There is no biblical record of Jesus or Paul being married or having biological
children, yet Paul considered himself a spiritual Father, which is more important than being a biological Father.
(1 Timothy 1:2,18; 2 Timothy 1:2; 2:1; Titus 1:4)
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior
and of Christ Jesus our hope, 2 To Timothy my true son in the faith: 3 As
I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines
any longer...18 Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping
with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, 19 holding on
to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. (1 Timothy 1)
Timothy wasn't his biological son, but Paul called him his 'true son in the faith'
4 To Titus, my true son in our common faith: (Titus 1)
Jesus makes it clear that for us, being a child in the faith and parenting
spiritual children is much more important than having biological children that don't ever follow Jesus.
Catholics don't like to hear that Mary was really a disciple of Jesus rather
than the mother of God and that our real brothers and Mothers are those that do the will of God.
"19 Now Jesus' mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not
able to get near him because of the crowd. 20 Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside,
wanting to see you." 21 He replied, "My mother and brothers are those who hear
God's word and put it into practice." (Luke 8, NIV)
"51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but
division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two
and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter
and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." (Luke
So should churches be preaching and praising biological Motherhood, which only
some will ever realize, or discipleship/following Jesus daily, which all that call themselves Christians should
be practicing and modelling?
Being spiritual parents and disciples are what Christ commands of us.
1 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ
Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust
to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. 3 Endure hardship
with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets
involved in civilian affairs--he wants to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, if anyone competes as an
athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. (2 Timothy 2:2)
BJ Maxwell 05/14/2006
Quote from Article Below: "...there are those women who will never be mothers and
yet who are affecting lives— 'mothering' others—in remarkable ways. And there are those mothers whose style
doesn’t line up with this popular idealization of motherhood, preached in American churches and touted in greeting cards,
but who are nevertheless quite remarkable. "
Now the Rrrrrrrest of the Story:
1. Should we preach motherhood
There is a tendency on
Mother’s Day to sentimentalize motherhood. Churches, in their preaching on that day, generally take as their text
some generalization of the ideal mother and celebrate that ideal. I don’t know that I can say with any confidence
what the effect of this kind of preaching is. But I do know that it causes a number of problems.
While there is among us a handful who
are mothers of young children right now, and there are others who will be in the future—and we want to encourage and
guide them in their ministry of motherhood—sentimentalizing motherhood is rarely helpful to Christian discipleship.
And churches, at least churches who take the Bible seriously, are first and foremost concerned with following Jesus rather
than some generalization of what it means to be a good person or a good American or a good mother. And so, on Mother’s
Day, we remember that we preach Jesus Christ first and motherhood or childhood or fatherhood second. And that is good
news for a number of reasons.
First, there are children, young and
old, whose mothers don’t or didn’t measure up to a sentimentalizing of motherhood—and never will.
A focus on some generalized form of American motherhood only adds insult to injury. There are mothers who know they
don’t measure up. In spite of the nice words spoken of them, they still feel like failures—they’ve
done things, said things, experienced things that bring them pain. And they can’t outrun that. Cards, gifts,
flowers can’t change that.
Second, there are those who don’t
come to church in order to be told how to honor their mothers. They want to find their own ways to express themselves.
It’s true that some of us need to be told to do so—so forgetful are we and preoccupied that we’d
easily neglect those expressions of love and gratitude that we ought as daughters and sons offer to those who gave us life
and who, in good or bad ways, nevertheless nurtured us to be who we are today. And there isn’t a single one of
us who doesn’t possess some kind of inner, God-given beauty. We all have become someone we can give thanks for.
And without our mothers we simply would not be.
And then third, there are those women
who will never be mothers and yet who are affecting lives—“mothering” others—in remarkable ways.
And there are those mothers whose style doesn’t line up with this popular idealization of motherhood, preached in American
churches and touted in greeting cards, but who are nevertheless quite remarkable. The preaching of American motherhood
doesn’t describe them even though the effect these unconventional mothers have on others ought to be celebrated.
Should we preach a sentimentalized motherhood,
we’d describe only a tiny few and we wouldn’t need to hear the gospel. Motherhood, as described across America
doesn’t need the gospel to be motherhood. Churches don’t have any business leaving the gospel behind.
2. What the Bible says about motherhood
Isn’t it interesting
that the Bible never idealizes motherhood the way so many do? Some of the Bible’s most heroic mothers were quite
unconventional by our standards. Sarah, wife of Abraham, mother of Isaac, wasn’t a mother until very, very late
in life. And even then, though she could be generous and clever, she was also rather cantankerous, unkind, cynical,
and often sullen. Mary, mother of Jesus, was terribly young and unmarried until after she learned she was pregnant.
Not much is made in the Bible of their motherhood. But much is made of what their lives produced. Much is made
of the way God worked through their lives and the men their sons became. Much is made of the singular fact that
when the chips were down they trusted God. Much, very much indeed, is made of the truth that they lived by faith and
that God worked through them when they had no idea whatsoever about what to do next.
The Bible gives us no list of their qualities.
No book written about their method of mothering. No key to their success. Instead, we have a witness to the simple
fact that they, like us, did the best they could with what life gave them (and this is what the Bible says about all those
whose lives it narrates). They were not perfect, and frankly it was their imperfection that made
them “saints.” Holiness worked its mystery in and through them in spite of themselves, and maybe precisely
because they weren’t trying to be perfect.
