THE CONDITIONS OF KINSHIP
His mother and his brothers came. They stood outside and sent someone in with a message to him. The crowd were sitting round him. “Look!” they said, “your mother and your brothers are outside inquiring for you.” “Who” he answered, “is my mother and my brothers?” He looked round those who were sitting in a circle round about him. “Look!” he said, “my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will, he is my brother, my sister and my mother.”
Here Jesus lays down the conditions of true kinship. It is not solely a matter of flesh and blood. It can happen that a man is really nearer to someone who is no blood relation to him at all than he is to those who are bound to him by the closest ties of kin and blood. Wherein lies this true kinship?
(i) True kinship lies in a common experience, especially when it is an experience where two people have really come through things together. It has been said that two people really become friends when they are able to say to each other, “Do you remember?” and then to go on and talk about the things they have come through together. Someone once met an old negro woman. An acquaintance of hers had died. “You will be sorry,” he said, “that Mrs. So-and-so is dead.” “Yes,” she said but without showing any great grief. “I saw you just last week,” he said, “laughing and talking with each other. You must have been great friends.” “Yes,” she said, “I was friendly with her. I used to laugh with her; but to be real friends folk have got to weep together.” That is profoundly true. The basis of true kinship lies in a common experience, and Christians have the common experience of being forgiven sinners.
(ii) True kinship lies in a common interest. A. M. Chirgwin tells us a very interesting thing in The Bible in World Evangelism. One of the greatest difficulties that colporteurs and distributors of the Scriptures have is not so much to sell their books as to keep people reading them. He goes on, “A colporteur in pre-Communist China had for years been in the habit of going from shop to shop and house to house. But he was often disappointed because many of his new Bible readers lost their zeal, until he hit upon the plan of putting them in touch with one another and forming them into a worshipping group which in time became a duly organized Church.” Only when these isolated units became part of a group which was bound together by a common interest did real kinship come into being. Christians have that common interest because they are all people who desire to know more about Jesus Christ.
(iii) True kinship lies in a common obedience. The disciples were a very mixed group. All kinds of beliefs and opinions were mixed up among them. A tax-collector like Matthew and a fanatical nationalist like Simon the Zealot ought to have hated each other like poison and no doubt at one time did. But they were bound together because both had accepted Jesus Christ as Master and Lord. Any platoon of soldiers will be made up of men from different backgrounds and from different walks of life and holding very different opinions; yet, if they are long enough together, they will be welded into a band of comrades because of the common obedience which they all share. Men can become friends of each other when they share a common master. Men can love each other only when they all love Jesus Christ.
(iv) True kinship lies in a common goat There is nothing for binding men together like a common aim. Here there is a great lesson for the church. A. M. Chirgwin, talking of renewed interest in the Bible, asks, does this “point to the possibility of a new approach to the ecumenical problem based on biblical rather than on ecclesiastical considerations?” The churches will never draw together so long as they argue about the ordination of their ministers, the form of church government, the administration of the sacraments and all the rest of it. The one thing on which they can all come together is the fact that all of them are seeking to win men for Jesus Christ. If kinship comes from a common goal then Christians above all men possess its secret, for all are seeking to know Christ better and to bring others within his Kingdom. Wherever else we differ, on that we can agree.
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