How do You Define Family?

Family is a unit of people who support each other. God created family for relationship with himself and with each other. Family synonyms: inheritance, relationship, people. Family is a group of people affiliated either by birth, by marriage, or by sharing, nurturing, accepting, and respecting each other. There are clear guidelines to what God doesn’t want in a family and what he does. Starting with the positive verses first and then the behaviors we should avoid. If we follow what God intended, it would encompass those who work together as one unit. By God’s definition, as a church or family, we are one body and in marriage, we become one person. The Bible tells us we each have a role to play:

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body [family] of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit… Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 & 13:4-7

“‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one* flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mark 10:7-9


We are also told there are things that God detests in any family:

There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that kill the innocent,
a heart that plots evil,
feet that race to do wrong,
a false witness who pours out lies,
a person who sows discord in a family. Proverbs 6:16-19

But to focus on individual families, such as parents, whose kids grow up and marry, eventually having kids of their own, then become grandparents… Where does God tell us to stand in this role? We’ve raised them the best we could, now it’s their turn. Do we continue to give advice? ‘No, not unless they ask, and then as led by the Holy Spirit. IF we put in our two cents, we must remember that it is only two cents, compared to their 98 cents – meaning they must make their own decisions!” We need to greet their decisions with open minds, not interference. The only exception would be, if they’re in a dangerous situation. Other than that, we should be hands off! We should embrace their spouse and make them feel comfortable and part of ‘the family’ — never an outsider. I call my children’s spouses ‘in-loves’ because their relationship goes deeper than a law or sheet of paper they signed. It is a commitment they’ve made; with God. This is where the peeling away of resistance comes into play. We must accept their decision, even if and when we don’t agree. Fortunately, I agree with my kid’s decisions in mates.

God spoke in the Old Testament of being circumcised to be part of his family. Under the New Testament or Grace, this would be circumcision of the heart, the peeling away of the layers of our heart that have hardened to anyone we didn’t choose for our kids; being open to those outside the family, by accepting them for who they are, not who we want them to be. Families accept not just their blood family, but also their children’s spouses. They don’t interfere by trying to influence their children against their partners by pointing out perceived flaws. 

For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people. Romans 2:28-29 & Ephesians 2:11

As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, and they want to speak to you.” Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” Matthew 12:46-50

In the second verse, Jesus turned the verse around to those questioning him and said anyone who did the will of God is his family. Therefore by his view, there wasn’t anyone outside his family unless they didn’t follow God. So, how do we view “outsiders” in our family? Do we view them as those who follow God as being in our family or are they outsiders if they aren’t born into our family? Do we accept others or view them as foreigners? If they have children from a previous marriage, are their children truly part of the family or do we label them as ‘the former spouse’s kids?’ Do we treat them equally as our grandkids or do we give the “natural” grandkids preferential treatment? It doesn’t matter how they came into the family, and neither should the current spouse of our children, they should be embraced and accepted, just as we accept our OWN children, without preferential treatment and without prejudice.

Are we willing to accept our children’s decisions in choosing a spouse? Or do we think we know better than they; who is suited for them? If we don’t accept them, isn’t that a reflection on what we view as important? If we’re opposed to their decisions, perhaps our children have chosen someone diametrically opposed to our views and it’s alien to our thinking. Maybe our kids are tired of how we act and want to find someone with a different attitude. Perhaps it’s time to search our own souls instead of trying to find something wrong with their mate or find fault with our own children. Our opposition may require a little personal soul searching instead of attacks on their selection. Perhaps we should just embrace their decisions and keep peace in the family, instead of making their marriage difficult. 

How are we contributing to our own family? How are we contributing to our church family or the community family? Are we making a positive influence in each situation, or do we feel that if we make a positive influence at church, we don’t need to at home? The family influence starts in our homes. If we aren’t making a positive influence in our own home family, we aren’t effective at church family or in our own community. Have you met people who complain about their role at home, or all the volunteer work they do at church? It gets wearisome just listening to them. Jesus said take my yoke upon you, cease from our labors, and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us, at home, in church, and in the community. We need to submit to the leadership of God through Christ via the Holy Spirit. But the best way we can help our grown children is by staying out of their lives and accepting them. It is by not interfering. It is by setting good examples. The only example they or we should be following is the example of Christ. The only inheritance that matters is our inheritance of eternal life. When that is our focus and not what worldly goods we leave when we’re gone, or who we give preference to, then we’ll have peace in our families. But we must allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our daily lives, each hour.

