Who is my family?

Christ Jesus’ ministry as recorded in the Gospels demonstrated immense compassion, love, and healing for all humanity. Yet, in at least one instance, Jesus could be perceived as being unloving and even harsh toward his own family members. 

In one account (see Matthew 12:46–50), a large crowd surrounded Jesus to listen to his spiritual teachings. At the same time, Jesus’ mother and his brothers wanted to talk to him. The crowd around Jesus was apparently so dense that his family could not reach him, but someone in the crowd passed a message along letting Jesus know about their desire to see him.

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How did Jesus respond to this call from his family? You might think he would tell the crowd, “Please excuse me for a moment; I just need to be available for my family. After all, family is precious!” Wouldn’t that be a loving thing to do? 

But what if Jesus was in the middle of a key explanation and felt it would be unloving to his avid listeners to abruptly interrupt his teaching? If that were the case, maybe he could have said something like, “Tell my mom I can’t come right now, but I’ll come home to see her and my brothers as soon as I’m done.” 

But this is not what Jesus said or did. Jesus responded by making this arresting statement: “Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” And later he brings up the subject of family again, telling the listening crowd: “Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9). 

Jesus’ love was universal, embracing not just his family members but all humanity.

So, was Jesus being harsh and unloving toward his family? It might seem that way, but it is clear from the complete body of Jesus’ teachings that his love was universal, embracing not just his family members but all humanity. And it’s good to remember that later, when Jesus was on the cross, he made provision for the disciple “whom he loved” to care for his mother (see John 19:25–27). So his statements about family must have been meant as an expression of love for all humanity and a revealing of spiritual truth. 

What Jesus was really teaching in both of these statements had to do with imparting the right spiritual sense of family. Jesus taught that our origin is not in matter but in God, Spirit. This is why in the prayer he gave us, which we call the Lord’s Prayer, he addressed God as “our Father”—because our origin is in God. As Mary Baker Eddy observed in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Jesus acknowledged no ties of the flesh” (p. 31). Jesus refused to acknowledge that the union of a mortal man and a mortal woman could ever be the source of our real being. He recognized only one cause, God, and one effect of this all-good cause, man (each one of us). God is the source of our being and our only true Parent.

In Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy further explains our spiritual origin: “In Science man is the offspring of Spirit. The beautiful, good, and pure constitute his ancestry. His origin is not, like that of mortals, in brute instinct, nor does he pass through material conditions prior to reaching intelligence. Spirit is his primitive and ultimate source of being; God is his Father, and Life is the law of his being” (p. 63). She also wrote, in a later chapter, “Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation” (p. 332).

By identifying the source of our existence as purely spiritual, purely divine, we are recognizing our real nature and identity as also purely spiritual and not material. We thereby refuse to accept a material identity, including so-called material sicknesses and sins, as having anything to do with our true identity. 

Human theories about heredity claim that we may suffer from certain psychological or physical traits or illnesses that our parents or ancestors suffered from yesterday. If we are not vigilant, we may allow these theories about heredity to impact our thinking and experience, establishing a supposed cause for us to suffer today. 

But when Jesus refused to recognize mortal parents as the source of our being, he was actually showing humanity the way to experience deliverance from the many ills associated with beliefs in heredity and in a cause other than God, good. Our true being—having its source in God and not in mortal parents—cannot possibly suffer from so-called hereditary diseases, which are not inherited from God. So, let’s refuse to consent to false beliefs of heredity by affirming and understanding our only real heritage as divine.

God is the source of our being and our only true Parent.

We do have a Father. We do have a Mother. Yes. The source of our being and of our identity is our divine Father-Mother God, the divine Principle, who is Love.

Because of this divine heritage, we each include and can express qualities of God such as strength, dominion, intelligence, creativity, and love. These qualities, and all of God’s infinite spiritual qualities, have their source in our Father-Mother God, and are included in our nature as God’s reflection. This is our true, precious heritage.

Referring to this divine heritage, Jesus said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). As God’s beloved children, we do reflect all of God’s unlimited qualities, and we reflect God’s perfection.

As we understand more of our divine heritage, our lives reflect more of this spiritual reality and perfection, so this understanding helps us to prevent or alleviate suffering as well as to heal.

One night our toddler woke up exhibiting symptoms of disease. My children had experienced many physical healings through prayer in the past, so it was natural for me to turn once again to God, good, in prayer to find comfort and healing.

As I was praying for my daughter, the family member I was staying with, who was not a student of Christian Science, decided to call a night shift pediatrician to describe the symptoms. The doctor made some recommendations and asked that the child be brought to the emergency room if things did not improve quickly. 

However, these recommendations were not necessary because by the end of the phone call my daughter had fallen asleep peacefully. So, I put her back to bed. She slept through the night and woke up happy the next morning. The symptoms had significantly lessened, although it appeared that normal bodily functions still brought her some discomfort. So I comforted her as best I could, and I continued to pray. 

In my prayer, the idea that came to my thought was very clear: God, good, is her only Father. This meant that her identity, being, and health were dependent on God, good, the source of her being. I became aware that my job was to realize that she was fully taken care of by God. After a few minutes of praying in this way and yielding to God’s parenting of my daughter, I felt completely at peace. Shortly after this, my daughter was able to have normal bodily functions again without any pain. She exclaimed with joy, “I’m healed; it’s not painful anymore!” We rejoiced together, and that was the end of the physical condition, which never recurred. She was fully healed.

Refusing, like Jesus, to acknowledge any ties of the flesh, and instead recognizing our only real Parent as God, we are not being harsh toward our human family. We can and should still love and care for them—in fact, even more so because we know that they, too, are God’s children. At the same time, we are affirming and understanding our own true identity as spiritual. And that spiritual understanding brings healing for us and for the whole human family.

Christ in the classroom
July 16, 2018

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