When Family Is a Wrong Priority

I recently found out that a young couple at our church made a decision to limit their choices of gaining an advanced degree to right here in our local area. I was even more excited and encouraged as some of their reasons came to light, one of which was staying in our faith family at Trinity. The motivation was the protection of their future family and marriage with the accountability that we have at Trinity. When I began thinking about this very mature decision from a very young couple, then I came across this article https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/august-web-only/if-our-families-are-more-important-than-our-churches-we-nee.html

(some of which I will quote in this blog) and it led me to post some thoughts about when our family becomes our idol. The tough thing about our family becoming our idol is that it is something good becoming god. It is something Scripture speaks highly of, but something well meaning people make the idol of life.   The dangerous in this is, it actually feels like you are doing something nobel. Let me explain.

In our Western Christianity we have a very clear ranking that many people treat as biblical truth, and it goes: God, Family, Church, others. Now, true Christians will claim this priority, but in our culture few Christians live this out. But, let’s give people the benefit of the doubt and pretend that this is the majority of truly converted people’s view point. The obvious question should be, is this consistent with what we see in the Word of God?

As the author of the blog above states, there are many passages of Scripture that are pro-family. Passages like…1st Tim. 5:8 “Anyone who does not provided for their relatives and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”   How about reading Ephesians 5 and 6; there are plenty of commands regarding the family in those chapters.  Jesus made it clear from the 10 Commandments to Matthew 15:3-4 “honor your father and mother,” that there are clear expectations for how we interact with our families. But besides the previous well known passages just mentioned, we also have to add passages like Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” As the author of the blog states, following Jesus means belonging to two families, a natural family and a faith family. So where did Jesus’ priorities lie? “Pointing to 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.” The author in fact, points out that our modern “Western Christianity Ideals” go against the flow of Scripture, as well as against the flow early Church Fathers!  This should be alarming to us.   The quote by Cyprian of Carthage,  “He who does not have the church for his mother cannot have God for his Father,” is quite telling.

We tend to select a church based on how the church can best serve my family. When in fact, we must realize that the family of God is not here to serve the interest of our family, but our families exist to serve the family of God. The misunderstanding in this arena shows why a family can in fact, abandon their faith family and it will have nothing to do with doctrine, nothing to do with serving, but everything to do with preference or the focus on their individual family. At its foundation it is poor ecclesiology, at its surface it is a consumerism approach to Kingdom work.

The author points out that the key to people staying in their faith family is  based in intergenerational relationships. So, a healthy church doesn’t just have one age group or ministry you like, but a plurality of healthy relationships with multiple generations involved.

The author concludes by further strengthening his biblical case. He states “According to the New Testament, the family of God —not marriage—is the primary community in which spiritual growth occurs.” He points out that the only place in the Bible where singleness and marriage are evaluated side by side for their respective abilities to serve God, in 1st Corinthians 7, Paul’s priorities look quite different from the priorities we see in our churches today. This is something that is worth evaluating in our lives.

In conclusion, I simply wanted to highlight these thoughts and give my hearty “amen” to this blog. It would do us all good to take some time and read it, as it is well grounded in Scripture and well thought out. Granted, for years the family was an after-thought or neglected to some extent in our churches, but I believe the pendulum has swung too far the other way and the sad truth is, most of us haven’t really noticed.