October/November 2013 - Vol. 70

Who Is My Brother and Sister?
God wants all of our relationships to be transformed in his Son Jesus Christ

a reflection on Matthew 12:46-50 by Don Schwager

Who do you love and cherish the most? God did not intend for us to be alone, but to be with others. He gives us many opportunities for developing relationships with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. In Matthew's Gospel account we hear the remarkable answer Jesus gave to the question, “Who is my brother, sister, and mother?” 

While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brethren?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brethren! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50)
Why did Jesus seem to ignore his own mother and relatives when they pressed to see him? His love and respect for his mother and for his relatives was unquestionable. Jesus never lost an opportunity to teach his disciples a spiritual truth about the kingdom of God. On this occasion when many had gathered to hear Jesus, he pointed to another higher reality of relationships, namely our relationship with God and with the people he redeemed and brought together into a covenant relationship of mutual love, care, and service. 

The essence of Christianity
What is the essence of being a Christian? It is certainly more than doctrine, precepts, and commandments. It is first and foremost a relationship – a relationship of trust, affection, commitment, loyalty, faithfulness, kindness, thoughtfulness, compassion, mercy, helpfulness, encouragement, support, strength, protection, and so many other qualities that bind people together in mutual love and unity. God offers us the greatest of relationships – union of heart, mind, and spirit with himself, the very author of life and source of love. 

God has loved us first. Our love for him is a response of gratefulness for his mercy and kindness towards us. God made us in his own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26,27). That is why he wants us to love others wholly for their good just as he has loved us. God wants the love we show to one another to flow from the love he has put into our hearts through the gift of his Holy Spirit who dwells within us (Romans 5:5).

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:7-12,16) 
The Scriptures tell us that God's love perfects us (1 John 4:16). His love makes us whole and complete – not lacking in what is essential for a good relationship with God and with one another. God's love has power to change and transform us to be like himself. 

What is the nature of God's love for us? His love is unfailing, unconditional, and unstoppable. Nothing can deter him from ever abandoning us, ignoring us, or treating us unkindly. He will love us in every circumstance and situation we find ourselves in. That is why Paul the Apostle assures us that “in everything God works for good with those who love him” (Romans 8:28). It is God's nature to love us and to draw us into an unbreakable bond of unity with himself. He created us in love for love. 

Friendship with God and one another
Jesus is God's love incarnate – God's love made visible in human flesh (1 John 4:9-10). That is why Jesus offered up his life on the cross for our sake, so that we could be forgiven and restored to friendship and adoption as sons and daughters of God. Paul the Apostle tells us that the eternal Father “destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:5-6). 

In the parable of the prodigal son Jesus describes the incredible yearning God has to reunite his ruptured family and to restore those who have lost their way to the Father's home (Luke 15:11-32). Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd who seeks out the lost and “other sheep who are not of his fold” (John 10:16) to bring them to his community of disciples who recognize the Master's voice and obey the his word. Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, invites us to make our home with himself and the Father. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).

That is why Jesus told his disciples that they would have many new friends and family relationships in his kingdom. Whoever does the will of God is a friend of God and a member of his household the family of God – his adopted sons and daughters who have been ransomed by the precious blood of Christ. 

Relationships transformed in Christ
The Lord Jesus changes the order of relationships and shows that true kinship is not just a matter of flesh and blood. Our adoption as sons and daughters of God transforms all of our relationships and requires a new order of loyalty to God first and to his kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17-19). God wants all of the relationships we are in – family, friends, co-workers – to be rooted in his love, truth, and righteousness.

How can we relate well to others and love them as Jesus has taught? The Lord Jesus gives us his Holy Spirit so we can grow in his love and wisdom and overcome our unruly desires and prejudices. His love both purifies us and frees us to love others as he loves them – with mercy, kindness, goodness, and patience. We can love others, even those who cause us grief and harm, because “God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

Do you want to grow in love and friendship? Allow God's Holy Spirit to transform your heart, mind, and will to enable you to love freely and generously as he loves. 

“Heavenly Father, you bless us with many relationships and you invite us into the community of your sons and daughters who have been redeemed by your Son Jesus Christ. Help me to love my neighbor with kindness, goodness, and mercy, just as you have loved me. In all of my relationships, and in all that I say and do, may I always seek to bring you honor and glory.”

[Don Schwager is a member of The Servants of the Word and author of the Daily Scripture Reading and Meditation website.]
See related articles:
| Photo credit: lds.org |
Return to Table of Contents or Archives  • (c) copyright 2013 - 2018 The Sword of the Spirit