The Definition of Family

Today is Mother’s Day. Soon it will be Father’s Day. At some point it will be Grandparents Day. As I walk down the aisles at Walmart, I can’t help but think about people who may not have someone to send a card to, for one reason or another. I think of the someone who never knew her father, or a friend whose parents have abandoned him on account of the Gospel, or the one who’s mother recently passed away. The hole this kind of absence leaves is only magnified in these holidays. They can be a painful reminder of deep and true loneliness.

But family is more than just shared DNA. You can identify family based on who takes up your time and attention. They are the ones that are still around when you are sad, stupid giddy, exhausted or hangry. They come to your kid’s little league games, see the same movie twice just to see it with you, buy you gag gifts that no one else would know you love, bake your favorite desserts just because, and do lousy projects just to do them with you. Family are the people that are there when you want them, when you don’t want them and when you didn’t know how much you needed them. They don’t run from your outburst or your silence or your filth. Family is about more than flesh and blood. Family is about effort.

I find it striking that throughout His ministry on earth, Jesus went out of his way to call His disciples both brothers and friends (Matthew 12:49 and John 15:15 to name a few). And both of these were characterized, not by blood relation, but by love demonstrated in tangible actions. It was not his family and neighbors that accepted Jesus’ ministry first, but the relatives of his friends (Mark 1:30-31). Isn’t it interesting that no specific mention is made of Jesus’ half-brothers witnessing his death and resurrection, but his friends (John 19:26). Even in Jesus’ ministry, family was defined by those who sacrificed their efforts and affections to join Him (Luke 8:21 compared to Luke 9:61).

So friend, if you are feeling alone this Mother’s Day, wallow not in the sadness of the day. Let us redefine family based on those you who take up the space in your calendar, your wallet and your mind. Let us look for those who love us in spite of us and begin to thank the Lord for the family He has given to us, even if they aren’t family biologically.

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