There is no such thing as a perfect family. Most families live with tensions. You can find yourself in a relationship with someone you can’t talk to, but you can’t walk away from them either. They are, after all, your relatives and you are stuck with them and they with you. As U2 once sang: “I can’t live with or without you!” And that’s so true.
Friction can be caused in a variety of ways: a mother who continually moans, a father who slurps his soup, a brother who constantly brags, children who never clean their rooms, a mother-in law who still wonders why on earth her daughter married you! A fall out over the estate when a parent has died.
It may come as a surprise to discover that Jesus had all this to deal with in his family, too. In fact, it may come as a surprise to some of you that Jesus had a family at all – but he did (Mark 6:3). Jesus’ family were far from perfect – they had difficult relationships amongst themselves too. So how did Jesus deal with relative values? The following three headings may give you a clearer picture:
Have you ever thought your relatives don’t understand you? Well, take heart, they didn’t understand Jesus either. You might have expected his family to be proud of the things Jesus did – not a bit of it. Rather, it’s a case of ‘Who does he think he is? This is the boy who fixed doors with his father. This is the lad whose bar mitzvah we attended. Who does he think he is coming here with a bunch of louts speaking about miracles and claiming to be the Messiah? They didn’t hold back from ‘cutting him down to size!’
His achievements are belittled. Whatever praise is deserved is denied. Jesus went from hero to zero. His whole family, including his mother, think he’s gone stark raving mad.
You could be going through something like that yourself. It might be that your family doesn’t understand that you have a faith in Jesus. It could well be that your children are being teased by friends and family because they are following Jesus. Believe me when I say it’s not easy being dismissed as a religious crank. I know how it feels!
Jesus didn’t try to control his family, nor did he allow his family to control him. Sometimes, we try to please others in the hope that we can control their response to us, but we end up being controlled by them. It never works.
If your father is all demanding, being the best daughter in the world will not lessen those demands. If your mother doesn’t like your career, a dozen job changes will not make the slightest difference. If you think that you can control people’s behaviour towards you then you are simply placing yourself in bondage to their opinions.
It’s a game with unfair rules and it always ends in tears. Jesus didn’t attempt to play that game, and neither should we. In fact, Jesus had a radically different perception of who his family was. We see this in Mark 3:34:
Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.
If his own family didn’t share his convictions, then at least he had another family who did. Today we call it the family of the church. Jesus had his mission to accomplish: to teach, to heal and then to tread the lonely pathway to the cross. He wouldn’t allow anything distract him from that – including his own family.
There Is Hope
What happened to Jesus family, then? Well, from what you’ve read so far, you might think ‘not much.’ But you would be wrong. In Acts 1:12, after Jesus ascended into heaven, we read: ‘The disciples went back to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. They all continued praying together with some women (get this) including Mary the mother of Jesus and Jesus brothers.’ Now that is some turnaround.
Those who mocked Jesus now worship him. Those who pitied Jesus now pray to him. Jesus hadn’t bullied them, nor had he given up on them. But he persuaded them by his life and ministry. God still changes families today and the amazing thing is, he uses people like you and me to do it.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for the gift of the family. I pray for the healing of broken relationships. Where hatred reigns, may love prevail. Where anger rises, may peace endure. Where selfishness chokes, may sacrifice be known and where bitterness poisons, may your Spirit whisper truth, light, life and mercy to flow in, and through, every situation. In the precious name of Jesus I pray. Amen.
This is a copy of my article for the July 2018 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’