I used to tease my sister a lot that she was adopted. I told her our parents were concerned about hurting her by telling her. Being older, I had the advantage of perspective – saying I remembered us picking her out as a baby (hence the baby photos in the album…). Neither one of us were old enough to do the math that I, being only a year and a half older, could not possibly remember such a thing. Anyway – she still occasionally claims the effects of the childhood trauma I inflicted on her.
Family is such a precious thing, isn’t it? Even when the relationship spans half the globe, it’s hard to break. Even when we grow so different from one another that adoption seems the only likely explanation, we cling to the claim that blood has on us.
Shocking, then, is Jesus’ claim in Mark 3 that the familyhood of “whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” trumps for Him the claims of His earthly mother, brother, and sister. For Jesus, family was about displaying a common nature through obedience. When the Pharisees challenged His authority over them based on their children-of-Abraham status, Jesus told them if they were really Abraham’s children they would be acting a little bit more like Abraham (John 8).
Despite my teasing of my sister, I also sometimes wondered if I hadn’t been adopted (this is fairly normal for children, right?). I think I read a story about a girl who’d been adopted and whose family had hidden that fact from her. The story fueled my imagination about all the reasons my parents wouldn’t tell me of my adoption.
As I got a little older however, I began looking like my mom. There are definite features about my physical appearance that point to my being her daughter. These similarities reassured me. Anytime I doubted my status as the truly physical daughter of my parents – all I had to do was look in the mirror.
I don’t think Jesus’ talk about family being based on obedience and like nature was meant to make us shun our earthly families. While on the cross – dying for the sin of the entire world – Jesus was making sure His (physical, earthly) mother would be taken care of.
Instead, I think Jesus’ words about the mother-brother-sister status of all who share in the same nature and obey God’s will were meant to reassure us. Like looking into the mirror and seeing aspects of my mother’s face clearly represented there, seeing aspects of God’s character reflected back in us reassures us we’re family – His family. In giving us new birth, God has given us a piece of Himself – a reminder that we share in His nature. A reminder that we’re family.
In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. – Hebrews 2:10-11