This past Sunday was our first outdoor service for the Network. The birds were out and the wind was just right. It was father's day and we were having a dedication service for the smallest member of the church who will be turning a whopping 10 months old later this month. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to talk about family from Jesus' perspective.
If you get into the New Testament and look at Jesus teachings, it doesn't take long before you get uncomfortable by Jesus' teachings on family. He commands one man to leave his father's body and come follow him. He teaches that he has come to bring "Not peace, but a sword. Dividing a son from his father, a daughter against her mother." Jesus even claims at one point that we need to hate our father and mother. And at another point claims that we should give up homes, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children and fields.
There is certainly a lot that Jesus had to say about family. His words certainly tend to be very controversial. But the question that really stands out for me is this. Did Jesus ever really stand for "traditional family values."
The idea that Jesus stood for these traditional values, father (working) mother (at home) and children, has been used to define all sorts of positions that many in the church have taken over the years. The church has criticized living together before marriage, divorce, re-marriage, homosexual marriage, marriage without kids and others based on the idea that Jesus stood for traditional family values. But more than that, how many times have children been excluded in the community because their parents or even extended families don't meet these "tradition family" constructs?
Now, don't get me wrong. I believe in the nuclear family. I think it's a great thing. And for those of us who find ourselves able to live in this ideal I think that it's something we should stand up for and protect. But lets never become overly-justified by our own situation.
My point has more to do with this. Jesus didn't stand up for traditional values, he stood for something greater. Jesus stood for a view of family, acceptance, loyalty and commitment between people which transcends not only our idea of family, but every construct of family through history. Jesus broke down the walls of family constructs and showed that we no longer have just our blood families. We now belong the greater family of God. Which was not something that Jesus just came up with as a nice story about why we should get along. No, is a new reality, a greater truth.
In Galatians 3 Paul says that we are all made sons, heirs of the promise of God. He says there is no Jew/Greek, no slave/free, and no male/female. Instead we are all those single most important person to the father. If we are all God's heirs then we are all one family. But more importantly, we are all heirs of the same eternal promise. Immediately after that Paul describes us as adopted, clothed in Christ. We are all literally made God's heirs. The single most important person to the Father.
Jesus claims that we must give up homes, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, children and fields. Then we will gain a hundred times homes, mothers, sisters, brothers, children and fields. You'll notice that he left out fathers in what we will gain. This is because Jesus was always clear that there is only one father that we can all truly come to. All of us come to God and become a part of this one great family. Not a story, not an illustration, not a metaphor. God creates NEW FAMILY!
This is what the church is supposed to be. This is the view of family which transcends all other views of family. This is the calling that Jesus has for us. That the old women in the pew in front of you is your mother, the children running around you are your children, that the people you worship with are your family. No, it doesn't look like traditional family values, but how much more valuable is that really?