Introduction. Read Matthew12: 46-50

Many Christians belong to families whose members are not all believers. This results in temptations, misunderstandings, disagreements, clashes and unhappiness. It is interesting to note that Jesus himself was not immune from the problems caused by a divided family.

(1) Family Division. While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside. 12:46.

There are instances in the early months of Jesus' ministry that his mother and brothers were quite prepared to give him advice. Mary wanted Jesus to display his power at the marriage of Cana. As far as she was concerned it was about time Jesus began to fulfil his promise. Jesus' brothers urged him to go to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles in order to display his power and win the approval of the people who mattered. John records: For even his own brothers did not believe in him. Jn7v5.

A situation arises during Jesus' teaching ministry when he arrives at a house and so many flock to hear him that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind." Mk3v20and21. Jesus mother and his older brothers doubtless considered Jesus was overdoing it. They thought his schedule was crazy and he needed protecting from his own good nature. So the family turned up to rescue him. They probably thought Jesus was his own worst enemy.

These incidents in the life of Christ illustrate three characteristics of non-Christian members of a family:

(a) There is a reluctance to attend Christian meetings. Jesus' mother and brothers were not at his teaching meeting. They hadn't been listening to Jesus. The non-Christians of a family will keep their distance from public worship and query why there is any necessity to attend any sort of mid-week service. To go to such services is bordering on the fanatical.

(b) They question the sanity of family members who are very, very keen to serve and worship Jesus - who give themselves totally to his cause. I have just finished reading the biography of the great evangelist, George Whitefield. For long periods he preached every day, sometimes twice a day, in sickness and in health. The only thing that stopped him preaching the gospel was death!

My father, who was a Christian, for a time tried to dissuade his son, Paul, from becoming a Grace Baptist pastor. This was not by any means his finest hour.

(c) Sometimes the non-Christians in the family do show some common sense. It is interesting that after the arrival of Jesus' mother and brothers Jesus did leave the house, got into a boat, put a little way from shore and then proceded to teach the people. This was a far more comfortable arrangement for everyone concerned.

(2) Family obligations. Someone told him (Jesus), "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, waiting to speak to you." 12:47.

It seems likely that Jesus' family expected him to break off what he was doing and give them a private audience when they would try and get him to go home for a rest.

Quite often family expectations and obligations conflict with our duty to serve Jesus and support his church. Regular church attendance can cause conflict with non-Christian adult children who want to pay visits on a Sunday. Wouldn't it be wonderful if they agreed to attend their parent's church as part of their visit. But, it isn't usually the non-believers who compromise!!

Things are very different now than in the early years of the 20th century. Once the children of missionaries to China reached the age of about 6 or 7 they were left in England for years without seeing their parents. I can recall going to school in the 1950s with two brothers who were the children of Brethren missionaries. They were looked after, with a few others, in a small home associated with the West Road Brethren assembly in Bury St Edmunds.

(3) The spiritual family. He replied to him, "Who is my mother and who are my brothers?" Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and brothers."

Jesus took the opportunity provided by a common-place event to teach an important spiritual lesson. It is something that I liked to do when conducting a school assembly. The three Victorias. Jesus taught a hugely important lesson on being interrupted by his mother and brothers namely, that a Christian belongs to two families. He or she does belong to a natural family, with all its obligations, but also to God's family through faith and by adoption.

Jesus taught us to commence his famous prayer, "Our Father ..... ." Every Christian is a child of God. This relationship is more important than any relationship with members of our natural family. The writer to the Hebrews writes: Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the SAME family, so Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. Heb2v11.

It is a great privilege to be God's child and the brother of Jesus. It is a relationship that:

  • Can never be earned or deserved. It is by grace and through faith that God adopts us into his family. Yet to all who received him (Jesus), to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or of a husband's will, but born of God. John1v12and13.

  • Is more important than the ties that bind us to our natural family. These may be very, very strong but the only relationship that survives death is the one we have with Jesus and all those who believe in him.

    Sadly, not all those we love in the flesh, our nearest and dearest, will be saved for all eternity. Christians know this - and it is, perhaps, their greatest sorrow. There are even some who are attracted to Jesus who abandon their faith because they do not want to spend eternity apart from their spouse!

  • Means we have an obligation to Jesus, and those he loves, as members of God's family.

If we just consider the Lord's Prayer there are three things we should try and do for our brothers and sisters:

  • Ensure that they do not lack life's necessities. If it is God's will that every believer has life's necessities we should play our part in making sure this is so.

  • Forgive those who upset us. We are invited in Jesus' prayer to remember how much God has forgiven us. This should be the greatest encouragement to have a forgiving spirit. Oh, that more Christians who rely on grace, would extend grace. I love this story: An almost perfect day.

  • Resist leading others into temptation. We can lead others into temptation by being thoughtless, discouraging and judgmental. I wonder if Christians who stop away from church every time a certain member of the fellowship conducts the service realise how they combine with Satan to test a man to the limits.

(4) A family characteristic. "For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

It is very unlikely that all the sons of one man will share his outstanding physical feature. Two of my brothers and I share our father's baldness but the youngest son bucks the trend with a fine head of ginger hair!

Every Christian should be like Jesus in seeking to do the will of the Father in heaven. Jesus said, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." Jn4v34. He taught us to say, and to mean: "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Our top priority should be to obey Jesus and to perform God's will because this is what defines us as Christians. Jesus said: "Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down and shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Lk6v38. Do we give good measure? My great uncle Bill was a greengrocer who gave exact measure. He would even cut a sprout in half to achieve the desired result. My grandfather was also a greengrocer. He had a stall on Ipswich market where he always gave a little extra - until his wife sacked him for reducing profits to a catastrophic low level.

What a blessing to receive good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. Last week I went into my local Lloyds bank to cash a cheque. The cashiers are often a bit sniffy about cashing cheques - but on this occasion I was greeted with a smile and a few friendly words of greeting. Without asking, the cashier counted out 200 in a variety of notes. He said, "I like to give the customer a good selection." It quite made my day.

It is both a privilege and responsibility to be a child of God. Paul writes to the Corinthians: We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. 1 Cor5v20. However, it is not easy to be in the will of God as Christ was. The apostle Peter summarises what it takes in his first epistle: Be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. ... Love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. ..... Serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. Speak ..... as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. 1Pet4v7to11.

I love the story of: A Gracious Publican. I think the publican in my true anecdote served and showed grace to a poor, confused, old widow.