Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Family

Matthew 12:46-50
Jesus’ Mother and Brothers
46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”


What is Church, is it a building we go to on Sunday? If it is then why do we go to that building, is it the traditional or contemporary style of the sanctuary, is it that they play the type of music we like, or what the facilities of the building have to offer, the parking, or maybe it’s that certain Pastor that just really knows how to craft a sermon? I think these are what church has become for us and I think in a way that can be very unfortunate if that’s all the church is to us.
I believe that every God breathed word recorded in the Old and New Testaments has something to teach us who follow Christ and for a follower of Christ what could be more important than the testimonies given to us by those who walked with him, ate with him, and listened to him preach and teach? I think it is incredibly easy for us as fallen, self-centered humans that have grown up in a consumer culture to place an inordinate amount of emphasis on our own material comfort and preferences and then unfortunately apply that thinking to our spiritual lives and walk with Christ. I think we can read the recorded words of Jesus and if we aren’t careful absorb only the parts we are comfortable with. We can attribute some of what he says to the time and place he said it and leave it comfortably there in that time and place for those people. The problem with that is we believe Christ is God, and if we believe Christ is God then we must certainly believe that all he had to say, all the actions he took, and all he taught his disciples was not only for that generation in that country at that time, but that Christ was simultaneously speaking into the specifics of your life and mine as well. Of course we need to study and pray to find what that means for us but what we can’t afford to do is leave it on the page and not try and apply it to our lives as Christ would have us. So I said all that to say this. The first thing we see Christ do at the start of his ministry is build a Church and even though he himself was a carpenter and I’m going to say being the creator of all things, probably a good one, he doesn’t build his Church with wood and stone, no, Christ built his Church using people.

Most of us have grown up in a family and in that family we all have had difficult times getting along with one another, some more than others. For the majority of us our parents and siblings is where most of that difficulty took place but also it’s where the most growth took place. We were told difficult things we didn’t want to here many times over in many different ways and settings only to later be thankful we learned those things about ourselves and about life. During those difficult moments of growth we couldn’t just walk out of that family breaking those blood ties determined to find a more comfortable situation, we had no alternative but to stay and grow.

Here in these verses we see Jesus being told his mother and brothers are asking for him and he answers by saying that the disciples sitting before him are his brothers and mother. Why would he say this if it was not to set a very important example before them there gathered with him that day and for us reading our Bibles today? Jesus’ mother and siblings thought he had lost his mind at this point. They did not believe that he was the Messiah. However the disciples gathered to him that day did believe and Jesus called them his family. The Lord placed no importance on where they were at all, only the people he was with and what they were to believe and be taught. They met on mountainsides, on the shores of rivers and seas, and in Jewish Temples, but there Church remained the same, it remained as Jesus had built it, made of twelve disciples coming together as a family.

Jesus is showing us that rather than putting a ton of emphasis on the place where we worship what we really should be concerned with is finding a family of believers we can become apart of in that place. These men and women following Christ as recorded in the Bible surely became very close with each other, in some ways likely closer than family and it can be the same for us today. God did not create Adam and stop, no, he created a family. God in his essence is a communal being of three parts Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God is a family and he created us to be in a family. He knows for us to gain spiritual maturity we must be in relationship with one another. We need others to show us at times our own ugly reflection in the truths they force us to realize about ourselves. I don’t know if you’ve noticed when reading the gospels but we never read about Jesus being fearful of making one of his disciples uncomfortable. Jesus rebuked and admonished them many times over, not to make them feel bad about themselves but to point out the truth of their human condition and encourage spiritual growth. He was boldly honest with them and many others and he did that ultimately out of love. He wanted them to hear and know the truth because as he said he himself came to testify about the truth and the truth shall set us free!
This doesn’t mean we should stay at a church that is dead and not spurring on the spiritual growth of its congregation, or a church promoting false teaching or hatred. It does however mean that we should ask ourselves before leaving if we ourselves can do anything to change or resuscitate that church before we just leave it there to die or spread false doctrine. We are so saturated in the consumer culture around us we tend to come to church with a list of things we intend to get, like when we stop at McDonalds, rather than a list of things we can give. After all, the founders of our faith literally gave all for the institution of the Christian church to be here, some will need to give for it to continue.

