Weekly Reading: Luke 8:19-21; 13:31-35; 15:11-32; 18:15-17
I recently heard an interview on NPR that had me pause in motion, sit down and simply listen. It was with Sheila White, a sex-trafficking survivor who I too had interviewed a couple of years ago. Sheila grew up being hustled from one foster family to another. This fragmented and disoriented experience of family primed her for trafficking.
When the NPR host asked if she’s had to rethink her view of family, Sheila’s voice grew solid as she responded: “Family is who you make it.”
Family is who you make it. Curiously enough Jesus communicates a similar sentiment—both in word and deed. However, he does it in some provocative ways.
In Luke 8:19-21 Jesus audaciously re-imagines family.
Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they couldn’t get to him because of the crowd. Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to see you.”
Jesus replied, “My mother and my brothers are all those who hear God’s word and obey it.”
Admittedly, I’ve struggled with this little snatch of Scripture. When I read these verses a few weeks ago Jesus struck me as dismissive and divisive…almost anti-family.
I got stuck. Paralyzed. And then…the questions erupted.
So Jesus, are you throwing off the construct of blood family that glibly? Really?
Why in the midst of mass disappointment with our relatives do we still long for family? Are you dismissing the desire for families to be formed? Are you disregarding the hope for fractured families to be shored up? Can you be that flippant about your mom and your brothers? Did you ever long for family yourself?
And yes…why can’t I still shake the hope of having my own family?
Oh, and while I’m at it…does everyone have to be perfect in your family—do they have to hear and obey God to be loved by you?
I still don’t have this Scripture sorted, but as I’ve screamed and whispered questions at God for the past few weeks a suspicion has come. Jesus loves family. He longs to collect everyone up into family. Perhaps he’s not limiting a vision of family but expanding it…extending the invitation to family further than it ever had been.
In a moment we’ll see how Jesus identifies with mothers, fathers and children. But let’s pause first.