When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, he began with something profound, “Our Father in heaven” (Mt. 6:9). We can often take that relationship for granted, as something that comes by right through our own relationship with the Son of God. And while Jesus’ relationship with His Father is indeed the lynchpin making any relationship with God possible, some have gone so far as to “casualize” this relationship to the point of quasi-equality. More than that, in the church, we tend to throw around the terms “brother” and “sister” quite regularly. For some, they come close to turning into a mere title. All this is very unfortunate. A relationship with Jesus should indeed be a family relationship. But Jesus Himself noted that this relationship does not consist of the light bonds of familiarity we often associate with family today in a world that increasingly does not respect God’s way for the home. Jesus lifted family to a higher level than this.
On one occasion,
While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.” But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and 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” (Mt. 12:46-50).
When God created the home and the roles associated with it, He intended from the beginning to create a model for His own relationship with us. To be part of the family of God requires submitting to the will and wisdom of the Father. And when people do this, in the true spirit of discipleship, they build a bond stronger than any earthly tie could hope to offer.
However, this submission that ties us to Jesus is not a simple declaration or a passing fancy. Not in the least! Rather, it requires a depth of devotion to the will of God that Jesus recognizes is patterned after His own life. When Jesus–our model of sonship–faced the most difficult challenge of His life, He did not argue, He did not complain, and He did not rebel. To the contrary, “He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will'” (Mt. 26:39).
It is essential to note that our family tie to God is not fulfilled in the prayer requesting an easing of our burdens but in the acceptance of God’s will–regardless of what it requires. Therefore, each time we consider our love for God and what it means to be His children, we must do so through the eyes of Jesus and the devotion He gave throughout His life. It is only then that our relationship has the spiritual depth of a heavenly Father with a spiritual child. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
Our devotion should, then, bring us close enough to identify with the Father, His Son, the words of His Spirit, and with one another–entirely. In his epistle to the Romans, Paul described this devotion as the only appropriate response to all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ, saying,
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom. 12:1-2).