Dan Cathy’s comments in support of “the biblical definition of the family unit” have me thinking about what exactly IS the “biblical definition” of a “family unit.” Cathy says he believes part of the “definition” of a traditional family unit is marriage between one man and one woman for life. I don’t disagree with this assertion but am wondering how Jesus “defines family unit,” if we are going to phrase it in those terms.
I can only turn to scripture and see where Jesus seems to address the topic directly. One instance is in Matthew 12:48-50, where Jesus – the one who was born to an unwed teen mom – points to his disciples and calls them his “mother and brothers.” Already we are seeing that the biblical definition of a “family unit” goes beyond “tradition” to include everyone in the world who does the will of God. Salvation into the family of God is about re-birth into a new family (of misfits… as we will see).
This next example broadens who our “brothers and sisters” are beyond “those who do the will of God.” Again, Jesus: “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine… you did for me.” Who are Jesus’ brothers and sisters according to this parable in Matthew 25? The hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick… those on the margins of society. When you and I were reborn, we inherited a new family of outcast people. How many of us consider the “crap” of society our very brothers and sisters?
When I think of the way Jesus defines “family,” I think of my neighbor across the street, who has three teenage kids of her own, but has chosen to adopt a three year old child she initially fostered – a child who was born to a mother strung out on drugs and was in and out of hospitals due to her poor choices. This kid was born with drugs in his system – which is clearly evident in his behavior today. If that weren’t enough, the same woman whose child was stripped from her by CPS had another baby. It seems old habits die hard because within the last few months, the woman ended up in the hospital with CPS taking her other child. Who went to the hospital to reunite her first adopted kid with his little sister? Yeah, my neighbor. When I look at this situation directly across the street from me, there is nothing about it that screams “traditional family unit.” In fact, there is quite a bit dysfunction across the street – dysfunctional behavior that actually resulted in an ER trip for my own child to have stitches put in her lip. But I’m left with the conclusion that my neighbor has simply been re-born into a new family unit where she is “mother” to the broken people in society. I admire this woman.
I’ll be completely honest and say that I saw no need whatsoever to eat chicken yesterday to “stand up for what I believe in.” But in the end, it was as easy for me to write write about “what I believe in” as it was for my brothers and sisters to buy a chicken sandwich yesterday… the hard part comes when we, like my neighbor, actually live in the reality of a dysfunctional, non-traditional “family unit.”