“While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my bothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:46
“When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” John 19:26-27
Over the Christmas holiday, my family and I had the briefest discussion on family and friends. For years, my family has thought that I place my friends over them. They haven’t said it outright to me, but they’ve left enough context clues for me to figure it out. And as I’ve grown older, I realize why. Because not everyone defines family and friends like I do. As a matter of fact, if you look at my life it does in fact look as if the lines are sometimes blurred. You see I don’t only define family as having the same last name, blood ties, or a common history growing up. For me, family is about those individuals who have proved themselves to be family. Even the friends I would call family would probably disagree with that statement. But guess what? Jesus wouldn’t.
Jesus redefined what family was throughout His ministry and while on the cross. During His ministry, as his mother and brothers sought to speak with Him, Jesus’ reply was almost a denial of family relationship. It also seems flippant and kind of cruel. On the cross, as He neared death he entrusted His beloved mother’s, Mary, care NOT to any of His half-brothers or sisters, instead He entrusted her to His beloved friend, John. Why? Because Christ understood that there are relationships that transcend blood. He also understood that even those in His own family, missed seeing Him for who He was [God] because they focused so much on who they knew Him to be [their brother, a Carpenter]. He honored the spiritual relationships more than He did for physical ones.
I love my family beyond measure and would go toe to toe with anybody for them. I am so blessed to have them on many levels and would not have wanted to be a part of any other family. But my family is just simply not those who share my last name. Some, not all, of my friends ARE my family… because being family to me means…shared experiences through difficult times; it means loyalty and commitment not because you have to be loyal or committed, but because you want to be.
On Thanksgiving I got sick and had to go to the ER; it wasn’t my family that took me and waited for hours as I was sick. Instead it was a good friend of mine who left her family and children to do so. That same night as my parents came and took me home, it wasn’t my family who met me at the door to help me pack for my flight to Ghana the next morning; staying past 1 am to make sure I was ready. Even after my parents had brought me home, it wasn’t family that showed up after 11:00 pm with the Thanksgiving plate they had made for me. One of my best friends happens to have my bank account number from years ago and randomly this past year she and her husband have sacrificially deposited money in my account without my knowledge or prompting. And lastly, once a year on New Year’s Day I cook a huge dinner for family and friends to come enjoy. Yet not everybody enjoys it fully because it’s not just family or it’s not just friends or it’s not just the inner circle of friends (yes even my inner circle don’t understand that part of me either). For them there should be a dividing line, for me there is not – at least not how they think.
Would my family have done any of that? Yes. But something is to be said that it was my friends who did. I don’t use those examples to belittle my family because they love and support me to no end; I recognize that. I share these things because as I’ve grown in Christ, I realize God will bring other people—new family members–into our lives to help us fulfill our calling and to love us. My family is wonderful, and they’ve been good to me; but they see me as sister/cousin/daughter and not as an instrument of God (although they are starting to see that too). And as Christ showed us in His relationship with the disciples, His family was redefined based on His relationship with them and their walk with God. His brothers were His brethren that He served with and taught. The disciples.
As controversial as it may be, my relationships with some of my friends are more biblically aligned than some blood relationships. People always comment on just how much my friends actually do for me, but they don’t look deeper as to the why. It’s because when I love you, blood or not, you get the same dedication that I give to my family because I love you how Jesus showed me to love everyone. For a very long time it has not just been about my family for me, but the Christ family as well. Very few people get that.
So how do you define family? Do you realize that God sometimes places people in our lives to fulfill relationships that we may have missed growing up? Or that sometimes He doubly blesses us by having both family and friends? Be it family or friends, honor the relationships of those that walk with you, support you and pray with and for you.