This is what the Bible says about motherhood.
And if the church is to talk about motherhood, the Bible gives us little more to say than this.
3. Motherhood is first of all discipleship
All this helps us get to
our text for the day. I’ve not gone hunting for good texts to offer to you on this Mother’s Day. Instead,
I think the Christian Year and the texts that walk us through the gospel story offer us a very good way to think biblically
about motherhood today, and today’s text is a wonderful way for us to get motherhood right.
Today is the seventh Sunday after Easter.
It is the Sunday after the Ascension of the Lord Jesus “up into heaven”. And it is the Sunday before
Pentecost, the Sunday we testify to the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out upon us, empowering and sending us as vibrant,
daring witnesses to the good news of Easter—God’s gift of life and freedom for a world trapped by sin and death.
On this Sunday we read the first chapter
of the Acts of the Apostles. And if you wish, this first chapter is a way for us as Christians to contribute something of
real value to the holiday America celebrates this day. This chapter is about the kind of mothers the gospel wants in
the world because it tells us about the kind of disciples the gospel wants to send into the world.
In the first chapter of Acts, the disciples
are given a promise. “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit,” Jesus tells them. Motherhood
cannot be separated from this, not if it is to be Christian. Motherhood is first of all discipleship. And discipleship
gets its marching orders from texts like this one.
What is interesting about this text is
that it shows the disciples in such a poor light. Disciples, according to the Bible, often don’t get it.
That was true while Jesus was on the road to Jerusalem. It is true now after the resurrection. It will be true
after Pentecost. There are no perfect images of disciples in the Bible, unless it’s true that the perfect disciple
is one who is not perfect at all.
Jesus gives the disciples a promise—the
“Holy Spirit will come upon you” and you will go “to the ends of the earth”—but
they ask Jesus, “is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” Mothers are often
concerned about the home front. Are there enough clean clothes? Is the refrigerator full enough? Is the
house clean enough? Are we paying the bills? These aren’t small things. They are what make a family
run. And disciples of all kinds are right to be concerned about them. When the home is in crisis, mothers, by
and large, worry and work to restore it, to bring it to order, to make it home again. For a good home means safety and
security. A good home is a place to heal and grow.
Mothers who worry about these things
are like the disciples in our text. Israel is a mess and has been for quite some time. And the disciples are right
to wonder if it’s time to put things back in order, to make Israel home again—safe, secure, a place to heal and
But Jesus says nothing about restoration,
he’s not much interested in the home front. He doesn’t answer their question at all. At least not
in the way they want. And this is important. Jesus avoids their question entirely and instead reiterates his promise,
this time pressing it further: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my
witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Jesus doesn’t seem
interest at all in restoring the house, but in expanding it, knocking down its walls, moving the family to . . . Brazil.
And to us his words are disturbing; what he’s talking about is bound to be messy and chaotic and even dangerous.
Mothers-as-disciples it seems will need to get used to life lived on the edge. It will be the way of life for those
called and sent by Jesus.
4. Is chaos closer to the kingdom than we think?
There’s one more feature about this text that I consider important.
The text tells us that “certain
women including Mary the mother of Jesus” heard Jesus say all these things while they were together with the other
disciples outside the city on the “mount called Olivet.” Why did Jesus meet them outside the city?
Earlier he entered the “room upstairs where they were staying” in Jerusalem and taught them.
Why did they all have to leave the city
this time around?
I think Jesus knows how easy it is to
become preoccupied with home life. It’s as true for mothers as it is for fathers. It’s as true for
church members as it is for pastors. But Jesus does not want us to focus on the home or on the family. Focused
there, we’ll never leave; the family, the home, the life of the congregation are never restored well enough for us to
be satisfied; mothers can never manage them to perfection. Instead, Jesus dares us to focus on “the ends of
the earth” (compare Isaiah 49.1-6 as the way the Isaiah literature challenges Israel to reimagine its life missionally).
I think he knows that if our focus is directed there—missionally and not just domestically—the other things will
follow accordingly. “Why do you worry?” Jesus asks elsewhere. “Seek first the kingdom
and all these things will be given to you as well.”
And so, Jesus has his disciples meet
him outside the city, beyond their homes, plunged deep in the world where he is sending them. Of course they “return”
home again. As they should, as they do in this text. But I’ve a hunch they’re not as worried about
vacuuming and shopping and the laundry as they once were. I have a hunch they live more loosely with the details they
once tried to control. I think they laugh more, precisely because their praying keeps them close to the heart
of God and farther from their own anxieties.
I wonder if this text invites us to wonder
if it’s possible that those mothers whose lives and homes are messy, in disarray, and tilted toward the chaotic may
well be closer to the kingdom than they realize. Is it possible that their lives are being pressed and prodded and kept
off balance by the Holy Spirit? Is it possible that the mess they often look out upon with frustration and sometimes
with shame is more holy than they think?
Could the same be said of the rest of
us who consider ourselves disciples of this Jesus—disciples who, “when the Holy Spirit has come upon us,”
are able to give up our anxieties over so many smaller things we’ll never control anyway?