Google “what is a family” and you’ll be overwhelmed by the diversity of answers. In our current society “family” is a difficult term to define. For centuries “family” meant mum, dad and their children, possible a few people from the extended family tree, who lived in the same house. These days, with a very geographically mobile world, divorce, defactos, step-families, single parents, sperm donors, care giving grandparents and more, who belongs in a family is, well, confusing.
Is a family simply a group of people who share the same home? Is it persons whose DHA aligns even if they have never met? Is it right to assume it always includes adopted, surrogate, fostered or sponsored children but not housemates? Can a group of 6 friends who share apartments, hang out at Central Perk and live and love closely be called family? Can you choose your family? When does someone start or stop being family? What does it all mean anyway?
There are many questions and much confusion, particularly around weddings and will readings, but not many answers.
I have biological family members all over the world. Some live in my city and I see them regularly. Some live across the globe and I’ve only met them once or twice but they are my cousins. I have friends and colleagues that I am closer to than cousins in Africa and Europe. Does that change things?
I’ve been pondering this concept of family because it is a gift God gave us to help us through life. Psalm 68:6 says “God places the lonely in families” (NLT).
I’ve noticed in my church that God does this. He brings in lonely people and connects them with others in the church and they become like family. Sometimes that one person simply slides into an existing family like an adopted brother or a new sister-in-law. Sometimes a small group of church friends become their own family as they love each other and do life together. Sometimes a mum, dad and kids unit need the love and support of an extended church family that they don’t get from their DNA family due to geographical or relational distance.
It doesn’t matter about DNA in our church, we’re family. We’re there to love and support each other, to encourage each other through life’s adventures, to help in times of need, to pray, play and serve God together. To me that’s what makes it family.
How do you define family? What makes someone part of your family? I’d love to hear your ideas so please share in the comments below.