Jesus said some radical things in his time. Yet few of his sayings were more radical than what he said about his true family:
My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice. (Luke 8:21)
Jesus was a man who loved, respected, and honored his own family deeply. But he also had a spiritual bond with those who believed in him and followed him as disciples. He called his followers “true family.”
In so many parts of the world the family is breaking down. I heard recently in Japan, in many elderly homes there is an 8 page waiting list for people to get in. It will take years for some of these very lonely elderly folks to be able to come under the roof of a community. Many young people who are feeling increasingly more lonely because they don’t have a close family. And fewer young people experience spiritual family because they are not connected to a local church.
A GOLD RUSH FOR “FAMILY” IS UNDERWAY
A true family experience is becoming more rare for people across many cultures. Although this is sad and really grieves me, I have intense hope for people. Why? Because by God’s grace they can experience true family if they are willing to take a risk. When something because rare, people start rushing for it. A new “gold rush” for family may be on the horizon. When something is rare it becomes more valuable. And when something becomes highly valuable people are willing to take risks to start looking for that rare jewel. There is a hunger for family that I see more and more in people. And I have hope that when that hunger increases, people will put down their technology (which is no longer a rare commodity), and they will start looking for the more rare and valuable jewel. Family.
Even though some people may not be able to find true, loving connections in their birth families, by God’s grace, they will find true family in a local church. God’s design of the local church is to be just that, family.
When Jesus was talking to a crowd, his mother and brothers arrived and wanted to talk with him. Someone naturally saw them and thought Jesus would want to know they were there, so they told Jesus, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” Look at how he replied:
He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50)
Jesus was not dishonoring his immediate family here. No, he was simply stating that with those who believed in him, he had a spiritual bond that was of the same quality as his bond was with his blood family. Jesus’ true family is those who love Jesus and align with his will for their life.
TEMPORARY COMMUNITY CONNECTS PEOPLE WITH PERMANENT FAMILY
I have noticed that as I take out young people for several days in the wilderness we form a temporary community. In this environment the concept of family becomes easier for the group to understand because they are personally experiencing it. In temporary community, we live and eat together, we help one other, work together, accomplish things together that we could not do alone, and we become vulnerable and known at a level that is not normal in the world.
Although a wilderness expedition is temporary, it can be an ideal setting to talk about family. God designed his Body, the local church as a spiritual family. I encourage you to think of your wilderness camps as an opportunity to model true family the way Jesus has defined it. Then as you send your group back to the city they will have new hope after a powerful week of experiencing “true family.” No matter what kind of immediate family situation your group returns to, you can sow a seed of hope in each of your participants. If they want to find the rare gold of a true, family connection, the place to dig is in a local church. You’ll find permanent family there. And your temporary community experience in the wilderness will have given you gold fever.