God places us all in families. We are all part of something larger than ourselves. The physical family unit is one part of our social network, but people of faith are also put into a spiritual family. While he was teaching the disciples on one occasion his mother and brothers appeared to bring him home. When he was informed of their presence he said, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he 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” (Matthew 12:48-50). There is some commentators that insist that “Jesus set a clear priority on the spiritual family over the biological family (Mark 3:32–35). In some respects the spiritual family is the model for the biological family rather than the other way around.”

In Paul’s one chapter letter to a man named Philemon, probably residing in and part of the church family in Colossae, Paul frequently uses family references in identifying his addressees. He calls the men “brothers” four times. He refers to women as sisters twice. He calls God the Father three times and makes references to a church that meets in a home twice as well. In verse 10, Paul identifies himself as a spiritual father and the individual he lead to faith as his child. He writes, “I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.” Referring to the families allusions in this one short chapter, Martin (Believer’s Church Bible Commentary) says the family is the most important allusion regarding the church. He writes, “This seems to be the dominant figure (e.g., Mark 3:33–35; Luke 22:32; Rom. 8:15–17, 29; 1 Tim. 5:1–2; Heb. 2:11–18); it is used more extensively than body or building or any other analogies. The family imagery fits with Paul’s comments on entrance by birth or adoption, and on relationships of nurture, sharing, and love.”

In Jesus’ dealings with the religious leaders, he condemned the religion that focused on external rituals void of real fruit. He even cursed that tree who had the fanfare of leaves but no real fruit. Unlike the religious leaders, as Geddert (Commentary on Mark) put it, “The spiritual family that Jesus brings together focuses on trusting and unobstructed relationships with God, and open and reconciled relationships among believers. The true community of Jesus may not decorate itself with a great show of leaves, but on its branches hangs the genuine fruit that Jesus seeks. It may not create impressive ceremonies and rituals in a magnificent temple, but it will be a spiritual family, each brother and sister bound to the other through a common relationship to the one God.” The fruits of a spiritual family are comprised of individuals who trusts together, believes together, prays together, forgives each other, and celebrates God’s forgiveness together. So the truths taught us about our spiritual families become the very lessons that we need to bring back home into our physical families.