For many, Mother's Day is a joyous occasion to honor our mothers and pay them special respect. But for many, this holiday can open up painful memories or wounds. I speak specifically to those who are motherless. It may be that your mother abandoned you. It may be that you are estranged from your mother for whatever reason. Or it could simply be that you no longer have your mother with you - whether it be that she has died or you live far from her. The Scriptures and the grand truths they convey to us provide a balm for the wearied soul for those who may find themselves in dark places this Mother's Day.
Paul ends his letter to the Romans with a series of greetings to those in the church in Rome. One of those greetings that stand out to me is verse 13 of chapter 16. It reads:
"Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well." Romans 16:13
It helps to understand that before Paul became a Christian he was a staunch Pharisee. He describes himself in great detail in Philippians 3 as a religious leader who passionately sought to keep the Mosaic Law. Paul was for all intents and purposes a "Pharisee of Pharisees". I give this background because the moment Paul became a believer it was highly likely that his entire family abandoned him. Paul was likely married. (Scripture does not tell us that he was, but given the culture of the Pharisees, it would have been rare not to be married.) Yet, we hear little about his family in the New Testament. Only in Acts do we read of the nephew of Paul who visits him while in jail. We read nothing of his parents or possible wife. So, it's highly probable that most all of his family completely abandoned and rejected him the moment he embraced Christ as Savior. So we can safely assume that if Paul's mother were alive at this time she would have completely abandoned her son as if he were dead. I can't imagine the stress this would put on a person. But it's a reality that happens, especially in other cultures when someone comes to Christ. Most often they are totally abandoned by their families or worse, persecuted directly by them.
With that background, let us now marvel at that passage in Romans. Paul rejoices that Rufus' mother is also a mother to him. There is that sweetness that in the family of God we are all related spiritually in ways that often surpasses our blood family relationships. It is the joy of a believer to know that in Christ you now have a massive family not just near you but all over the world!
I realize that I have done a good bit of speculation when it comes to Paul's family situation before and after his conversion. But let me get to the heart of the matter theologically. It’s often been said that right theology produces thanksgiving to God and then turns around to produce right thinking and right living… even if the Mother's Day holiday causes you great pain.
It all gets back to the cross of Christ. I like to think of the cross as a magnificent diamond with an unlimited number of facets. As you turn and peer into the truths of the gospel, you find that there are an unlimited number of amazing benefits and truths to be gazed into. At the core of the gospel is the truth that Christ's death saves from the penalty of sin, its power and ultimately its presence. But marvel also at another amazing benefit: the glorious doctrine of adoption. You see, outside of Christ we are not children of God but children of the devil. We are born in darkness, not light. But what the Law or we could not do, God did by sending His Son to live the perfect life in our stead and bear the wrath in our place. Through repentance and faith, we are graciously transferred from the kingdom of darkness to God's kingdom. We become children of God through faith in Christ. We become adopted in His kingdom all by His marvelous grace. In an amazing and staggering way, Christ Jesus becomes our Elder Brother.
But there is more. The glorious doctrine of adoption also teaches us that those in Christ are also connected as a family. All believers are brothers and sisters to one another through their being adopted into God's kingdom. Christians all equally have the high privilege of addressing God Almighty as Father. This has incredible significance to those who have no family or have been rejected by their family. It means that if you are reading this and you have no family - no mother on this Mother's Day - and if you are a believer and are in Christ that you are surrounded by a massive family that is eternal. The grand reality is that in Christ you are a member of God's family and that family extends worldwide. No matter where you go there will be family there with you and for you in Christ. Many of which, like Paul, you can say are like mothers to you.
If you are a Christian, rejoice in the amazing privilege of being able to cry out to God and address Him as Father. When you do, be reminded that you can do so all because of Christ. Then rejoice also that as you look around in church this coming Lord's Day that you are surrounded by your family in Christ. How glorious Christ's love for His people - our family.
This Mother's Day if darkness clouds your mind as you recall painful experiences, set your mind on Christ above and the glorious truth that in Christ you now have a family all over the world. Begin with right theology. Let that lead you to doxology (praise to God) and then to right thinking and living as you gaze on the risen Savior through His living Word.
May Christ's love and the love of His brothers and sisters be felt by you on Mother's Day.
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