So I have a confession to make on behalf of the four of us….we are big Survivor nerds. Simon and I started watching the show online since we haven’t had real TV for years and we were hooked. Naturally, when DJ and Rebecca moved here we introduced them as well and now our family watches an episode per day most evenings. We love the human interaction, the competition, the exotic locations (go figure), and that it’s a show we can all get behind and agree upon because sometimes it’s nice to just sit and relax.
One of the things about Survivor is that every season is different, not only because the people are all different but also because the show tries to stay interesting and relevant and usually has some sort of theme. A few years ago they created a season called Blood vs. Water. The idea was to see if, in a competition for a million dollars, blood (family) would be thicker than water (their alliances). They’ve used this theme twice and both times were highly emotional seasons as people sorted out how to compete with and against their loved ones.
So why am I talking to you about Survivor? Well, we’ve learned a thing or two about blood versus water since moving here and I wanted to share with you an alternative to what that phrase might really mean and what it looks like in our lives.
People always try to tell you that blood is thicker than water when defending their families or family values. They say family is more important than anything in the world. Even in the midst of chaos and crisis, family first. You’ve heard the pitch lines I’m sure (and maybe even said them yourself). The thing is, this phrase has been used throughout church history to mean something very different than we use it to mean today.
In the church, the blood represented the blood of Jesus and water referred to the water of the womb. So essentially what blood is thicker than water means is that the bonds we have in Christ are greater than the bonds we share with family. Yep. Kind of backwards right?
The reason I wanted to write about this is because this is a time of year when people suddenly become very interested in family. When you ask what people are thankful for at Thanksgiving one of the first things they list is their family (even if they don’t speak to or see them but a few times a year). All the gatherings during this time are centered around family and you’re the odd duck or you must really hate your family if you don’t make it to the special dinner with the people who happen to share your blood. I’m sorry I’m not painting this as a pretty picture, but I’ve experienced these exact scenarios so I don’t feel a need to sugar coat reality.
Now, don’t get me wrong, some people really do adore their families. They see them all the time, get together for EVERY occasion great and small, and their whole lives revolve around their families. There is certainly merit in caring for the people God has entrusted you with and the Bible speaks to that. But, if we go back to what blood is thicker than water really means, there might be a little struggle there too. Does our love for family outshine our love for Jesus and His family? Do we idolize the ideal of “family” and what we’ve built it up to be in our heads and neglect our duty to follow Jesus, love the believers, and live for Him fully every day regardless of who we’re related to here on earth? These are tough questions.
What the four of us have been learning, through trial and error, prayer and fasting, and lots of human misgivings, is how the tie of blood, Jesus’ blood, really is stronger than anything else.
Jesus Himself really doesn’t dig family in the traditional sense. When people tell him his mother and brother are outside, He responds like what are you talking about, these disciples are my family. He says if you really love him you’ll hate your family and that by following him brother will be against brother, father against son, etc. How could the Son of God say all these things about family and Christians still think that family is all it’s cracked up to be?
Now just wait. I can see everyone sucking in their breathes and their fingers itching to type an angry comment about how wrong I am. But give me a second! Those words are in the Bible, God’s Word. I am not making them up or even taking them out of context. If you have a problem with them take it up with Him, but also have patience to hear me out.
When the Bible talks about family these are the things it talks about:
- parents being blessed to have children and an abundance of them
- raising your children in the Lord
- disciplining children properly so eventually they become mature adults
- children obeying and respecting their parents
- comparing the love God has for His children to the love parents have for their children
Obviously, the Bible sees value in family, BUT it does not see family as a purpose for living or the driving force behind our behavior. Why is that?
What our ohana here has learned is that it’s because our life and life goals should only be centered around Jesus. When you love Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind and strength you are able to live out the command to love others as yourself and sometimes that means forsaking our earthly families for our family in the Kingdom of God.
Let’s put it this way. Parents are jealous for their children. While they want what’s “best” for their kids, that perception is greatly colored by what the parent thinks is best, not what’s actually best. If the parent is not a believer then that can really look like a whole different scenario. If they are believers, they still have worldly hopes and desires because it’s not easy to throw off that sin nature, especially when you’re looking out for your children. You want them to have money, you want them to have ease and comfort, you want them to have success. Those things aren’t bad in and of themselves, but none of them are even attributes of what a life of following the Lord contains. He never promises wealth, earthly victories, or cushy living…often He says you’ll have the opposite! And the thing is God understands this feeling because He is jealous for His children too, but He has the plus side of being GOD and only He knows what’s truly best for us and that’s life in His presence.
Being with Jesus means being out of this world. Since we can’t actually achieve that until we die, we are supposed to be making His Kingdom manifest on earth in the meantime. God’s Kingdom includes those who love Him, it means doing things counter-cultural to the world we live in so others will see it and want to be a part of it, and it means bowing our hearts not to men (even our moms and dads and brothers and sisters) but to Him alone and accepting His lead in our lives wherever that takes us.
When we really live like that it can sometimes confuse and hurt our earthly families. I’m sure Mary didn’t really feel good about Jesus ditching her and Joseph when he was twelve to go about God’s work or when he said who is my mother. No mother would want that! But that’s what being wholly devoted to God means at times. It can mean missing family get-togethers because you’re off ministering to others. It can mean convicting family of hard truths because they claim to be in Christ and may not be acting like it. It can mean moving away because God has a specific calling on your life. It can be a hard concept to grasp.
Here in our home we have worked hard to build a family that is based on the blood of Jesus. It is not easy and it looks very different than families built by human blood alone. We work together in all the things we do because we want the world to see what the family of God looks like. We tell each other the secrets in our hearts because we trust that the other people in this family will pray with unbiased minds about what God really wants and not just what they want. We say things that might hurt each other, because we want the other people to grow more like Jesus.
And that’s what God wants for all His children. Anyone who claims Christ is a part of His body and we are all meant to work together, love each other, and live in such a way that people will look at us and want to know how we do it. Being part of His family is way better than any earthly family, because it is eternal and purposeful, and if your earthly family is a part of His family, then it’s an even better bonus! So let’s give thanks for our families this holiday season, the ones here on earth and our family in Jesus, but let’s also not forget where our real priorities lie, in Him and Him alone.