Check your sources, folks.
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
In the movie Princess Bride, Mandy Patinkin’s character finally speaks up after hearing Wallace Shawn’s character utter the word “inconceivable” in response to every single plot twist. After more than a dozen times, it’s definitely no longer “inconceivable,” and it’s getting pretty darn annoying.
If anyone is going to be using a word or phrase ad nauseam, they should make sure they have a real solid understanding of it.
Take note, Christians, especially, when it comes to the oft repeated term “Family Values.”
For when we look in scripture, we would be hard pressed to find any examples of the nuclear family (see image). The story of family is always a little more complicated, and often includes a few extra characters. Moral outrage would ensue if some of these characters showed up in the stick figure family on your minivan window (see Genesis 16:2).
In the teaching and life of Jesus that we find in the gospels, the concept of family shifts in a shockingly different direction. Up to this point in history, family was defined by birth, marriage, or purchase (yes, I mean slavery). One’s family and their place in it determined and defined all things. One’s responsibility to family was paramount.
Then along comes Jesus.
And when the family of his birth comes asking for him, Jesus responds only with, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
And to the man wanting to bury his father, Jesus says, “let the dead bury their own dead.”
To the one who wants to first say goodbye to his family before following Jesus, it’s basically “well, forget you, then.”
To be family in Christ is to be liberated from family in the conventional sense. Members of the family of Christ are set free from the expectations and responsibilities, the roles and the hierarchy, the traditions and the norms. Not just set free from the old, but set free for something new. These men and women are set free to be part of a new family that defies every prior definition.
And throughout the gospel of Luke we see this family adding to its membership:
Fisherman, strangers with unclean spirits or leprosy, the sick and the ones with all manner of disability, tax collectors and enemies, the dead, the hungry, all the single ladies, children, foreigners and pagans, lost ones, the poor, the blind, the curious tree climbers, the sinners.
And this family is full of surprises. The Samaritans who reject Jesus in this passage are just a short time later lifted up as the “good” example of how one should relate to another. The disciples, so quick to call down fire from heaven as judgment against the Samaritans, will later find themselves on the receiving end of mercy and forgiveness.