A New Definition of Family?

So much discussion and debate in our culture today seems to revolve around what is a family. The days of “Leave it to Beaver” and the nuclear family are in many ways long gone in our culture with what used to be rare or at least unseen happening all the time in our world: divorce, remarriage, blended families, couples living together, domestic partners, gay couples, and so on.

So what makes up a family?

Our spiritual community (local churches and networks within local churches) can certainly become a type of extended family. In a world filled with lonely people, it shouldn’t surprise us that shows about extended families such as Modern Family and Duck Dynasty capture our attention (and have high ratings).

Even still, God’s definition of our “flesh and blood” goes beyond what we would like and beyond what feels comfortable. Timothy Keller in a message on “Justice” shared about a verse that really stood out to me.

Isaiah 58 gives us a glimpse of who we should serve as part of our family, and God’s view extends far beyond ours.

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”

I emboldened the key phrase that stood out to me.

In other words, we should care for the hungry, the immigrant (“poor wanderer”), and the naked as we do for our own family. Those in need become our responsibility. Those in need are part of our family.

These words may not resonate like they did in the past. Caring for our biological family is not nearly as high on our priority list as it was in the ancient world. We struggle to love those closest to us, yet God’s love calls us to care for others beyond who we would ever consider.

Ronald Reagan describes this idea so well when he said: “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”

For more on this topic, see the following:

Not Like Me: A Field Guide for Influencing a Diverse World

Creating a Culture of Serving


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