Family is the most basic expression of God's kingdom in this world. It is a community of love which reflects the community of Love that God Himself is in Trinity. At it's best Family is the hearth of worship which feeds the fire for God within the hearts of it's members; it is the open door which offers hospitality new life and new relationships; it is a living proclamation of the Gospel to the world that it goes out to serve. Family can be made up in many ways. Of course there is the nuclear form; with parents and their children. There is also the more extended version which includes grand-parents, cousins, aunts and uncles. The biblical version of family, although it values these formations, offers a more radical vision.
In the Gospel of Matthew we read:
While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12: 46-50)
Jesus taught that the fundamental kinship that he built was not based on the relationship that individuals had to him through his earthly mother, but rather the relationship that they had to him through his heavenly Father. Jesus promoted a affinity of mission over that of kith and kin. As followers of Jesus this too becomes our modus operandi. We are to be people who are actively seeking to join the mission of the Holy Spirit in our own family lives. This functions in two mandates Christian families are called to follow:
- We are called to be active in equipping members of our family and community to live as disciples of Jesus Christ
- We are instructed to invite in those who God sends us into our families to join their life to the life of God in us.
The first mandate means we need to be intentionally building our families with an outward focus. Following Jesus rarely results in comfortable lethargy. Jesus calls the community into a passionate relationship with God and a radical mission to care for one's neighbors and the world. Family life in the Kingdom of God is missionary in character. It is seeking always to invite those who God sends into it. As Christians we need to take serious stock of the patterns and habits we have formed and ask for God's direction as we make decisions about new commitments in the future. Consider periodically writing out a typical week's activities with as much detail as possible. Pray over that list and ask the question, "what would you have me do here God, and who you would have me do it with?"
The second mandate means that we are always attentive for opportunities to serve and share our life and faith as we go about our lives. Our stance should be invitational. We are always offering an invitation to those we encounter to encounter love. Sometimes it can just be seeing the person in front of you and hearing where they are serving in some small way. At other times God may be leading you to develop a friendship, or even invite them into the family that God has. As the Lord brings forth new Children of faith he will recruit families to adopt these new members of his family into their own life together. A great resource that many use to help them in their discernment of who these people are is outlined here.
Taking these two mandates seriously can completely transform how your family functions without necessarily adding anything new to the calendar. Life on mission with God isn't about adding mission to your life but making your life a mission.
(Photo by delfi de la Rua)