God and Family
31And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him.
32And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.”
33And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”
34And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!
35Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
I have been thinking a little about the various functions God fulfils in our lives, and this passage came to mind. It occurs to me that culture will often develop very different ideas about the various ways in which certain members of family appear to us, or endear us. Although the ideas can blur, we hold roughly similar inherent attitudes regarding family; in a father we generally see authoritative protection; in a mother we find a sense of integrity, security, and intimacy (having come from her and nursed at her breasts); in a sibling, we would hopefully find a relatively equal level of friendship and fellowship (though I am aware this often doesn’t turn out to be the case).
My point is that in whatever familial traits we have developed over the course of human progression, God has found a way to speak into those cultural ideas of gender even though He transcends them. God is Biblically portrayed as a dominant male figure, and yet He also says “Let us make mankind, male and female, in our own image, after our own likeness.” In Jesus, God spoke into a patriarchal society through the form of a human man, and yet through Her transcendence also demonstrated the inclusivity of the Gospel, affirming that both men and women had equal standing in God’s Kingdom. Jesus affirms God as the Father of creation, and yet also likens His concern for people as a mother hen’s care for her brood (Luke 13:34).
The Gospel is not about distinction. As Paul says in Galatians, “there is neither man nor woman, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free,” as in Christ we are all one. We are often quick to remember God as a terrifying omnipotent deity, and forget that He is “slow to anger and rich in love.” We are quick to remember Jesus’ harsh words for those who practised injustice, and forget that He washes our feet. We are quick to remember the very definitive way of life He required from us, and forget that “even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
An interesting thought is given by the Psalmist:
3When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
5Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet…
The Psalmist here refers to his incredulity that God should care for human beings at all given the immensity of creation, as we seem like insignifant specks compared in the grand scheme of things. Yet, he recognises that mankind has a special place in God’s creation, to the extent that God made us “a little lower than the heavenly beings.” What this infers to me is that we are only just short of par with the spiritual realm. If one reads the Genesis account, the author seems to feel that Adam and Eve were in such perfect communion with God that they were able to communicate with Him in much the same manner they would other people. Only after The Fall does this form of communion seem to dissipate into the distant chasm separating God from man. The vision of Eden seems to be that of a conceptual prototype for the relationship God wishes us to have with Her, of being perfect and in true harmony with Her being. We see this elsewhere in the New Testament as well, notably when Jesus prays for all those who would believe in Him to be one even as He was one with the Father, and also in 1 Corinthians 15 when Paul speaks of the time when “God will be all in all.”
Am I trying to say that God has no superiority in our lives, or over our being? By no means. God is THE authority, THE power, to which we submit. We must never forget that God knows all, and loves all, and as such embodies the perfect moral goodness to which we should aspire. Having said that, it seems to me that this authority from God, and the submission we lend to Him, are much more an expression of love than coercive wrath. God does not force us into a relationship with Her, She guides us toward Christ in the eternal hope that we will find Him and have reconciliation with the source of all existence. Paul likened the church as a “pure virgin” to be given to God’s bridegroom, and that is more or less what we are; God’s spiritual spouses. The relationship we have with Him is a marriage, one we undertake for eternity, one in which we grow in our understanding of God as well as how we unveil ourselves to Her, and also understand that we serve Him reciprocally as He came to serve us through the cross. God gave us life, and so we give Him ours. God fulfils for us the function of a Father, and much else besides.
God is my Father, and my Mother. My Brother, and my Sister. My Friend. My Love.