How the Church Is My Forever Family
Introduction: In the foster care and adoption community, we discuss the idea of a “forever family.” The children who go into the system are always looking for security and stability. They become foster children in the hopes of being adopted. This goal is called becoming part of a “forever family.” The idea is that once a child is adopted, they will stay with this family forever.
Today, when I looked for the first time on my Facebook feed, it showed that eight years ago today, we had legally adopted Janaya and Madison in our family. At that point, these two young girls had entered into a “forever family.”
Here, we have Jesus establishing what He considers to be a “forever family.” This section can be divided into three parts: (1) the calling of the forever family, (2) the challenge to the forever family, (3) the criteria for the forever family.
1. The calling of the forever family (Mark 3:13-19)
Jesus called those He wanted into His family. When you look at the structure of the disciples here, you see that Jesus has a structure to this new “forever family.” Jesus is the Leader.
He delegated authority to other people.
Jesus chose who He wanted in His family.
“Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those he wanted, and they came to him.” (Mark 3:13, CSB)
Jesus appointed a leadership structure for His forever family.
“He appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, to send them out to preach,” (Mark 3:14, CSB)
Within this leadership, Jesus clearly has His family organization.
HIS KEY 3:
“He appointed the Twelve: To Simon, he gave the name Peter; and to James the son of Zebedee, and to his brother John, he gave the name “Boanerges” (that is, “Sons of Thunder”);” (Mark 3:16–17, CSB)
I believe under His key three, Jesus placed these disciples in teams. Because the ordering of this group suggests that the other nine were placed under the leadership of Peter, James, and John.
“Andrew; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot,” (Mark 3:18, CSB)
I believe that Andrew, Philip, and Bartholomew came under the leadership of Peter. I believe that Matthew, Thomas, and the other James came under the leadership of John. The reason I say this is because Thomas is only listed in John.
“Then Thomas (called “Twin”) said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go too so that we may die with him.”” (John 11:16, CSB)
““Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where you’re going. How can we know the way?”” (John 14:5, CSB)
“But Thomas (called “Twin”), one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.” (John 20:24, CSB)
“A week later his disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be faithless, but believe.” Thomas responded to him, “My Lord and my God!”” (John 20:26–28, CSB)
“Simon Peter, Thomas (called “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana of Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples were together.” (John 21:2, CSB)
I think that Thaddeus, Simon the zealot, and Judas were under James.
I look at it as Jesus was the leader. He had three disciples whom He spent more time with in isolation. I believe that these three helped the other groups learn. There were the large group teaching times, and then small groups teaching time.
Nevertheless, one can conclude that Jesus has an organization to His family structure. Jesus, followed by the apostles, followed by other disciples.
2. The challenge to the forever family (Mark 3:20-30)
When one looks at the church as a family, then one can see that the greatest challenge will be maintaining unity. Division is the greatest danger to the forever family that Jesus has established for His church.
THREE GROUPS THAT TRY TO DISRUPT THE FOREVER FAMILY
1. Earthly families (Mark 3:20-21)
“Jesus entered a house, and the crowd gathered again so that they were not even able to eat. When his family heard this, they set out to restrain him, because they said, “He’s out of his mind.”” (Mark 3:20–21, CSB)
In this case, Jesus’ own family was trying to disrupt the forever family that God had in mind. Some were claiming that Jesus was crazy. So, there are people, even your own blood relatives, that will try to disrupt the work of God in your life.
2. Religious Bullies/Rebels (Mark 3:22, Mark 3:30)
“The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and, “He drives out demons by the ruler of the demons.”” (Mark 3:22, CSB)
“because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”” (Mark 3:30, CSB)
Here, we have religious leaders acting like religious bullies. The problem was that these religious bullies were claiming that the works of God were the works of Satan. To call the work of the Holy Spirit a work of Satan is totally in opposition to how the family of God operates.
3. Satanic Strongmen (Mark 3:23-30)
The last example is the fundamental group that tries to disrupt. All Earthly work has a spiritual foundation. All Earthly relationships have spiritual connections. So Earthly families can disrupt. This is followed by the religious disruptor – people who want to stop the work of God and the building of the family of God. The final group is the underlying group: Satanic Strongmen.
Jesus shares a simple parable. First, He gives that famous line that most attribute to Abraham Lincoln:
“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” (Mark 3:25, CSB)
Lincoln may have said a version of this statement when he was talking about the Civil War. But the original quote comes from Jesus. The person who is in the business of dividing is Satan. So, one has to stop Satan from destroying God’s work. In this case, Satan was using the scribes, Jesus’ family, as well as others, to stop Jesus from introducing God’s forever family.
The Jews thought that the nation of Israel was God’s forever family. Yet, Jesus was introducing the idea that God was expanding that reach to every person on Earth. He was expanding it from the “family of Israel” to the “family of God.”
