Considering the changing complexion of the family, a great number of people might reasonably ask these two questions (see Monitor, "How the recession is reshaping the American family," June 14). Financial needs increasingly require individuals to shift roles and be more involved in household tasks, and, in some cases, extended families must live together. In short, there's a rethinking of the role of families and what it means to "be family."
While the questions might reflect current views, they were actually posed by Christ Jesus nearly 2,000 years ago. His example helped introduce a broader perspective on family.
Once, while he was addressing a large group of people, Jesus learned that his mother and brothers waited outside to speak to him. When told about it, he "pointed to his disciples and said, 'These are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!' " (see Matt. 12:46–50, New Living Translation).
His comments surely meant no disrespect, but they illustrated that his expansive view of family went beyond the limits of flesh and blood. This derived from perceiving God as his real Parent and led him to understand the spiritual nature of kinship that's based on one's relation to God and His children.
Nearly 1,900 years later, Mary Baker Eddy, who started this newspaper, found that the course of her life also required an expansive sense of family. She didn't neglect her relatives, but she stretched the boundaries of her love by basing her concept of family on the first two words of the Lord's Prayer – "Our Father" – which she came to see as "Our Father-Mother God" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 16).
Her desire to truly serve the Father-Mother of everyone led to new and more inclusive expressions of family. Mrs. Eddy saw the value of this global kinship when she wrote, "With one Father, even God, the whole family of man would be brethren; and with one Mind and that God, or good, the brotherhood of man would consist of Love and Truth, and have unity of Principle and spiritual power which constitute divine Science" (Science and Health, pp. 469–470).
Continually rethinking the concept of family, extending it beyond previously held, limited, flesh-and-blood notions, can be greatly enriching for us as well, if it begins with "Our Father-Mother God." These words illumine the entire body of Christian literature, because they show that each of us is related to this one Parent, as divine Mind's spiritual idea. Through that spiritual relationship with divinity, we are also united with one another in harmony and peace. And that's true for every individual who walks this earth.
If our definition of family springs from those words, we'll discover new ways to put them into action, resulting in greater harmony, love, kinship, creative solutions, and pure, unadulterated, joy.