“What Makes a True Family?”
I want to start with a funny story. One day Adam was feeling very lonely. God said, “Adam, I’m going to make you a companion who would be called “a woman.” This person will cook for you, wash your clothes, and bear your children. She will never ask you to get up in the middle of the night. She will always agree with you. If you do disagree, she would be the first to admit you that she was wrong.” Adam said, “Wow, God, what do you think this woman will cost?” God said, “It will cost you an arm and leg.” Adam said, “What can I get for just a rib?” And the rest is history.
Today, I want to talk about “What makes a true family?” According to the dictionary, “Families or households simply mean the people who live together in a house are the primary social and economic units” However, I wonder if we can only call it a family if they live together in a house? As Adam asked God in the story I just shared, do you think we can get a family if we only want to give a little of ourselves? A true family is not made accessible. Instead, it is made through costly values, such as loving each other, caring of each other, and trusting each other.
In Korea, “family” means “people who eat meals together.” When I was a child, I grew up in an extended family. I lived with my grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters. However, my parents and siblings moved out of my grandparents’ house when I was a teenager. According to the Korean meaning of “family,” my grandparents, uncles and aunts might not be my family, but just my relatives, because they didn’t eat meals with me anymore. What about my siblings? My siblings married, and each of them has their own households now. They didn’t eat meals with me. Do you think they are not my family anymore?
Nowadays, very few people live in a larger family. Living in nuclear family units is becoming more common. I guess most of you would also be considered a nuclear family. Do you think your children are not your family anymore because they live separately from you? Perhaps, some of you think about family as blood-kinship. Some of you think of family as “households.” Did you ever hear about a “Christian family,” “Community family,” or “Church family”? You know what I’m talking about. The paradigm of the family is changing. I tell you the truth. Actually, it was Jesus who told us already in the first century.
In today’s scripture, Jesus tells people about a new paradigm of family, “a new definition of family.” When people said to Jesus that his family called him from outside the crowded building, Jesus said with a shocking statement. “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And, looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Whoever does the will of God are my brother and sister and mother.”
Here is the background of this story. After Jesus called his twelve disciples, he got busy with his ministry. He was busy healing the sick, driving evil spirits out from the evil-possessed, and teaching people about the kingdom of God. He went home, and the crowd came together again so that they couldn’t even eat food. When his family heard, they went out to restrain him because people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” In addition, Jesus said, “who are my mother and brothers? Here are my mother, brother, and sister.” His family, who heard that Jesus is out of mind, perhaps might think that he was indeed crazy.
If one of your family members works hard without eating anything, especially working in church ministry without eating and sleeping, what do you think of him/her? When my father and I didn’t believe in God yet, my mother believed in God and attended the church program, especially Methodist Women’s activities (it’s like UMW). My mother’s priority was church ministry instead of preparing food for our family. At that time, my father used to say, “Your mother is crazy for the church.” My father and I couldn’t understand my mother, thinking about a wife, and a mother’s first duty was to prepare for her husband and her children’s meals. I know that’s a selfish idea, my father were self-centered and never understood who she was with regards to her dignity and ministry at that time.
Like this, Jesus’ family and the crowd perhaps, couldn’t understand who Jesus really was. Jesus was the first-born son who had a responsibility to care for family affairs in that society. Perhaps, Jesus’ family and relatives were disappointed that the first-born son wasn’t supporting his family. Instead, he was hanging around Galilee with many people as the self-appointed prophet. Since he began his public ministry, his priority was to do the will of God. The religious leaders concluded he was possessed by Satan. His family assumed he had lost his mind. He seemed not to care for his family and to not eat food because he was too busy working for the ministry. That’s why his family came and called him from outside to take control of him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” I guess that Jesus’ whole family came to take him back home. Perhaps, they worried that Jesus was really out of mind. But Jesus replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” and looking at the people around him, “here are my mother and my brothers!” Perhaps, everyone thought of him as crazy. However, pay attention to the next word, “whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” What do you think about that?
Through today’s scripture, Jesus redefines the criteria for who constitutes his true family. Jesus claims what it might mean to belong to other people. He claims the identity of the family. Jesus speaks to deeply embedded cultural assumptions with a proclamation that his true family is not by blood relations or kinship ties but by doing “the will of God.” What is the will of God? In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “This is indeed the will of my Father [God], that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life” (John 6:40a). Namely, the will of God might be that all nations believe in Jesus and are saved in faith. Furthermore, it might be that all nations become a family in Jesus Christ. Therefore, we might be a family by God’s grace as we are saved in faith through Jesus Christ. To be a family with others in Jesus Christ our Lord, we always think of the will of God. The Letter of Romans says, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect”. (Romans 12:2)
The prophet Micah says, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8b). A true family is a community of love, which is to care for one another in the love of Jesus Christ. We are a family in the love of Jesus Christ. Let us care for one another. Respect one another. Love one another and walk humbly with God. Thanks be to God. Amen!