Family - Why Does it Matter Anyway?

Jonathan Claussen

I remember back to when I was in medical school and doing my surgery rotation. I was scrubbed in on a case of a bowel perforation.  Bowel perforations are ominous findings not only because there is an anatomic injury, but the contents of the bowels can leak into the abdominal cavity setting up a massive inflammatory and infectious environment. (Welcome to my world.)  The surgeon successfully closed the perforation and at the conclusion of the surgery began to irrigate the abdominal cavity.  I poured in what seemed to be gallons of antibiotic solution a little at a time and then he slowly suctioned it out. He went on to explain to me that the “solution to pollution is dilution.”

None of us drink perfectly sterile water. The contaminants in most drinking water are so negligible that they do not affect the taste and causes us no harm. However, most of us understand that if we drank directly out of a lake or river we could become very ill and it could be life-threatening.  Pour 1 gallon of toxic waste in the middle of the ocean and within minutes it is undetectable. Pour 1 gallon of toxic waste into your bathwater and no one would dare get in it!  It would seem that the “solution to pollution is dilution.”

Unfortunately, it seems that this is no longer just a scientific adage, but rather a societal philosophy. Words such as love, honor, sex, tolerance, intimacy, and discipline are thrown around haphazardly and without the proper context, to where they have become so diluted that we’ve lost as a society what they even mean.  Even in our churches words such as father, peace, grace, covenant are used so frequently and without definition, they have lost their true impact.

I believe, with all my heart, that the greatest victim of this dilution is the word family.

If you look for it, you’ll see the word family everywhere. People use the word family to describe most of their relationships.  Some would say they have a church family, a work family,  a Wednesday night bowling league family, a Thursday night Bible study family, and so on. To call the people we work with every day as “coworkers”  is simply not strong enough or does not feel as impactful. For the past 100 years family has been the centerpiece of advertisements and billboards.  (Even now, the new slogan for the National Football League is: football is family…  what does that even mean?) 

It is understandable why this word is implemented, family is an extremely powerful word, especially to a world that desperately longs for family..   The problem is, these other relationships (or football) are not family, they can never be something that they were not created to be. The bigger problem, in my opinion, is that when everything is referred to as family it brings dilution to the very word. Diluting what family means doesn’t make it more drinkable!

I feel the word family is still extremely powerful, and that your family was created with destiny and purpose. When families are marked by pain and disappointment it is tempting to bring redefinition and to try to dilute what it actually means. There is no doubt that family has been polluted.  But the solution to pollution is not dilution…  but rather definition and restoration!

Jonathan Claussen

Senior Leader