, who are connected to one another in an inseparable and eternal bond, and connected to Christ. In other words, while our physical families are, for a time here on earth, our first and foremost priority, one day even those “ties” will be broken (unless they too are Christians), and we will be with other Christians forever.
This perspective should not lead to neglecting our physical families, or to unfaithfulness in carrying out our loving responsibilities to them. Instead, we should be faithful, keeping our spouses and children in right perspective. Ultimately, it is the family of God, those who trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior, who will be with God forever. This reminds us, while here on earth, that other Christians, the church (God’s people) are not simply a “footnote” to our lives, but under Christ the very reason we are here. We are on earth building Jesus’ church, of which, Lord willing, our individual families are to be a part. We are here on earth to “make disciples,” building into God’s people with our gifts and God-given abilities, for His glory and their good. We are here on earth to strengthen God’s family.