Christianity Today reports that post-evangelical provocateur Brian McLaren has officiated the same-sex wedding of his son. Denny Burk has some good reflections, as does Carl Trueman. There are some obvious “talking points” to engage in here, about the trajectory of McLaren’s hermeneutic, slippery slopes and all that. The reality is that you can’t close the flue and not expect the room to fill with smoke. But upon reading this news I was immediately taken back to my preaching text Sunday:

And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

— Mark 3:31-35

Jesus is providing a foundation and a watershed at the same time, a connecting point for his other provocative statements about letting the dead bury the dead (Luke 9:59-60), bringing division to families (Matt. 10:34-37), hating mom and dad on his account (Luke 14:26), no marriage in heaven (Matt. 22:30), and how his mom ain’t so special (Luke 11:27-28). We also get some grounding for Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:29.

Confronted with the well-meaning concerns of familial loyalty, Jesus will not take his eyes off the cross before him. He knows God is building a new family, one that is eternal, one that is centered on God as Abba and the Son of God as the good older brother, the finally worthy of the honor who in his gospel is not ashamed to call his brethren brethren (Heb. 2:11). So the warnings are strong, the wording is harsh. Jesus doesn’t hate his family. But he loves his Father and the will of his Father more. He wants to honor the will of God more than he wants to satisfy the will of his family.

This is a good word to us familyolaters. We take what most of us consider the most important thing in our lives and give it the weight of our worship in a way that is both dishonorable and unsustainable. And we end up living “Thus saith the family” rather than “Thus saith the Lord.” I know personally what happens when one worships his wife: he harms her. I know what happens when we make our children the center of our universe: we harm them. That is true hatred. Trading in the cross for the thin gruel of temporary satisfaction, appetites, compulsions, is the worst thing you could do to somebody. And when it comes down to seeking one’s happiness over their holiness, we aid and abet the theft of their eternal joy. This is what Brian McLaren has done. I hope for the grace not to follow suit at a million different turning points, big and little, as my kids grow up. I know the temptation will be great.

Christ would have us focused on him, loving him above all else. And when all else, including our beloved families, asks us to betray Christ and his word in order to serve them, we face Abraham’s excruciating dilemma. But pledging our hearts to heaven, we will not look back to Egypt or Sodom, trusting that true mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters are those who follow Jesus and that obeying God is worth any cost, including hurting the feelings of those we love.

When our children ask for stones, let’s give them bread.

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5 thoughts on ““Who Are My Mother and Brothers (and Sons)?””

  1. Wesley says:

    Great word bro. Reminds me of Driscoll’s comments a few years ago when he stated (tongue firmly in cheek) “Maybe it’s a sin to ‘Focus on the family’ … just somethin’ to pray about!’
    I’m glad you brought up the test of Abraham with Isaac too b/c i think along with all the good and right doctrine you state, it’s important to not separate it from real human emotion. The former does not serve the later, to be sure, but in dealing with situations like this in our own lives or the lives of those closest to us, i think we need to be pastorally very sensitive and not pound people with doctrine when what they need to truth spoken in love and compassion/support over a difficult choice (not saying you are pounding, but just stating the warning generally).
    It’s one thing to affirm the truth of Jesus’ words about loving Him supremely but another thing in practice when Johnny comes home and tells dad he’s gay. It doesn’t change the truth of what is right but should give us pause in how we respond initially.

  2. Flyaway says:

    Very well written. If we are pained by the choices made by members of our families how much more so is God. Our hearts ache but then we rejoice that we have our family in Christ to turn to. Can’t wait until we are all together in Paradise praising God!

  3. JohnM says:

    How/why did we become familyolaters (accurate description, I agree) in the first place? Does it have something to do with feminization of the church? Did it start as a healthy emphasis then become a sort of ideological intemperance?

  4. Clay says:

    The mother of God “isn’t so special”? There isn’t a better example in the history of humankind of someone who heard the Word of God and kept it (and housed Him in her body). Apart from Mary’s submission to the Word of God, there would be no salvation. This is why all generations have called her blessed. We should love Mary and thank her, not belittle her as “nothing special”.

  5. C.M. Granger says:

    Excellent thoughts, brother

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Jared C. Wilson

Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. You can follow him on Twitter.

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