The family that Jesus calls together goes beyond blood or marriage. His family is a fictive family — a family called together by something else, something deeper.
That something is a someone — Jesus. And the glue that holds his fictive family together is his mission.
Fictive family is a phrase used by researchers to label a kinship group or a community that is brought together not by DNA or marriage Instead, these communities are formed on some other basis.
There are numerous examples of this but perhaps the most popular one is the military. The television series Band of Brothers captured this idea well. A diverse group of young men, who weren’t related in any traditional sense, developed a deep sense of connectedness which caused them to sacrifice for one another, even to the point of death. What brought them together initially was patriotism or the draft (or both) but what enabled them to move from men in proximity to a fictive family was their mutual suffering and their mission.
They each went through the rigors of boot camp and training. They had horror stories of drill sergeants putting them through the ringer. Then they had hours and hours of sometimes boring specific assignment training. And when they were together on the field, they faced danger, hunger, and loneliness.
But sharing in suffering doesn’t automatically create a fictive family. But when you pair shared suffering with an exciting, risky, and real mission, that’s when you get the first inklings of fictive family!
The soldiers begin to learn that not only do they have the same sob stories as their brothers in arms, but they also have each other’s backs. They begin to see for themselves power and beauty of fictive family when they are literally at death’s door together.
This kind of closeness, this fictive family, is somewhat rare. Why is that? Why aren’t we humans more inclined toward being fictive family?
I could probably list a hundred or more reasons, but here are the first few that come to mind: we’re scared to be open and vulnerable, we think we will look or become soft, we’d rather not share the glory and fame, and we’re just plain ol’ selfish.
I mean, really, who wants to give of themselves until it hurts?
Fictive Family Glue
As followers of Jesus we commonly use familial language, calling each other brothers and sisters and claiming that we’re all part of the family of God.
But we all know that we’re often just parroting empty language that was parroted to us. We don’t always treat one another with real affection. We don’t always create interdependent relationships that fictive families have. And we don’t always sacrifice for one another the way we might for family.
Why not? Why aren’t we more like family? Why are we more akin to acquaintances within in the church?
Here’s my belief: It’s because we aren’t on mission together, we don’t operate under the same purpose.
It seems to me that we Christians, especially those of us who consider ourselves Evangelicals, have made it incredibly difficult to live within fictive family well. For years (centuries really) we have focused so intently on individual faith and Jesus as a personal savior that we’ve made community, i.e., fictive family, a luxury and not something that is expected.
Christian community is not optional! It is absolutely necessary in order for us to follow Jesus actively in the real world!
But how do we do it? How do we begin to form fictive family as followers of Jesus?
Here’s what has worked in my own life — I got on mission with some other followers of Jesus. The fictive family formed quickly! Being on mission together gave life and meaning to our worship together, our service of one another, our prayers for one another, and our reading of Scripture together.
Fictive Family on Mission
The real question this is this: What is this mission and how do we get on it?
Mission is from a Latin word (missio) which means “send.” Therefore a mission is something we are sent to do. It’s active and it comes from God. Our mission isn’t something that we think up or that we lean on others to find for us. It’s revealed from God.
And the basic missio Dei, mission of God, in the Bible is simple — God wants to reconcile all things to himself through Christ Jesus (2 Cor 5.19-20).
And it is this one idea, reconciliation, through which we should filter all of our potential thoughts about mission.
So our thinking should go like this: Do the activities we engage in as a fictive family, as a Christian community, promote reconciliation (the mending of broken people, relationships, and things)? If so, then we should prayerfully pursue them in the power of the Spirit. If not, then we should avoid them like the plague because all they’ll do is distract us from God’s one mission in this world, to reconcile all things.
Friends, real connection is formed between followers of Jesus when we are on mission together, when we are engaging in God’s reconciling work together.
And being on mission like this will form us into loving, vibrant, and attractive fictive families in which we love God, love one another, and love others.
What do you think? What do you think holds Christian community together? Is it mission or is it something else? Let me know in the comments below!