I believe Jesus is showing us that Church is about forging a fellowship and being in close relationship with one another. This of course doesn’t mean we should change churches every week either but that we should go to a church with the intent of finding or maybe even gathering ourselves a family of other believers we can grow close to and that can grow close to us and most importantly we can grow spiritually with. It doesn’t need to be a lot just one or two other people interested in growing closer to God through study, prayer, and action will get us on our way and once we’ve joined or gathered these brothers or sisters and grown close to them we may not leave the church so quickly when small things like a change in the music or the Pastor happens, or maybe if we do feel a change in the direction of that church has moved us to worship elsewhere we will stay with that spiritual family we have grown apart of. But if we bounce around never really allowing ourselves to become closely tied to other brothers and sisters in Christ our spiritual growth will suffer, we can’t be truly known by others of the faith doing this.  Christ is showing us as he sends his disciples out that you and I cannot do this alone and we don’t have to. I myself am blessed with a great group of guys that gather for Sunday school and again with an awesome group that meet for Bible study every week and I regard these people as my family. We have prayed together, cried together, and learned together. We have disagreed many times on many points and we have all stayed past the disagreements because we share the love of Christ Jesus. We learn from the people we love disagreeing with us, love forces us to stay and challenge our own ideas and sometimes those ideas we have may be shown to us to be wrong and we get to grow a little closer to truth or they are affirmed even more and we become more confident in our belief.
I cannot help but believe from Jesus’ own example and my personal experiences in my Christian family that this is what Christ himself had in mind for his Church, a small family of followers coming together to pray, study, grow and act in their love for one another and most importantly for him.
Although I believe he foresaw it I do not believe that what Christ had in mind for his Church was a building with cushy pews, just the right music, and a perfectly crafted sermon that people could come to every week and consume, get that special “feeling” of the spirit and leave to go back to being a citizen of the world not cracking there Bibles open for another week.
A quick side story- When I was in the fourth or fifth grade my social studies teacher took one look at my book when we were turning them back in at the end of the year and said “Mr. Love this book looks like its never been used!” She was not happy. She was right it had remained closed much more than it was ever opened and I did poorly in that class.

Christ saw his Church as a place to grow and live in a family of his followers, a place for his brothers and sisters to hold one another up in love, in truth, and yes in accountability. He calls us to be our brother and sisters keeper, to love one another, share our lives with one another and act on his behalf with one another and for one another. Christ said he came to serve and not to be served and told his disciples to have the same attitude toward everything they did, so why is it we would come to his Church expecting only to consume? Why do we come being lead by our sense of comfort when Christ again and again called his followers to go way outside their comfort zones?  Being apart of a church is very important but living church, being the church and taking the church to others is what we are called by Christ to do!

I have one brother in particular that I grew close to while serving for Kairos Prison Ministry. Kairos is an experience a lot like Emmaus and if you don’t know what that is then let’s just say they both are very intense Christian retreats; one is for incarcerated men and women where you get to serve and the other is for the average person where you get lead closer to the Lord. I would highly recommend both they have changed my life and can change yours. Going through these experiences has formed a very strong bond between us not only of brotherly love but accountability for one another in our following of Christ. We send each other scripture daily and many times discuss what it means to us, we share our troubles and we push each other on toward the goal of becoming more and more like Christ. I pray everyone would have someone like this in your walk.



Jesus sent the disciples out two by two for a reason, throughout the Bible we can see these pairs of brothers and sisters joined by their faith in Yahweh and loyal in supporting one another on this course we strive to complete. We are like soldiers dropped behind enemy lines wading through this sin soaked world and we cannot do this alone, God doesn’t intend us to, and we do not need to. If you’ve got a wall built up and your keeping others at arms length let the love of Christ come in and tear that wall down, let someone in, don’t walk through this life with a mediocre amount of Joy and peace not growing as close to the Lord as you can. If you’re bouncing from church to church stop looking for the perfect church and find those few people you need to help you grow and that you can help grow. Get close, get accountable, and get a Family!