God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan. God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people [family]. He did this so we would praise and glorify him. Ephesians 1:9-14

We were chosen by God–the entire family of God, which is those who follow Him.


*Note: My emphasis in Mark 10

The Place of Separation and Sustainment

I shared on my Facebook page earlier this week about how God instructed Elijah, during a long drought, to go to the brook East of Jordan named Cherith. It is written in 1 Kings 17:1-7. In the Hebrew, the word Cherith, Chorath, or Kerith means “a place of separation.” If you locate where this brook is located, most modern scholars agree that it is the Wadi al-Yabis, a region that is described as one of the wildest ravines in the region. It is also so wild in terrain, that it is a place where one can easily hide from persecution and still be protected; it is a place of refuge. In this passage, God also told Elijah that he would send the ravens to bring bread and flesh to Elijah.

Cherith or Wadi al-Yabis by samdefranc
Cherith or Wadi al-Yabis by samdefranc

There are many things which need to be pointed out about Ravens. They are extremely intelligent, more than any other bird in the bird kingdom and rivaling that of the chimpanzee in the animal kingdom. They are adaptable to any habitat, mountainous, desert, rocky, grasslands, wetlands, etc., regardless of weather. Ravens can be taught to talk better than most parrots, imitating the human voice and the calls of other birds. They also communicate with each other with their beaks, such as pointing out an object to another raven. Another form of communication they use is to attract other animals to a carcass they want to feed on by their calls, because they cannot tear open with their beaks, then once other predators have opened the carcass for them, they can pick at the meat. They are not known to feed others, except their own babies. They are one of the dirtiest birds in the bird kingdom, yet they are survivors. They are scavengers, and are quite resourceful finding food by outwitting other birds and predators. They even follow the gunshots of hunters to locate a carcass to feed upon, yet ignore other equally loud sounds, showing signs of extreme intellect and recognition. They work in cooperation with each other to steal food, by distraction and/or observation. Ravens are playful and can play together, with other animals, or alone, solving intricate games and using comical behavior. They can fly upside down up to half a mile, do somersaults, and acrobatics. They are more agile than crows in flight, because they use light wingbeats and soar at times. During nesting times, they wash all their food in a nearby water source before feeding it to their nestlings. One of the facts I found to be most interesting is what a group of ravens are called, which is an ‘unkindness.’

"Corvus corax jouveniles". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons -
RAVENS – Licensed under CC BY-SA

Isn’t it just like God to take an unkindness and turn it into a kindness? And wouldn’t God choose one of the smartest, cleverest, most resourceful, and unlikely animals to provide for man who is created in his image? And wouldn’t God take an unlikely raven, who is greedy and selfish, to share of the food they find to sustain mankind? The ravens brought Elijah bread and flesh it tells us in First Kings. Don’t you imagine that those ravens took Elijah in as one of their own to do this? I even wonder if they washed the food before they gave it to him. As I was thinking of this, the ravens, a most common bird, were a substitute savior for Elijah. They took on some of the characteristics of Jesus, by taking care of God’s chosen, offering redemption from starvation in the form of bread and flesh. (Jesus is our bread and flesh. He took on the flesh of a man to dwell among us. He adopted us as his own, once we submitted to him. He is our sustainment and our redeemer.)

So when we find ourselves in a desperate situation that looks like we cannot go on, or have suffered an unkindness; we must remember Elijah and how God provided for him and then look to Jesus and remember that he is our ultimate sustainment, place of refuge, and redeemer. God will provide us a place of refuge, the brook of flowing water, and sustainment, but first we must separate ourselves from the worldly things that ensnare us and keep us from Him. We must put aside encumbrances to allow God to clothe us, to feed us, to supply all our needs, and to care for us better than we can ever care for ourselves. He may take us into a ravenous situation (a place of greedy hunger) to get our attention, or into a hidden wilderness where only he can provide to remind us that he is our sustainer and has provided our ultimate redemption in Jesus Christ. What hunger do you have that the world cannot satisfy? Where is your brook of separation? Have you found it, do you need to go there to renew your heart with God or simply to be sustained and cared for? It is with Jesus. Allow him to be your place of separation and sustainment today and every day.

Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? – Luke 12:24

Interesting side note on the word raven-ous: The verb to RAVEN means to devour greedily, to seize, and to prowl hungrily. The adjective RAVENOUS is traced to Old French ravener, meaning ‘to seize,’ regarding water, meaning ‘swift flowing.’ Overall meaning: “voracious, greedily hungry, and seized.”

Prayer: May God seize us to have a voracious hunger and thirst for Jesus, as our sole sustainer, refuge, bread, and flesh.