Does Family Come First?

Fr. Barnabas Powell | 30 June 2018

The old saying is “blood is thicker than water” and it seems that every culture has some form of this saying to reinforce the idea that family comes first!

One of the strongest memories that I have as a boy growing up is my own mother reminding me that my behavior reflects on her and how she did as a mother to me. Bringing shame on my mother through bad behavior was always seen as something to be avoided at all costs. Besides, she would remind me, you have a family name to live up to. Family comes first!

And that makes perfect sense in a society made up of family relationships. But we live in an age where the term “family” is being redefined; where a “family” can be anything we want it to be. I wonder if folks stop to consider the unintended consequences of their tinkering with foundational principles of society?

Look at our Lesson today in Matthew 12:46-50; 13:1-3:

At that time, while Jesus was speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he entered a boat and sat there; and the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables.

The Lord is beginning His teaching ministry that will last a little over 3 years until His crucifixion in Jerusalem. And His earthly family; His mother, step-siblings, and cousins, are watching His popularity grow and the crowds press in on Jesus. Naturally, they are concerned for Him. Now some moderns have suggested this passage proves that the Lord dismissed the importance of His family, even His mother, the Theotokos. Others point to this as proof that Mary and Joseph had other children besides the Lord Jesus after the Lord was born. Suffice it to say that, as usual, they are reading more into the passage than is allowed and they are ignoring other information that would correct their snap judgment.

But the passage does do something for us to see the Lord’s priorities in life and just how these priorities reorient how we spend the years God gives us to prepare for life with Him forever. Notice how the Lord defines His eternal Family beyond mere genetic connections. He declares that doing God’s will reveals His true family!

Doing the will of God, knowing the will of God, following the will of God, creates a deeper bond with Christ than the bond created by DNA. This foundational principle in being a purposeful disciple of Jesus Christ doesn’t negate family ties, it fulfills them! Because the scriptures declare that this is why we call the Theotokos blessed for all generations – She did the will of God. Far from dismissing His family as unimportant, this passage reinforces just WHY we hold following the will of God so very important! Because someone who does the will of God is becoming like Christ and being like Christ means you have the “family” resemblance!

So, today, do you know how to do God’s will? It’s really not complicated. God’s will is for you to be like Him! And God has left you all the tools you need to overcome the tug of the world by giving you His Family the Church, to give you the closeness and the insight with Christ and from Christ to become like Christ! That’s why being Orthodox on Purpose is a family affair!

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