46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” 48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matt 12: 46-50
I’ve been thinking about this passage over the past day or two, specifically the line, “Who is my family?” Now if I were Jesus’s mother and brothers, I’d be wondering who exactly he thought he was even thinking about sending me away, let alone not coming out to speak with me or inviting me in. I thought for the briefest instant about what my mother would have done if I’d ever had the nerve to say something like that to her. (I can almost hear my siblings agreeing with me…)
But it has me thinking about family. One of the greatest blessings in my life has been my family. I am fortunate to have siblings to whom I remain connected–I talk to at least one of them nearly every week that goes by. I used to think that everyone had that kind of relationship with their siblings, but I’ve come to understand that it is actually fairly unusual. “My brother?” a friend recently said to me, “I haven’t spoken to him in years.” I found myself trying to imagine that, how strange that would be. While there are some of my sibs (I have five of them) with whom I speak fairly regularly and others I may communicate with only sporadically over the course of the year, I am nonetheless connected to them.
Who is my family? I have sisters and brothers-in-law, most of whom have been in my life at least half of my life or longer. To me, they are my sisters and brothers. At one point I remember thinking that if I were forced to choose, it might be one of my in-laws I would choose over my blood kin, but that is a completely hypothetical scenario. I am blessed to have family by marriage with whom I enjoy close relationships. I even enjoy my nieces and nephews. Who is my family? They all are.
Who is my family? I have known my best friend Pat since college–that’s over 40 years, more than half my life. She is my family. My spouse is my family, and by extension, so is her sister and brother-in-law, though those bonds are still forming. I have family members with whom I share no DNA in common, but who are nonetheless dear to me. Family by choice can be as strong (sometimes stronger) than blood relatives.
By Jesus’s definition, everyone who “does the will of my Father,” that is, those of his disciples and followers who were serious about what he was teaching them, were family. That’s a lot of kinfolk. (Many of those were the same people who later hollered “Crucify him,” but that is for another blog post on another day.)
I no longer take for granted the fact that I have family who loves me. I am surrounded by it, I can count on it, and I am deeply grateful for it. And if I ever get so important that I tell them I’m too busy to see them, they have my permission to bust down the door and call me on it.