What is your mission . . . when it comes to your family?
General George S. Patton is considered one of the most successful field commanders in U.S. military history. Patton demanded that his soldiers be able to articulate their mission on a moments notice. Mission awareness was to him the single most important piece of information a solider carried into battle.
I feeling a little like Patton these days, especially when it comes to the family. Mom and dad, "What is your mission?" More importantly, "What is God's mission for your family?" I started to raise that question with our church, but after reading Jesus' encounter with his family I realized I started with the wrong question:
“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 3:31-34 ESV
I am a firm believer that families get healthy when they live on mission with Jesus. But I don't believe families can get on mission until they believe what Jesus says about the family. Let me recap what I'm learning from Jesus' interaction:
1. Families on mission believe there is a bigger priority than "my family."
You don't have to read far into the Scriptures to understand how much God values family. He instituted it (Genesis 1), Jesus made sure his mother was cared for even while dying on the cross (John 19:26-27), God gives us crystal-clear family roles (Ephesians 5-6), Men can't be leaders in the church until they lead their families well (1 Timothy 3:4), and God gives very clear instruction for caring for elderly family members (1 Timothy 5:4).
Family is important, but family is not "all-important." When Jesus called James and John to follow him, they left their dad and the family business without the least bit of hesitation. Luke records these strong words of Jesus: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple" (John 14:26).
God knows that when we put our family above all else we make an idol of the family. Putting family first means God is no longer first. Putting family first means that we make Jesus our servant instead of serving Jesus as a family. Putting family first leads us to ignore God who alone can give us what we need to love and care for our families. Families on mission know that God must be the "#1 priority of life."
2. Families on mission believe there is a bigger family than "my family." Christians live in two households. Paul makes this clear in a letter to his friend, Timothy. Speaking of church leaders he writes,
He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? . . . I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:4-5, 14-15 ESV
We live in busy days. The hustle and bustle of life can leave us longing for much needed time with the family. If we are not careful though we'll begin to think we just need "our family" and we'll miss out on all that God has for us in our other family -- the church.
God went to great lengths to make you a part of his family (Ephesians 2:19). The church is one of God's primary means to grow you, love you, care for you, pray for you -- and for you to do the same for others. If I don't see that there is a bigger family than my family -- and prioritize that family (Hebrews 10:24-25) -- then I will always look at the church as just "value added" to my life, not as an absolutely essential part of my life. I will miss out on so much God has for me and I won't be unable to truly live on mission with my family.
3. Families on mission believe there is a bigger mission than "my family."
Jesus said, "whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother." The will of God is God's bigger mission. If, as a leader of my family, I don't know what that will is I will not be able to lead my family "on mission."
I was reading John's gospel last week when I read these words of Jesus,
“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:40 ESV
God's will is that my life be centered on Jesus. People call that being "Jesus-centered," "gospel-centered," or "cross-centered." Whatever the label, reading John's gospel I know these words are a call to follow Jesus 24/7. They mean surrendering the Kingdom of Me to the Kingdom of God. I can't lead my family to live on mission with Jesus until Jesus' mission becomes a bigger mission than my family.
Growing healthy families ...
I really believe that families get healthy when they live on mission with Jesus. But families don't get on mission until they believe what Jesus says about the family. As I read Mark's gospel, I hear Jesus saying:
- God loves your family, but He is a bigger priority than your family. Focus on Him!
- God has given you your family, but He has a bigger family (the church) that helps make your family complete. Don't neglect your church family!
- God has given you your family (and that is a big mission), but there is a bigger mission than your family. Point your family to Jesus and to what it means to be about His mission in the world.
Patton was right. We've got to know our mission, but when it comes to the family, we can't be on mission until we know -- and believe -- what God says about the family.