Christianity as abrotherhood,sisterhood


Gary Huffenberger - Staff columnist



One of the most appealing and exciting things about Christianity is that it can be a brotherhood and a sisterhood.

In the gospels Jesus identified his family. His family’s membership ranges across whoever does God’s will (Mk 3:31-5). Obedience to the will of their heavenly father is what Jesus’ family members have in common. His is a heaven-headed family.

Interestingly, the scene in Mark where Jesus sets forth who comprises his family is a scene involving Jesus’ birth family. It is set up well.

Jesus’ birth mother and brothers come and call him while they’re “standing outside” (Mk 3:31b). Meanwhile a crowd is said to be sitting around Jesus. They tell him members of his family “are outside” (Mk 3:32b) — Mark again included that detail — and then Jesus holds a learning moment.

“And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother’ ” (Mk 3:33-35).

Did you notice Jesus looked at those “who sat around him” when he said who were in his family? That’s textual support for thinking where Mark described the “adopted” members of Jesus’ family as sitting around him in contrast to his biological family standing outside, the opposite places of the people in the scene are telling — in addition to Jesus’ defining words.

So, as Jesus’ definition marks out, those who do the will of Jesus’ heavenly father form the family of Jesus. Mark’s readers have been introduced to Jesus’ door-opening definition of his family.

Later in Mark, Jesus pledged to his disciples a family 100 times bigger than the ones they had left. Let’s read in its entirety a remark by Peter and Jesus’ reply.

“Peter began to say to him, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age — houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions — and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first’ ” (Mk 10:28-31).

Light is thrown here on Jesus’ picture of his family. In particular, light is cast concerning tangible things that will occur within his family. Here’s what Jesus promised to those who, for him and the good news, left house or family members or fields: They would in this age receive a hundredfold of houses, family members, and fields. The increase in family members was accompanied by equal increases in houses and fields. Isn’t it likely Jesus was saying — in effect — his family members will bless others in the family through the crucial resource of shelters, as well as through the vital asset of fields where nourishment came from?

Or to put it another way, Jesus said his traveling coworkers shall be able to count on members of their heaven-led family for the blessings of family, houses, and fields.

I want to make a few comments regarding Jesus’ assurances to his on-the-road disciples. Houses and fields were basic resources. At the same spot in the text where Jesus said certain followers would be blessed with a multiplication of family members, he said those followers would also receive blessings in the form of added houses and fields. Thus, here we apparently have Jesus talking in tandem about the members of his family and their material resources or estate. Family and material assets, it would appear, can go together whether a family is headed by an earthly or a heavenly father.

In thinking about the forms of blessings in this episode — family members, houses, and fields — let us be clear on something. Among those blessings, the heaven-led family members are first and foremost. As brothers and sisters and mothers devoted to one another’s well-being, they are the life-giving causes for joy.

That devotion is put into practice by serving one another, as we hear from Jesus (Mk 9:35b, Mk 10:43b-45). To take the path of Jesus involves being a devoted servant to members of the heavenly father’s household. Family members live in servants quarters and see to one another.

When people do serve others, as Jesus did, they merit the adoptable relationships of being his brother or sister or mother.

In a teaching about the judgment, Jesus said it is crucial to serve in hospitable ways “one of the least of these my brothers” (Mt 25:40b).

The members of his family, we see from him, have each other.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at ghuffenberger@wnewsj.com or 937-556-5768.

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Gary Huffenberger

Staff columnist