So far in our series on Generosity we have looked at the surprising grace of giving our money and the surprising grace of giving our time. This week we turn to look at giving our families.
It seems like every election cycle we hear talk about “family values.” Conservatives tend to call for a return to family values, while liberals tend to question what family and what values are being spoken about. As followers of Jesus, we are called to step out of this rhetoric and listen to what Jesus has to say about the family. And what he says can be pretty shocking.
First, Jesus challenges the family. In the ancient Jewish setting of Jesus’ context, blood family was everything. But through passages like this one in Mark and others, Jesus challenges the ancient notion of family and disrupts it. He calls his followers to re-think what family means and who gets to be included within it. Specifically, he suggests that Gentiles and others that were long excluded from Israel are now being incorporated into the family of God through the Messiah and his grace.
Second, Jesus reconstitutes the family. Just as we are born into a biological family, we are “born again” into a new spiritual family. We are all adopted into this new family by grace (Galatians 4:4-7). Just as Jesus now subordinates his own nuclear family to this new family he is creating, now all those who belong to Jesus are called to give our primarily allegiance to this new divine family of grace. This does not mean we are called to neglect our biological families, but instead that the values of our biological families must come under the values of the Kingdom of God.
Finally, Jesus calls the family. He calls all of us who are part of the new family of God to be in the “family business.” And central to this family business is the work of adoption - both literally and figuratively! Protecting and caring for orphans is a huge drum-beat of the Bible because it is so central to the gospel. But there are also many ways that we can “give” our families away to be a part of Jesus’ work in the world.
In preparation for this week, read Luke 4:14-30 and reflect on the ways that Jesus both challenges and re-defines the family in this famous passage.
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31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!