“How do I do what this says?” lingers in every man, woman, and child who wants to honor God—every person who reads Mark 3:35 and really desires to be the person who does the will of God. Jesus, in normal fashion, is told his family is looking for him and then challenges the concept of who his true family is.
32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:32-35).
Joseph Hellerman, pastor and professor, summarizes this passage well.
Jesus radically challenged His disciples to disavow primary loyalty to their natural families in order to join a new surrogate family of siblings He was establishing—the family of God. Relationships among God’s children were to take priority over blood family ties (Hellerman, When the Church Was a Family, 64).
Two questions come to me from this passage. First: What is the new relationship Jesus establishes? Second: How do we do the will of God? We’ll look at both, with specific attention to the second.
WHAT IS THE NEW RELATIONSHIP JESUS ESTABLISHES?
This is where I go back to Hellerman. His thoughts on this subject help greatly. If I asked you about your God-given priorities, what would you say? If you were trained like me, you’d say this:
- God, first.
- Family, second.
- Church, third.
- Everything else, fourth.
Makes sense, and fits within our constructs; but the order still doesn’t seem to reflect what Jesus spoke of in Mark 3, does it? Jesus uses familial language, not individual language. He says, “Those who do my father’s will are my family.” That’s the problem with the way we prioritize “what God’s will is” as God, family, church, others.
Hellerman changes and redefines the order based upon Mark 3 and the strong family language. His list goes like like this (When the Church Was a Family, 74):
- God’s Family
- My Family
To be honest, this seems much more like Jesus’ vision for his people than what we often communicate. Jesus redefined his family and that should have implication for us, shouldn’t it? We communicate a “What did God tell you?” mentality, not a “What is God telling us?” mentality. That changes things, specifically in seeking the will of God. Which leads to the second question.
HOW DO WE DO THE WILL OF GOD?
This is a trickier one. Again, an individualistic way of answering that question would be, “Get your Bible, go somewhere by yourself, hear what God says, and do it. Forget what other people think or care about. It is about obedience.” But Jesus challenges us here. He keeps the family language, and I think we would be wise to keep that in our thinking when it comes to finding, and doing, the will of God.
Sunday, I shared three filters that I use and that I believe are helpful for understanding this.
- The Word of God: This should be a simple one. Much of how God wants us to live and act is clear from the Scriptures. “Should I kill this person?” “Probably not” (Ex 20:13). “Should I be generous or not generous?” “Be generous” (Prov 11:24-25). “I’m angry.” “Ok, don’t be angry too long, and do not sin in your anger” (Eph 4:26-27). The Bible answers many of our “What does God want?” questions. But there are some that aren’t so clear. That’s where the second filter comes in.
- The People of God: Other people who love God and want to do his will (think: the other people who want to live out Mark 3:35) should also be a part of how you think. Go to them, life exposed, and ask their thoughts. The issue is never insignificant. One time I was frustrated with a bad vehicle. It was breaking. I wanted it replaced. I was a few steps away from impulsively buying (well, borrowing money to buy) a new one. I brought the frustration to other folks. “What should I do?” “Hmm. Sounds like you’re being impulsive. I think it’d be better if you just got the car fixed and then saved up for another one.” Made sense. Even in something like that—seemingly inconsequential—we need others to speak into it so as to not go haywire. But even then, people might be divided. So here comes the third filter.
- Prayer: What is borne through times of prayer? What does the Holy Spirit confirm? This isn’t to say that you don’t pray with the first two filters, but if it is clear in the Scriptures, is prayer as necessary? “God, please reveal to me if I should steal or not.” “I have.” “Please affirm my desire to marry someone who does not believe in you.” “No.” We pray always, but sometimes we pray for things God has made abundantly clear in hopes that we change his mind.
These three have helped me time and time again. They are the reason I did things like, (1) take an internship at the Chapel for a summer (leaving Courtney in Dallas), (2) came to pastor the Oaks, (3) started my new school program, (4) didn’t buy that car I was so sure I’d buy, and countless other small and large things.
Don’t seek God’s will by yourself. That wasn’t what Jesus wanted.