As a child, I’d often hear the phrase, “Blood is thicker than water.” I attempted to research the origin of this phrase and found one source that suggests it is a medieval proverb in English meaning that familial bonds will always be stronger than bonds of friendship or love.
Whenever I’ve heard this phrase, it was used to let a person know, “Although we may be connected or I may like you, you don’t come before my blood relatives, and our friendship or my feelings about you can change depending upon how you treat them.”
I have seen blended families break up because there was tension between the spouses’ children. I’ve seen spouses leave their marriages because of irreconcilable differences between a step-parent and child or due to in-law issues. I’ve seen friends sever relationships because one friend didn’t do what the other friend considered honorable for his/her family member.
Why? Because, “blood,” they say, “is thicker than water.”
One would think this would only hold true for those outside the community of faith, yet, this is not the case. Most of the instances I’ve witnessed or been on the receiving end of have been amongst believers – those who profess Christianity. Those are the people I’ve heard cite this phrase, and if the truth be told, I ashamedly admit, I can recall saying it a time or two myself.
But, is there any validity to this statement?
It is amazing how easily people fall in and out of relationship with one another – married today, divorced less than a year later; holding hands today, hitting one another with those same hands tomorrow; talking to each other today and about each other tomorrow; best friends today and enemies or frenemies tomorrow – all in the name of that blood that is thicker than water.
What has the community of faith come to? Where is the love? What ever happened to consideration, loyalty, commitment, patience and MYOB? Yes, minding your own business.
When one suggests that blood is thicker than water, more often than not, the only consideration given is toward oneself with no regard or concern for the “alleged” offender. The statement is self-centered, and it is self-serving. This statement will allow someone to do wrong and be treated as though they’ve done right and can sometimes lead to a lack of accountability.
An in-law who knows their sibling is cheating on his/her spouse will vow to secrecy to protect the cheating spouse because they share the same blood. A mother, if forced to make a choice, would choose her child, whether juvenile or adult, over her spouse because of the blood tie, the biological connection, if you will. A friend would impose the needs of his family member upon a friend regardless of the hardship or pain honoring this request could bring upon that friend.
AND, when folk choose to engage in other peoples’ business, friendships are often destroyed, in spite of the fact that the very marriage and/or relationship they inserted themselves later finds the ability to reconcile. I’ve seen all of these scenarios played out, all in the name of that blood we deem thicker than water.
In the literal sense, none could argue this point: blood is thicker than water. But, have you considered what this phrase means for us spiritually? As I said at the onset, this idiom is inclusive of the community of faith. I think we got the phrase right. Blood is thicker than water. But I think we’ve gotten the context all wrong. You see, the bond that connects the community of faith is the blood sacrifice that was made on our behalf. God loved us so much that he sent his only begotten son to shed his blood for the remission of our sins, and that makes us blood relatives. That blood not only saves us from our sins, but it guarantees us eternal life and makes us all a part of the body of Christ.
The blood of Jesus makes us one, and that blood is thicker than water. That blood makes our connection stronger than any earthly family with only a biological DNA connection. And, that love is an unconditional love. The love of God is patient, kind and forgiving. It is not a love we receive because of anything we’ve said or done, but in spite of it all. We are members of God’s family, and he continuously reconciles himself with us even when we stray far away.
I contend that it is indeed because “blood is thicker than water.” This blood should not only unite us with Christ, but this blood should unite us as a community of faith with one another.
Have you severed a tie that was woven together as a result of your connection with Christ? Have you broken a bond because of hatred, malice, anger, deceit, jealousy or some other sin? May I remind you that blood is thicker than water!
The Bible gives clear instructions of how those in the community of faith should treat one another. “I appeal to you, my brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Cor 1:10)
If we are serious about living a life that is pleasing to God, we must love one another as Christ loves us. Otherwise the shedding of his blood will have been in vain. Let us continue to love the unlovable and forgive those who have trespassed against us as God continuously forgives us through the blood of Jesus that is indeed thicker than water.
Michelle M. Law-Gordon is the pastor of Open Door Baptist Church and a lifelong member of New Ebenezer Baptist Church in Florence. She is a member of the Morning News’ Faith & Values Advisory Board. Contact her and other board members at fvboard@florencenews.