David Ojala | The Voice of Zion January 2023 --
What is a family? Generally, we think of a family as a mother and father and their children. An extended family could include cousins, grandma and grandpa and aunts and uncles. In one account in the Bible, Jesus taught those visiting with Him about His family.
When Jesus was on earth, He had a natural family. One time when He was visiting with many people including His disciples, His natural brothers and mother came to see Him. Those who Jesus was visiting told Him that His mother and brothers had come. Jesus used this as a teaching moment. He asked those that were there a question, “Who is my mother, or my brethren?” (Mark 3:33). He essentially was asking who God’s family is.
Jesus’ description of His family might surprise us. He didn’t talk about His relatives only, but His spiritual family – those who do God’s will. “For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” (Mark 3:35). In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ description of family is expanded: “Jesus stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matt. 12:49,50). Those who do God’s will are believers – we also refer to them as children of God or our brothers and sisters in faith, those, who by God’s grace, believe their sins forgiven in Jesus’ name and precious blood. This is who makes up God’s family.
Just like natural family, we are close to God’s family. We share joys and sorrows and care about each other. There are some believers who have a small natural family but have many relatives in God’s family – this is a great blessing. Even if we have a large believing extended family, we may move to a congregation where we have no natural family. There, it is especially comforting to be part of God’s family.
Just as natural family has love for one another, members of God’s family have love towards one another. In God’s family this love is spiritual love – the deepest kind of love where we want to help each other get to heaven. This love comes as a fruit of the Spirit by faith. Jesus spoke about this kind of love when He told His own: “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12), and “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).
Jesus also has instruction about the love we have for our natural family and the love we have for God. He instructs that those who love their natural family more than God are not worthy of God, saying, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37).
There may be situations where some members of our natural family are not believing or have recently lost their faith. The family bonds can be strong and we struggle between familial love and spiritual love. We love unbelieving ones deeply as natural family members but cannot give them living faith – this comes as a gift from God. It might be difficult for us to rebuke family about their errors because we don’t want to break family bonds. However, spiritual love is more important than natural love and the greatest love we can show is care for their undying souls. We can ask for God’s help in this situation and approach our loved ones in humility and meekness: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest though also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). May God give us a heart to remind our dear ones in love and truth about the importance of being part of God’s family.
Around the holidays many of us gather as families. It is a precious and enjoyable time when children come back home to their families and extended family. Often the most festive times are centered around meals and eating. The gatherings of God’s family at service events, camps or other occasions are similar. They are joyful times when we can reunite with old friends in faith and be fed with spiritual food – God’s Word – the core of which is the gospel of the forgiveness of sins.
How blessed we are when God has given us both a natural family and a spiritual family. Just as we long for family connections and need temporal food, may we always be given a heart that regards God’s family as beautiful and has a hunger for God’s Word.