We hear phrases like “my tribe” or “my people” used a lot. Does that mean having a family that is comprised of those closest to us? What is family? I looked up the word and family is defined as: “the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children.”
More importantly, how does Jesus himself define family? Radically.
Sara Zarr wrote a perfect example of that (taken from Jesus Girls: True Tales of Growing Up Female and Evangelical):
“There’s a scene in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus is talking to a crowd. The topics are difficult and complex—the Sabbath, the devil, signs, miracles. Out of the blue, someone tells Jesus that his mother and brothers are standing outside waiting to talk to him. Jesus replies, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ He points to the disciples and says, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’ In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus pulls no punches. ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.’
In either version, the point is made. When you follow Jesus everything changes, including and perhaps especially the strongest, most natural ties a creature can have.”
Sounds almost sacrilegious. And yet, when you start to dig deep into that you really see that when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, he does not discard familial ties, but rather he opens it up from the world of exclusiveness, narrow definitions and adopts us into a new family where your earthly status simply does not matter. Deep down we all long for community, to belong to a tribe. Single, childless, armies of kids, married, divorced, widowed, rich, poor…it doesn’t matter. We have adoption and an inheritance in our new Godly family and have worth and value.
"Deep down we all long for community, to belong to a tribe. Single, childless, armies of kids, married, divorced, widowed, rich, poor…it doesn’t matter."
So how does that all tie in with my life as a single, never married, childless 60 year old? Everything!
My earthly singleness is not judged or denigrated by my Godly family. They accept me as I am because Jesus does. I feel privileged, because I can devote my full attention to him and be available to serve others more freely. Paul famously wrote: “I wish that all of you were as I am (unmarried). But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” (1 Cor. 7:7) Even science now agrees! Articles from the British Medical Society and The Social Science and Medicine Journal find that single people tend to have stronger social networks, and enjoy benefits such as an increased sense of freedom and higher levels of creativity and intimacy. I am blessed! But really, in the end all our giftings do not come from our status in life, it comes from allowing Him to live His life through us.
"Being part of God’s family makes our relationships uncommon because it is not bound by age, gender, social divides, politics, nationality or color of our skin."
Being part of God’s family makes our relationships uncommon because it is not bound by age, gender, social divides, politics, nationality or color of our skin. In the world, we either naturally segregate ourselves or society does that for us. It is only through the bloodline of Jesus that we can have true unity at all. I can be friends with both a teen or a much older person because we have Christ in common! “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise…” (Gal 3:27-29)
Another benefit of being in God’s family is that it allows us the opportunity to mentor and be mentored. If we have a safe place to gather together, like a Life Group, we naturally find ourselves learning from one another. But mentoring is more than friendship or giving advice. As Sue Edwards and Barbara Neumann wrote in Mentoring with Intention “It’s to help others follow Christ and be transformed into His image.” It’s found in forming intentional relationships with that goal in mind. It’s like having parents, aunts and uncles or grandparents teaching kids life skills for them to thrive and grow. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (Eph 4:15)
Lastly, what is the value of healthy relationships? Many. God’s people have my back. They challenge me in good ways. They speak God’s truth into my life. They don’t leave me where they found me. They want me to grow in God’s freedom. They forgive me. They encourage me. They cry with me. They pray with me. They celebrate the authentic me God created me to be. They always point me to Jesus.
And best of all they are my faithful companions on the journey. The following true story is a fitting illustration of that.
I work with a young man in my office that recently ran a 26-mile race in a Pennsylvania state park a few weeks ago called an “Ultramarathon”. He was training for months but this course was mountainous, rocky, narrow, slippery and twisting. When I asked him about it, he told me that after three miles in he was already getting blistered feet and knew this was going to be very difficult. But when he got closer to the finish line, he could hear people cheering in the distance and there was a sign nailed to a tree saying something like, “You’ve got this. You’re almost there!”
What he said next surprised me.
He said that after running for hours you become extremely emotionally vulnerable, he said you feel almost raw. And when he heard the cheering and the saw the sign, he almost wept because it touched him and encouraged him to continue those last grueling miles. When he crossed the finish line, everyone who ran before was waiting and cheering for him. Even the organizer of the race stayed on and congratulated every single runner who finally completed the race.
"We are not alone in this race of life. We have our relationships in our family of God past and present to cheer us on."
We are not alone in this race of life. We have our relationships in our family of God past and present to cheer us on. Jesus himself will be there at the finish line until every single one of us make it home one day. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Heb. 12:1-2)
If you’re looking for this kind of family, you’re invited to be part of God’s. Come as you are, but be ready to be radically loved by Jesus and his tribe!
Written by Laura Millan,
Volunteer at Wellspring Church
Click here to learn more about Wellspring Church in Toms River!