Friends or Family?

Well my family has left for vacation, and I am staying at home.

I’m not completely alone, my grandma is still here.

This is going to be the longest I’ve gone without seeing my family. Three weeks. It will be hard, my siblings and I are each others’ closest friends.

We spent our last full day together with another friend, and then watching our favorite anime together, (it’s My Hero Academia if you’re wondering.)

One thing we talked about in passing was how we’ve had difficulty befriending someone we know, and it seems like they don’t really want us to.

I pointed out that church (where all but one or two of my friends are) is supposed to be family, as the bible says, but if you look at how we’re instructed to behave to each other, it sounds more like friendship.

Proverbs even says better is a friend close then a brother far away, and there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Then I pointed out that we three have always been family, and we have always related to each other as sisters, but that it was only the past 5 years or so that we chose to also become friends.

Up until 13-14 I’d say, I treated my sisters like sisters. People who annoyed me, and who I could annoy, with no fear that it would end our relationship. There is a security in a healthy family, room to grow up and develop, while making plenty of mistakes along the way that family blows off, while it would end most friendships.

Of course, the biblical way to treat siblings is nothing like that, but as most adolescents, I didn’t care.

But after returning to Christ, I began rethinking how I acted. It didn’t change a whole lot until my sisters did the same thing, but overtime we began to build our relationship into something very strong. We enjoy it now. We enjoy each other’s personalities, and we are our closest confidantes. We have the kind of sibling-hood you read about.

And sometimes that amazes me, because I know it didn’t have to be that way. I’m so glad we all chose to become friends. (There’s actually a show on Disney Channel that addressed this idea, Liv and Maddie, “Sisters by birth, friends by choice.”)

I was comparing it to the Church family. Once you become a christian (as our doctrine goes) you are part of the family. And the basic instructions off the bat are that we accept you as such. overlook you faults the way a family would, and be your support. If we fight, we also forgive quickly.

That’s a family dynamic, a baby Christian needs that because they will get a lot wrong in the first year or so. That’s okay. I did too. And I was raised in Church. You cannot teach spiritual maturity, only exhibit it and hope it will benefit other people. I had my  mom as an example of it for years before I learned to emulate any of it.

A new Christian is only beginning to be a new person. And that makes them immature. We are meant to show grace.

The sad thing, a lot of churches do not even reach the family dynamic. They don’t accept people, they don’t forgive, they don’t support.

This does not mean that it doesn’t work however. The problem with corporate church is that the same flaws tend to creep in as with businesses and charities, many just don’t do what they should because management skills are not adequate.

Which is why I think the church was never meant to be a corporate experience, but there are people who find a way to work the system.

Many churches do find the family dynamic. But what the New Testament instructs us in is far closer to friendship in many ways.

We are not just to support each other, but to find each others strengths and talents, and develop them. We no longer just accept, we are also to correct, to sharpen each other. To hold each other accountable.

Family can do this, but it is something that comes more naturally into a really good friendship. Family can be too close to see the problem. Friends build distance on purpose by having diverse interests, getting space from each other, and so they learn more about the other person because they see them from more angles than if they lived with them constantly.

The church is designed to meld these two dynamics into a hybrid I think only is possible in spiritual ways. It is really difficult to explain until you experience it. My family became my friends. I hope someday to have friends who will be family.

The trouble is, churches can not really support friendship. I have a church that supports family a lot. Better than most places do. But it is still trying to figure out friendship.

A lot of discipleship we do is focused on family, one girl who’d been through their school of ministry even admitted to this. Not a lot of it is focused on friendship.

Yet, I think a lot of what the epistles show us is how to be a friend as well as a brother or sister.

I think in Acts, the apostles already had a family dynamic, but after they started to travel and organised, they had to have friends.

My dad has learned the hard way that family can be heard to organize to do anything if everyone acts as and individual. It takes the build up of friendship, the learning to work with a very different person, to speak their language, that allows for teamwork.

Some families achieve this with seeming ease. My family never had been particularly good at this except in crisis situations. I think it depends on how well the family knows itself.

A lot of friends now are not on this level, thanks to the lack of interaction we have except through technology, but you’ve probably met or known people who still have this teamwork ability. Hopefully you are one of them.

And my whole point to my sisters was that this ability is a choice to develop. That is what makes it different.

We have no choice about our family. We need to accept hem no matter what.

But within the family we tend to have friends. It won’t be every remember, an not the same for every member you do have it with, but there will be the odd person here and there.

I have a bond with family I only see once or twice a year because we are family, but I have a different bond with people I choose to be around and are not related to me except by faith or being in the human race.

I realize a lot of this post may only be interesting if you are a christian, but it was something I had not realized before, and I’ve been in church my hole life. Plus, it’s always interesting to think about social circles like this and how they work.

Plus my real point that friendship is choice, it doesn’t just happen, is one I think many of us need to understand. Myself included. Movies show friendship as something that can happen in an instant…sometimes it can, but I have never found those friends to be the ones I am likely to see the most often or talk to the most… Maybe God in his wisdom reserves the instant friendship bond for a more eternal significance. The people you surround yourself with are going to round our your rough edges, and that’s better for you.

Until next time–Natasha

Speaking of friendship, it is a factor in the book series I am publishing on Kindle, here’s a link if you want to check out the first two installments, more coming once I replace my laptop-

You can also visit my author page and ask me questions about the series if you’re curious about how me and my coauthor came up with the idea.

Thanks for your support!

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