Family of Choice
Peace in Relationships
Henry Koenig Stone
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. ( NRSV)
Reflection: When it comes to relationships, we humans are often quick to categorize them, to put them in boxes — as though the relationships of all parents to their children, or all partners to their spouses, or all friends to each other, followed the same patterns.
In some ways, of course, there are important delineations. Children do not have all the same responsibilities that parents do. Clear communication about boundaries between friendship and romance can be important. And adults need to be careful about the lessons they teach and the examples they set for children, in order to help them grow up happily and healthily. But in paying attention to the nuts and bolts of what makes a parent a parent and a friend a friend, it is easy to lose the common thread: proactive nurture.
I love this passage from John because it emphasizes that even as Jesus was being stripped of all the physical ways to be a son, teacher or friend in the traditional senses of the words, he focused on what he could do to help the people around him heal themselves and persist. He knew that, although they were losing him, Mary and John could be a family of choice to each other.
This week, we will reflect on family, on teaching and on relationships more broadly. Different lessons will apply to different situations. But throughout nearly all human interactions, there are opportunities to extend healing and growth.
Practice for Peacemakers: For at least one full day this week, try to imagine that everyone you meet is a member of your immediate family. This doesn’t mean that you necessarily talk to them differently out loud — you don’t need extra access to their time to do this, and your barista isn’t suddenly “Cousin Starbucks!” What it does mean is that you should treat each interaction with the same intentionality as you would with someone that you’ll see every day for the rest of your life. Although this approach may not be practical in the long term, the goal is to practice being aware of the impact that your words and actions have on people at work, in the community and at home.
Prayer: Dear God, help us to remember that we are all members of your beloved family, parts one body in Christ. Inspire us to live out relationships of nurture toward all those whom we call “family,” whether they be biological family or family by choice. Amen.
Henry Koenig Stone is the editor for this year’s Season of Peace Reflections. An activist and public policy wonk, he has previously served as editor of “Unbound” in Louisville, KY, and as associate for young adult social witness to the Advisory Committee for Social Witness Policy.
This year’s Season of Peace Resources are designed to help participants explore practices for building peace on every scale. From the personal level to global issues, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Throughout the 29 days of the 2020 Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect upon:
Week 1 September 6–12: Peace Within
Week 2 September 13–19: Peace in Relationships
Week 3 September 20–26: Peace in Community
Week 4 September 27–October 3: Peace in the World
Final Day October 4: Holistic Peacemaking