An Analysis of Family Structures as Depicted in the Synoptic Gospels
Antson, Joel Antson
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There are many other passages that could be analyzed and a lot more that could be said, but due to the capacity of this thesis, I have just sketched some of the most important aspects of Jesus’ actions and teachings that redefine the meaning of “family” for his contemporaries. Keeping in mind the Mediterranean social values, Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God and his new fictive family, is, indeed, highly polemic and opposing to the cultural norms. On the other hand, he does not distance himself from them entirely but also uses the cultural values in the service of his proclamation in order to be more understandable for his audience. It seems that it is not just important to oppose the culture and its prevailing values but to submit completely to doing God’s will. But as the oppressive values and systems are at cross-purpose with God’s ideals, he confronts them. The central focus of the alternative community is the love of God embodied in the serving acts of Jesus exemplary to the disciples. The new values of Jesus-movement that stand out are love for one’s neighbors and enemies and valuing people over dysfunctional and restrictive systems. The community should be known for the full surrender to the perfect and merciful Father and doing his will. These are the characteristics that make the disciples great. This revolutionary family, guided by the foretold values, is not held together by social tension or oppressive values but allegiance and complete attachment to God and love for each other, thus contrasting with the highly dysfunctional Mediterranean family and bringing healing to the families, relationships, and the society as a whole. Although surpassing the boundaries of what family meant for the agrarian people, Jesus by no means denounces family relations but makes a case for a kingdom that flows into, affects, and becomes visible in any previous relations one had before. Therefore, it is not just the Church as an institution that should embody such values, but the community of individual yet relational believers who spread and live them out in their everyday lives in relation to all of their relationships, including their family-relations. His focus is not on discounting all social and power relations, but bringing change to them, a change that values people above wealth, honor, and power. The household of God with its reordered value judgment becomes an example for human society “in contrast to the negative leadership exemplified by the exploitation by the rich elite and the temple.”218 This kind of oikos that is defined mainly by vulnerability and service “runs counter to a social structure that advances persons with access to wealth, power, authority, and even purity to the highest levels of the social order” because the majority of the population with no access to these resources stayed stuck at the bottom of the social hierarchy.219 The main aim and focus of people’s lives shift from the obsession from honor/shame orientation to a new family with a broadened inclusion and different focal values. Serving and doing God’s will, not the ultimate concern for increasing the family honor, becomes the starting point and the foundation of God’s family.