Thursday, February 3, 2011

Reflections on the Tree of LIfe: Living with Jesus as Our Brother

Imagine the scene. Jesus has become popular in the previous months and his family was feeling a bit ignored by him. So, they came to see him. He got word that his mother and brothers were outside and wanted to talk to him. Instead of rushing to see them, he answered with questions: “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “These are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:46-50).

It’s easy to gloss over this passage until we really think about what Jesus did in that moment. He redefined his definition of family for us. When we become his disciple and seek to live as he modeled for us, we become his brothers and sisters and even his mother.

I’ve been asking people in huddle if they think about Jesus as their brother. Most often I get a look of surprise and then a quick shake of the head, “No.” It seems to be one thing to consider ourselves part of God’s family, but it’s quite another to understand that Jesus considers us his siblings.

How do we treat our siblings? As we grow up, we are often in competition; seeking to be the one who gets the special treatment. Our siblings are one of the key places where we work out how to live in relationship with people, so many of us have scars from our early years. Some of us are estranged from our siblings even today.

Now that Jesus has told us that we are his siblings if we follow the will of his Father, the next step is to understand how we walk that out. How did Jesus live with his new family, his disciples?
One way that Jesus lived with his disciples in family relationship is how he continually pointed them to exercising generosity. He demonstrated it in just about every possible situation we read about.

One time the disciples were upset because they saw a man in the synagogue using Jesus’ name to cast out demons. They were proud of themselves because they told the man that if he wasn’t hanging out with them that he needed to stop (Mark 9).

But, Jesus saw it differently. He realized that everyone who is using his name to bring the kingdom will grow in faith and will not soon be able to speak evil of him. He stated, “Anyone who is not against us is for us. If anyone gives a cup of cold water because you belong to the Messiah, I assure that the person will be rewarded.”

Sometimes we want to draw tight lines around “who is acceptable in our crowd.” We want to keep our family pure and unpolluted. But, Jesus taught his disciples that when we reach out to welcome others into our relationships, we are actually expanding the family of God. We are welcoming others to join in.

The amazing thing about God is that he doesn’t have limited capacity.

He is able to keep extending and inviting and growing his family. Those already in it don’t get less; we all continue to receive his extensive generosity.

I think that we fight as siblings and families because we don’t trust that there is “enough:” enough time, enough love, enough money, enough affirmation, enough presence, enough of anything we desire to go around. So, we begin to fight for what we want; believing that we can make it happen.

This is what Adam and Eve fell for in the Garden. They fell for the lie that God was holding out on them, when in reality they already had everything that God had; except the presence of evil in their lives.

Jesus kept bringing his disciples back to the original truth about his Father: his extreme generosity. He showed that we can welcome someone in from another part of life and make room for them, and that by sharing what we already have, we are extending the generosity of God and bringing more blessing upon ourselves.

We only really get to keep what we give away.

Bill Johnson tells a story of a woman that had a need of $500. Bill gave her $50 and told her that there was 500 in the 50. So, she took it and wondered how God was going to supply the rest of the money she needed.

She went to the store that night and met a family that had no way to pay for their groceries. She gave them her $50 because she saw their need was greater than hers.

When she got home, she was stunned to see a person at her doorstep with a check for $500. This woman learned that when we are generous, we receive the gift of seeing God’s generosity multiplied.

What are you holding onto tightly? Is it your time? your money? your family? your friends? Today, as a sign of trust in the generosity of our Heavenly Father, open up your hands and release them back to him.

As you do this, you will see the area you fear brought back to you multiplied many times over. You will also be stepping into a closer position in your family where Jesus is your brother teaching you how to live in healthy relationship with our siblings all around us.

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