What was the view of Jesus about family? The answer may be very surprising.
The view of Jesus about family is based on the great law of Christianity. When a lawyer asked him, ‘Master, which [is] the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus answered (Matt. 22: 37 to 39), ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’ And he continued (verse 40), ‘On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
Isn’t that great?! So to be a good Christian you don’t need to study all the small print! The above two commandments are it!
However there are people who want to study in more detail today, as well as in Jesus’ time.
The Development of Love Thy Neighbour
Two other Gospels tell the above story also. Mark 12: 28 to 31 tells it in a very similar manner, but Luke 10: 25 to 27 tells it with a slight variation. According to Luke Jesus elicited ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ as an answer from a certain lawyer, who had asked him, ‘Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ The lawyer knew, since it says in Lev. 19: 18, ‘Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I [am] the LORD.’
So there is a development in this law. In the Tanakh, the Old Testament, the law just applied to the ‘children of thy people’, i.e. other Israelites but no others. So to clarify, the lawyer in Luke asked Jesus (Luke 10: 29), ‘And who is my neighbour?’
Jesus answered this question with the parable of the Good Samaritan. In those days the people did not regard Samaritans as good. Quite the contrary! Today Jesus might have told the parable of the Good Communist or the Good Fundamentalist Moslem!
In other words, for a Christian, everybody is our neighbour and we shall love our neighbours as ourselves. So the neighbour is not just a person from our nation anymore as it was in the Old Testament.
Keeping this in mind, we might be less surprised at the view of Jesus about family, his expectations how his followers should act towards their families and how he treated Mary, his own mother. It appears that the view of Jesus about family was that it is nothing special and a good Christian should treat his neighbour, i.e. everybody, as well as family members and himself!
Jesus about Family
When Jesus’ mother urged him to turn water into wine he said to her, ‘Woman, what have I to do with thee?’ (John 2: 4)
When Jesus was preaching to a great throng of people and someone told him that his mother and his brethren desired to speak to him, he answered, ‘Who is my mother and who are my brethren?’ And he looked round about them which sat about him and said, ‘Behold my mother and my brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.’ (Matt. 12: 47 to 50; Mark 3: 32 to 35) Isn’t this one of the most important views of Jesus about family? Is this why monks call each other brethren?
Matt. 10: 34 to 36: ‘Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.’
Matt. 10: 37: ‘He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.’
In Matt. 4: 21 & 22 and Mark 1: 19 & 20 Jesus saw James and John, the sons of Zebedee mending their nets in their ship. And he called them and they left their father and went after him. Zebedee probably called out, ‘Hey boys, where are you going? You can’t leave me here to do all the work by myself?’ But they just walked after this hippie dude.
When Jesus asked a man to follow him and he replied, ‘Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father,’ Jesus said unto him, ‘Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.’ (Matt. 8: 21 & 22; Luke 9: 59 & 60)
The Apostle Paul added to this
(1. Cor. 7: 32 & 33), ‘But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please the woman.’ (It does not say ‘his’.) How could someone be a martyr, if his wife and children would have to suffer? Could this be the reason why the views of Jesus about family are so different from our views today?
This topic actually has been taken up by the Rock Band The Pudhys who lived in the Communist Regime in East Germany. The last verse of the song ‘Wenn ein Mensch lebt’ says (in translation, for the original German words click here; to hear the song, click here):
My girl friend is beautiful.
When I arose, she left.
Don’t wake her until she stirs.
I have lain down in her shade.
It also appears that even at Jesus’ time the father was just the man who looked after the family, the women, the children. This means his own children and those the women of his household had carried of whom it was not certain who the biological father was. How would this have influenced the view of Jesus about family?
The lists of the forefathers of Jesus indicate that fatherhood was not regarded as biological fatherhood. The father was rather the one who brought up and educated the child. There are two lists in the New Testament, one in Matt. 1: 1 to 16 and Luke 3: 23 to 38.
Neither Matthew nor Luke claim that Jesus was the biological father of Joseph. In Matthew it says (verse 16), ‘And Jacob begat Joseph the man of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.’ and in Luke (verse 23), ‘And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, which was [the son] of Heli.’ Nevertheless both apostles list the ‘fathers’ of Jesus backwards through Joseph. So it is quite clear that there are biological breaks in these genealogies. This is also well known from the general story about Jesus’ birth.
So what were the views of Jesus about family?
Jesus commanded to Love Thy Neighbour as Thyself. In other words there should not be a special regard for any person. We should not hold ourselves above our neighbours. We should also not hold neighbours above ourselves. Doesn’t it follow from this that we also should not hold family members above anybody else?
Doesn’t it seem that family values are just one step worse than racism. A racist person cares about Millions of people of that race. A family person on the other hand is only concerned about a handful of people and tries to give them an advantage above everybody else from his own race and other races.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
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