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A Hundred Mothers

A Hundred Mothers

Hello Church Family,

I hope you’re enjoying a break from your normal routine. It’s Thanksgiving morning as I write this piece, and I’m sitting on my couch, snacking on warm orange rolls, skillfully prepared by my daughter. In a few hours, we’ll head out to spend the day with friends from Northpoint. Over the course of several hours, we’ll eat, play some games, eat some more, watch some football, and eat again.

We have no relatives within 2,000 miles of us. But we’re not without family.

People sometimes ask me, “Is it hard living so far from family?” And the honest answer is: sometimes it is. Particularly during the holiday season, it would be nice to see parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. But in the presence of friends I am reminded of the words of Jesus:

“Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

Contrary to one popular interpretation, this is not a promise of immediate material blessing for the faithful disciple of Jesus. (It would certainly be a dubious guarantee, given that Jesus had just reiterated twice, in the same breath, that it would be nearly impossible for rich people to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.) No, the blessings that Jesus promises are found in the faith community, the Church.

We leave our parents and siblings but become part of a bigger family, with new sisters, brothers and mothers. We give up our resources but are adopted by the Father, who provides us with everything we need in Christ. We surrender the comforts of well-known streets and childhood friends but gain the assurance of knowing the presence of God. We lose some things by our geographical separation from relatives but gain so much more from God’s gracious hand.

New Testament scholar James Edwards writes, “Our most essential natural network of relationships and allegiances—homes, families, and fields—must be forsaken, for the scandalous call of Christ takes priority over them. … But to conceive of discipleship solely in terms of its costs and sacrifices is to conceive of it wrongly—as though in marrying a beautiful bride a young man would think only of what he was giving up. The sacrifices [we make] in leaving ‘homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields’ to follow Jesus are nothing compared to the returns we will receive in the community of faith now and in heaven in the life to come.”

As those who have left our family and our “land,” Jenine and I have experienced the truth of Jesus’ words first-hand. We have hundreds of brothers and sisters here in Southern California, dozens of fathers and mothers, and grandparents who encourage and pray for us. We even have some crazy uncles we never asked for! We cherish those relationships and regard these extended relatives as nothing less than family.

Whether your plan is to spend this Thanksgiving with your mom and dad, or biological siblings, or if you’re thousands of miles from anyone who shares your family history, if you are in Christ, you are not alone. You are surrounded by family. And that’s something for which to give thanks.

In Him,

Pastor John