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The power of friendship

Blood is thicker than water. Flesh of flesh, bone of bone, we are connected to each other the way the hip bone is connected to the thigh bone, and the skull is connected to the neck bone. There is an order to it, a determined nature to it, an unavoidability to it. We are one not because we choose to be, but because we have to be. Nobody chooses their family.


How astounding, then, that Jesus holds the concept of family so lightly. “Who is my mother, who are my brothers?” he asks, looking around. “These” – he says, nodding towards his followers – “are my mother and brothers.”


It reminds me of the “chosen family” that some people have: people who might be estranged from their families, because of a sexual orientation or an unacceptable gender identity; because of political beliefs or a new religious identity; because, for whatever reason, they just don’t fit in with their biological family. For these people, friendship takes the place of family. Blood is thicker than water?


It is with his friends, not his family, that Jesus travels the countryside and enters the cities, preaching and healing and eating and drinking. It is with his friends that he gets into a little fishing boat, and traverses to the Other Side of the lake – to the Unknown. It is with his friends that he stands, as the storm picks up and threatens to swallow that little boat, and all the other little boats that have accompanied him. Together, in their mutual affection for one another, they encounter a world that exists beyond their bloodlines and beyond the boundaries of their religion and identity and social strata. Together, as an unlikely gaggle of friends, they befriend the stranger and become co-creators of a world that is bounded by the borderless expanse of friendship. Friendship: the thing that is ultimately about love, not obligation.


Blood might be thicker than water, but it is water that flows freely, that trickles into gaps and crevices, that carves away at that which is set in stone and topples, eventually, the loftiest of structures. It is water that nourishes, that gives life; it is Living Water that Jesus promises, and that which pours from his side after the blood is stagnate and gone.


I am thinking about friendship because this week we read about David’s friendship with Jonathan: the Jonathan who is besotted when he first encounters David, the Jonathan who David weeps for and, in anguish, tears his clothes to ribbons, declaring Jonathan’s love for him to be greater than any woman’s. A friendship that cuts across the bloodline of father and son, like water cutting through rock, finding a new path, trickling and alive.


I wonder…who is your “chosen family”? What friendships have changed you, and changed the world?

Words by Rev Andreana

Image by Rainier Martin Ampongan, Flickr (Creative Commons licence)

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