I often tell people that my father taught me two important lessons growing up: 1) blood is thicker than water, and 2) never buy a steak from the back of a pickup truck. While I still agree wholeheartedly to the latter (to this day I have never purchased any meat from a pickup truck), I have come to disagree with him on the former. Let me be fair to dad and say that what he meant was, of course, that family bonds are tighter than all other relationships. In many cases, he is right. As a Presbyterian, I have a very high view of the family unit as the most basic structure God has given to society and I see a continuity throughout the Scriptures of God’s covenant with the family or household. But what I am finding more and more to be true, is that waters of Christian baptism are thicker than blood. Baptism, that sign and seal of inauguration into the new covenant people of God is among other things a sign and seal of our union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. Those who possess what this sign represents may say that the water of their baptism is a stronger bond than even their most intimate family relations. Since the days of the apostles, many Christians have experienced this truth in very real ways. Many have been disowned by parents, excluded by siblings, or abandoned by spouse and children. It is not all that uncommon for parents in the East to hold a funeral for their newly converted Christian son or daughter as if their child was now dead.
The words of Jesus come to mind from Matthew chapter ten:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39)
These are words from the Prince of Peace himself. There are times when those who find peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ subsequently find a disturbance of the peace among even those who are closest to them. In this sense then we find our true family as Christians not in blood but in water. It is this family that we have a greater union with if it happens to be that those we are related to by blood are not our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Granted, many do not face the rejection and persecution by our families which some have faced, but we often find that our own flesh and blood do not share with us in faith and worship of the Triune God. The bond that we have with other Christians by virtue of our union with Christ by the Holy Spirit, and that we share in those common waters of baptism and in the bread and wine of his supper as Christ communes with us week in and week out is a bond which all others fall short of. We find that family ties often end with death, but those who dwell in Zion will live together in the presence of God for all of eternity. Water is thicker than blood.
While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
(Matthew 12:46-50 ESV)