3. The criteria to be part of the forever family (Mark 3:31-35)
DISCOVERING YOUR NEW FAMILY HOME
Have you ever had people from your home family come to you and ask you to do something to help them? Perhaps your brother or sister came to you and asked for money. Perhaps they came and said: It is time for you to go back and work in the family business. Or someone said to you, “When are you going to go back home and take care of your parents?” If you have had to answer any of these questions, then you have been in a similar situation as Jesus. Jesus knows what it feels like to have demands placed on you by your home family. Before we look at His response, let us get some foundation clear.
The Bible teaches that there is a natural process that happens to the family. A woman and man come together in marriage. This forms a family. They have children, and this expands the family. When the child grows and becomes an adult, the roles in the family change. The child as an adult loosens the bonds to his/her birth family. This is part of the natural cycle of mature growth for everyone – no matter if the person is a Christian or not. This is clearly taught in Genesis 2:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Genesis 2:24 (NKJV)
The man or woman leaves the original family and forms a new family unit. But what is the relationship between this new family unit and the original parents? Many times, the relationship is defined by cultural factors. Here are two major cultural structures of family:
Family can be viewed in two broad ways: root or roof.
We usually view family as a root. We use a “family tree” and we like to describe where our families come from. The word “Genealogy” is the study of beginnings. We look at the beginnings of our family when we describe the existence of our family. The biological family of Jesus was looking at the role of Jesus in their family. They were using this root idea.
“His mother and his brothers came, and standing outside, they sent word to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him and told him, “Look, your mother, your brothers, and your sisters are outside asking for you.”” (Mark 3:31–32, CSB)
They came to Jesus expecting Him to fulfill family obligations. Here, Jesus challenges the traditional expectations of a family. He is challenging the traditional role of the eldest son.
As a side note, this is why we believe that Jesus mother Mary was just His biological mother. His brothers were younger. There is no emphasis here on the veneration of Mary. Mary is just a widow who was expecting Jesus to fulfill His role to take the lead in the family. It is nowhere stated, but it is implied that Joseph died by this point. All about this conversation reinforces the belief of the family as root.
In contrast, Jesus views family as a roof. People gather together. They are not defined by their roots. Instead, they are defined by what they have in common – “doing the will of God.”
“He replied to them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Looking at those sitting in a circle around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”” (Mark 3:33–35, CSB)
Family can be considered as a roof, from under which anyone can come and go as they wish, where decisions are taken for one’s personal best with no final responsibility for anyone else, although there may be a concern. Individuals tend to be independent in their thinking and decision making and pay little attention to fulfilling the needs of their parents, siblings, or in some cases children.
The answer to the question posed to Jesus: “When are going back home to take care of your parents?” His answer was simply: When I have started my new family.1
There are stories throughout church history of Christians who have been persecuted by their families for their faith. Rev. Khalid Mansoor Soomro is a former Muslim from Pakistan who committed to Christianity in 1985. When he shared his conversion story with his parents, he was turned out of his home and no longer accepted as a family member. Khalid had to choose between Jesus and his family. And he chose Jesus. Khalid reflects, “Even though it is not easy and we face many hardships, we feel like Paul, who went through hardships and suffering for the glory of his Savior, who himself suffered during his walk on earth and his time on the cross.” Would you be willing to identify with Jesus if it meant being rejected by your family? Who really is your first love?2
The social sciences corroborate what God says in Genesis 2:18: “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Studies have shown that isolation of individuals, and even of the nuclear family, is correlated with a whole array of problems such as physical illness, suicide, psychiatric hospitalization, alcoholism, difficult pregnancies, depression, anxiety, child abuse, family violence, and proneness to accidents. Sometimes people can be surrounded by others and still feel alone because they do not feel that they belong to anybody or that anybody belongs to them. Researchers have found, for example, that if you put a mouse with a group of strange mice in a situation where they have to share an insufficient source of food, the outsider develops high blood pressure. But if you put the same mouse with its brothers and sisters in a group the same size and with the same inadequate amount of food, its blood pressure does not rise.
Mice can handle stress if they have their family around them but not when they are alone among strangers. Other research shows that people are no different. People need to have families to help bear the stresses that life brings; and when they do not have one, the church needs to help make one or straighten out the feeling of isolation in a family gone sour.3
The “family of God” has so much more to offer. A network of relationships created by common obedience to the will of God, melted together by love at each intersection, and motivated to a ministry of service, is Jesus’ idea of His family.4
1 Jim Erwin, “Discovering Your New Family Home,” Mark 3:31-35, 11 January 2006, Patheos, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2006/01/11/mark-331-35-discovering-your-new-family-home/, accessed on 10 November 2017.
2 Khalid Mansoor Soomro, “A Pakistani Muslim Comes Face to Face with Jesus Christ,” TalkJesus, forum, May 12, 2009, http://www.talkjesus.com/testimonials/27330-pakistani-muslim-comes-face-face-je.html. In Grant R. Osborne, Mark, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014).
3 David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), 147.