"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them...and He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister." – 1 John 4:16, 21
There's a thing that happens with friends sometimes. It can happen when we've known someone forever, but also sometimes when we've only known them for a little while. They fit with us. They get us and see us in a way that feels like a gift. They show up for us when we need them without us having to ask. When we find a friend like that, we search for a way to describe what they mean to us. Calling them a friend doesn't feel like enough, so we say that they are like family. We use the word family to evoke its ideal: being intimately known and cared for, being worthy of complete trust, giving support and love without condition.
Christian faith is based on a radical idea: that as people created and loved by God, we are all family, and that we should love each other as family would in that same ideal sense. In the verse from the Bible that we quoted at the beginning of this post, the author uses the words "brother" and "sister" not to refer only to literal biological siblings, but to describe the relationship we all have to each other through Christ – not just those who agree with us or believe the same things or vote the same way, not just those who understand us and see us and show up for us in return, but all of us. It's a challenging concept – one that gets us asking questions. How does it work in practice? What does it look like to love the people around us as if they're our family? How do we start living that concept out in a real way?
Here are a few important times to start channeling that family love toward the people in our lives and communities...
During a move
Have you ever tried to move from one home to another by yourself? It's kind of a nightmare, and sometimes, straight up impossible. But, here's something cool about the best kinds of families – you don't have to feel weird about asking for help when you need it. Sometimes, you don't even have to ask at all. Families just know when you need an extra pair of hands and show up ready to start an assembly line of box carrying and furniture moving until the job is done.
During a celebration
Sometimes, it's not easy to celebrate ourselves and our victories, whether big or small. Families are all in on celebrating us. When we finish taking the LSATs, or complete a big work project, or find out we're pregnant, families are there with balloons and victory dances and handmade signs, or sometimes just a quiet word. "I'm proud of you," they say. "You're doing amazing," they say. "I'm excited for you," they say. Families celebrate each other.
During a loss
When the worst happens, families aren't concerned about the discomfort and heaviness of being around grief. They aren't afraid to say, "What do you need?" If they don't get an answer, they say, "Okay, I'm just gonna clean your bathroom then. And also put fresh sheets on your bed." Or maybe they say, "I'm just going to sit here" so we know we're not alone. Families stay in the room for the hard things.
When we need help ourselves
Some of us reading these words will have no problem with the first three. Some of us are great at showing up and loving others – family, friends, strangers – in both practical and intangible ways. We're less good at asking for help when we need it. Treating others like family also means investing in relationships and practicing trust. It means giving others a chance to show up for us when we have need – to talk through something that's bothering us, to come over and cook for us when we're sick, to celebrate our important moments with us. Families rely on each other.
At I Am Second, we love to hear your stories too. It's our favorite thing. If you have a friend who's treated you like family at a time when you most needed it, tell us about it in the comments below.