Who are my brothers?

October 25, 2012

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am taking the good news today from Matthew 12:46-50.

While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with him. [Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with you.”] But he said in reply to the one who told him, “Who is my mother? 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 heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

There are people in my life to whom I feel a much closer bond than I do with my original family. As we grow up inside our original families we become locked into certain dynamics that we are often unaware of or unable to step out of. We perceive our family members and are seen by them as less than the whole persons we are. It’s as if we have blind spots to certain gifts and capabilities. And sometimes our dreams and hopes remain latent because they were unacknowledged or malnourished.

We grow up and hopefully grow into the full persons that God intends. Yet, when we are with our original families, we lapse into old patterns of behavior and wear the old blinders again. We revert to our childhoods and teen years and sometimes act immaturely as well. That doesn’t mean that we don’t love them with all our hearts, and defend them, and come when our help is needed. We joyfully celebrate special events together and we mourn together. Those blood bonds tether us tightly.

Those bonds of kinship are not of our making, not of our choosing. Whereas, we do choose our friends. Among all the people we encounter during our lives, we count only a few as close friends. Friends that we feel free to be our true selves with and comfortable in confiding our fears, our longings, our failings, our doubts, our discouragements — all those parts of ourselves that we carefully hide from most of the world. We make an intentional decision to share ourselves with those few.

That’s what Jesus is showing us here. He wasn’t dismissing the kinship with his mother and brothers. He was acknowledging the importance of being accepted as a whole person by his disciples. He wasn’t just the kid brother, the precocious youth in the synagogue, the carpenter down the alley. He was something more special; he was God’s anointed one, His messiah. Because his friends, his disciples saw him this way, they listened to him differently, more attentively. And they did as he commanded in accordance with his Father’s will. It is a different kind of love to intentionally choose to give oneself in love. It is the joining of spirits rather than the mingling of blood. Jesus’ disciples were his spiritual brothers; they were all children of God because they strove to do His will, to be obedient to Him — by choice.

We do not choose our birth families, but we do choose to be part of God’s family. We choose to be obedient to Him, to live our lives in response to His commands. We choose to love others and to share ourselves fully with others. We choose to transcend our original families so that we can say, “You are my brothers and my sisters,” because we share in the kingdom of God whether Christians or not. We love one another as God loves us. That’s what makes us brothers and sisters regardless of creed or ethnicity or race or gender or age. Because we choose whom we want to bond with as members of our spiritual family.

Mike

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