Jesus Redefines Family - Part 1: Justin Almas

Seeing Jesus challenge our definition of family in Mark 3:33-35, we've asked a few members to write about what this means for the church and for their daily lives. First up, Justin Almas talks about what Jesus is doing in this passage and what it means for us. Don't miss next week's posts by Stephanie Devincenzo and Meredith Knodel on what this has practically looked like for them.

Recently, Bryan talked about a particularly difficult teaching of Jesus: Family. Specifically, Bryan talked about how Jesus redefined family in Mark 3:33-35 when he answered the crowds with, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Throughout his ministry, Jesus repeatedly challenged the cultural understanding of family. He made statements like, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead,” (Matt 8:21-22), and “The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me," (Matt 10:34-38), and “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brother and sisters…he cannot be My disciple" (Lk 14:25-27). But here in Mark, we get a picture of Jesus actually modeling the very behavior he had been teaching with his own biological family.

Often, these “anti-family” teachings of Jesus are explained away in an attempt to domesticate Jesus. We don’t know what to do with passages like those above because they don’t fit well with our cultural ideas of family, so we find creative ways to make them mean something less harsh, more family-friendly. To repeat what Joseph Hellerman said, “We cannot domesticate Jesus and remain true to His call to discipleship.” We have to deal with these hard teachings as Jesus intended, and conform our understanding of family to His.

So what exactly is Jesus teaching, and what does it practically mean for us? In this scene in Mark 3 and others like it, Jesus is doing two important things:

1) Jesus is establishing a new group - a new family of spiritual brothers and sisters.

2) Jesus is redefining family by reorganizing priorities.

For those who follow Jesus and claim to be His disciples, we have joined a new group, and our primary allegiance is no longer to our biological family, but our eternal family. As followers of Jesus, as His church, this reality holds tremendous implications for us. Here are a few practical ways we as The Summit Church can behave like a family. 

1) We share our stuff - We recognize that our time, money, and resources are not given to us for our own benefit alone, but to meet the needs our church family.

2) We share our hearts - We not only meet the tangible needs of our church family, but the emotional and spiritual needs as well.  

3) We stay, embrace the pain, and grow up together - When conflict arrises, as it inevitably will, we choose to fight for the redemptive relationships God has placed us in rather than abandon them. 

4) We believe that family is about more than me, my spouse, and kids - We invite our church family into the life and rhythms of our nuclear families as we raise kids, make geographical and career moves, and make other major, life decisions together. 


*Much of the content of this post was adapted from my sermon on Community, which was largely influenced by Joseph Hellerman’s excellent book When the Church Was a Family