Chinese New Year is a good time to reflect on the nature of family. As a Christian I cannot help but see this issue through the lens of the Christian faith and Scripture. Often times, human beings are bound by one's own society, culture, traditions and upbringing. It is difficult to break free from these constraints, even for Christians as humans live within a society with its norms and values. What if the culture or tradition contradicts the Word of God? We have to take this question seriously because Jesus lambasted those who make null the Word of God for the sake of their traditions. Given that not all traditions or cultural norms are wrong or contradictory to the Bible, it is vital that our minds are renewed and shaped by Scripture, especially the teachings of Christ in the four Gospels. If you ask me what is the greatest spiritual problem among believers today, my answer would be that most Christians live a life without engaging with Scripture seriously.
They are in main biblically illiterate. As they don't think after the Word, it means often the main influence on their minds is their own humanistic philosophy and worldly perceptions based on societal norms and cultural habits. Engaging with Scripture means one reads the Bible earnestly daily and allowing the Word of God to speak into one's life. If it is only a cursory glance at the Bible occasionally or just being fed on Sunday sermons, hence lies the problem of Christians who are worldly and untransformed in heart and mind. In short, these people do not walk with God because they do what they think is right according to societal and cultural expectations but not on the Word of God despite claims to be Christians or believers in Jesus. Returning to the issue at hand of family, Jesus spoke about this rather clearly in a number of places.
When Jesus' mother and brothers went to search for Jesus one day as reported in Mark 3, we begin to understand Jesus' relationship with his family in flesh and blood. Mark 3:21 says that Jesus' family was about to seize Jesus because there was a report that Jesus was out of his mind. This is startling as for us Christians who hero-worship Jesus or the Jesus of our imagination, the last we think is that our Jesus could be seen as mad or insane or out of his mind. Why would that be so? It is because Jesus behaved rather differently than his contemporaries and that he was not bound by what society or traditions expect him to behave as an adult Jew.
Surprisingly, Jesus' mother and brothers also thought the way most Jews thought at the time and to prevent embarrassment or ridicule from their fellow Jews, Jesus' family went to search for Jesus and per chance take him by force (seize) from what he was doing - preaching God's Word and healing the sick and casting out of demons. Then came Jesus' reply to those who told him that his mother and brothers were looking for him (Mark 3:31-32). "Who are my mother, and my brothers?" Jesus looked at those who had gathered around Him and were listening intently to His Word and said, "Here are my mother, and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, my sister, and mother" (Mark 3:34). Thus, Jesus' true family is not his mother and brothers of the flesh but those who do or obey God's will in their lives. Obeying God's will means obeying his commandments and living by His Word. It is not that our natural family is not important and we do not care for them but Jesus' teaching is clear that our spiritual family must take precedence. For our true family according to Jesus' definition is those who do the will of God. Any failure to grasp this simple truth just tells us of our own lacklustre spiritual condition. Do we read our Bibles? Do we engage with Jesus' teachings in the Gospels? Do we not just read or listen but do we do His will and obey commandments? If we don't, then we are not part of Jesus' family and we are just in our unregenerate selves. No wonder we treat those who do God's will like they are insane just as Jesus' contemporaries once thought Jesus to be out of his mind.