The word family is a loaded word. It has emotional, spiritual, legal and biologically meanings. For several years I have been haunted by a little phrase and its implications for what it means to be a church; “we draw the family circle wide.” This phrase came to live in my head as I considered what it means to be a church, especially what it means to be Fairview United Methodist Church. How do we draw our family circle? With a narrow or an expansive understanding of who makes up a family. Do we draw the circle to keep people out or let people inside?
The word family is loaded with layers of meaning. Family is where we came from and where we currently live. ‘Family matters’ influence the people that we are and the people we long to be. We get shaped by our birth families and formed in our many families of work, interests, and friends.
Issues of family are a very important part of our inherited faith. What a person believes or doesn’t believe is often dependent on family ties and relationships. The language of faith is infused with family images and expectations. God is known as father, abba, and Jesus is our brother and we live amongst our brothers and sisters in the faith. Both biblically and in our lives, family matters can bring out the very best in us, and at times the worse.
There is a lot of talk about family matters and family values. There are assumptions made about family that are often not the norm or come out of a mythical understanding of family. There are all kinds of issues surrounding what it means to be a family.
Jesus takes on the definition of family in the early days of his ministry. All of his teachings, parables, and questions related to family tell us something about God and ourselves. Spring is a growing time of year so it seems like a good time to see how we can grow our understanding of family through the eyes of faith.