There aren’t many situations more difficult for Christians to face than those involving choosing God over family. Consider the following:
- A loved one claims to be a believer but wants to marry an unbeliever. So you’re unable to support the relationship.
- Family members invite your child to stay with them, but you know they’ll be a negative influence on them. So you have to decline.
- A relative is living in habitual sin and you have to confront the person.
There are examples in the Old Testament of individuals having to choose God over family members. For example, Moses called for the execution of the individuals responsible for the Golden Calf. This meant some Israelites had to kill their own relatives:
“Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’”Exodus 32:27
King Asa was one of the greatest reformers in the Old Testament. When he purged the idolatry from the land, he had to punish even his own grandmother. :
[Asa] removed Maachah his grandmother from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah.1 Kings 15:13
In both of these situations it would’ve been very easy for those involved to choose loved ones over God.
Jesus is the premier teacher and example when it comes to choosing God over family
Jesus said, “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” (Matthew 10:37; see also Luke 14:26). He taught the closest relationships in His life weren’t with His physical family, but His spiritual family:
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
I tend to think God is repetitive when He wants to make sure we don’t miss something. This account occurs in each synoptic gospel; it’s also in Mark 3:31-35 and Luke 8:19-21. Jesus minimized His earthly relationships to emphasize His spiritual relationships were with those who obey His Father.
Similarly, when Jesus spoke to Mary, there’s no record of Him calling her “Mother.” He called her “Woman”:
- John 2:4—And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
- John 19:26—When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”
There were two relationships between Jesus and Mary:
- The Mother and Son earthly, physical relationship
- The Sinner and Savior heavenly, spiritual relationship
It’s clear which relationship Jesus allowed to trump the other. When situations arise and we have to choose between God or family members, there’s really no choice. Our greatest love and commitment has to be to Christ. Despite the difficulty associated with choosing God over family, we can be encouraged by these blessings:
First, choosing God over family provides a teaching opportunity with our children.
We can share the above verses with our children and explain: “Our greatest love and loyalty has to be reserved for the Lord. That’s why we made this decision.” This allows our children to see our faithfulness to Christ. They might never forget what we’ve done. Hopefully they’ll be encouraged to make the same decision if they face a similar situation.
To learn more parenting well, watch this conference message I delivered…
Second, choosing God over family provides an opportunity to discuss our faith.
We might be able to discuss our faith with the affected (and possibly offended) family members. We can explain, “I’m very sorry that this has hurt you, but as Christians we believe…” Then explain the motivation behind the decision. At best they’ll see where we’re coming from and possibly have a change of heart. At worst they’ll be angry, but at least they’ll remember we had the courage to obey God when it was unpopular.
Third, choosing God over family allows us to demonstrate our love for God.
Finally, and most importantly, being able to choose God over family allows us to demonstrate to God that we love Him. It’s easy to say we love God, but choosing Him over family allows us to demonstrate that truth. Jesus said:
“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.”Matthew 10:34-38
These verses are clearly about having a greater commitment to Christ than even our own family members. When we choose Him over them, we must expect them to be upset with us, which is what Jesus is referring to happening. It’s painful, but it’s also a great privilege.
Discuss Questions to Answer in the Comments:
- Have you ever had to choose God over family? If so, would you be willing to share about it below?
- What other situations involve having to choose God over family?
- Can you think of examples in Scripture of people who chose God over family? Chose family over God?