“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" (Matthew 12:48)
Sometimes Jesus could seem rude.
Or maybe blunt would be a better word.
But perhaps we have not understood him correctly. Jesus stood in a dual relationship to his mother Mary and to his earthly brothers and sisters. They were indeed part of his earthly family. He never denied them or disowned them, and he never treated them unkindly. But he never forgot the greater priority of the spiritual over the physical. Thus he could say of his disciples, “Here are my mother and my brothers” (Matthew 12:49). And to make sure everyone understood his point, he added that those who do the Father’s will are his true spiritual family (v. 50).
We see this same truth stated another way in Matthew 10:36, “Your worst enemies will be in your own family" (CEV). The Message offers this paraphrase of the surrounding context:
Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut-make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law-cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me (Matthew 10:34-37).
The truth about Jesus cuts both ways. Thus one brother believes, another rejects. A father follow Jesus, a mother goes her own way. Twin sisters part ways over the gospel. Thus it has ever been, and thus it is today.
There is sad news and good news in this question. The sad news is that some of our closest friends and relatives will not understand why we believe in Jesus. Some may be openly hostile to us. Converts from Islam often experience this truth in very personal terms. Following Jesus won’t make you popular in many parts of the world.
But the good news is better than the bad news. When we come to Christ, we become part of a worldwide fellowship of believers that stretches to every corner of the globe. It has been my joy over the last 40 years to see God expand my own horizons in this area. I have discovered to my delight that God has his people scattered in some very unusual places. And I have learned that there are many different ways to worship God in spirit and in truth. I learned to do a little worship dance at the YWAM base in Belize. I stood with John Sergey and observed a Russian Orthodox liturgy in St. Petersburg, Russia. I clapped and cheered with enthusiastic Haitian believers during an evangelistic campaign. I have preached in an evangelical church on the banks of the Volga River and joined in worship with a Messianic congregation in Jerusalem. I took my shoes off so I could preach at a church in Bangkok, Thailand, and I joined with youth leaders from Latvia, Slovenia, Romania, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic as we worshiped the Lord together.
Everyone who belongs to Jesus belongs to me because we are joined together by faith in him. Jesus unites in one body the vast diversity of true Christians from every tribe, nation, language and people group. One day we will join in united worship around the throne of God (Revelation 7:9-10). Even today we get a foretaste as we worship the Lord together.
God has a great big family, bigger than any of have imagined, and if I’m in that family, I’ve got brothers and sisters all over the world. It’s hard for me to think of a happier truth than that.
Lord Jesus, forgive us for our limited vision of your global family. When we feel like we’re alone in the world, remind us of our brothers and sisters in every nation. Open our eyes to see that everyone who belongs to you belongs to us too. Amen.
How has God broadened your vision of the body of Christ? In what sense can our spiritual family be even closer to us than our physical family? Read Revelation 7:9-10 out loud and spend some time picturing that scene in your mind.