Giving Priority to Your Spiritual Family

When you choose to follow Jesus, you may find yourself in the middle of a difficult family situation. Unbelieving relatives, especially immediate family members, may place intense pressure on you to withdraw from your faith entirely or to diminish your church involvement and obedience to Christ. If you have experienced this quandary – from your parents, your brothers and sisters, your uncles and aunts, your cousins – then you know how excruciating this trial can be.

Did you know that Jesus also experienced this dilemma? He certainly did, and through his example and his teaching, you can learn how to view this painful plight and respond in a biblical way. On one occasion, he was teaching a group of people when his mother and brothers approached him (Matt 12:46-50). Some in the crowd became aware that his relatives wanted to speak with him, and they told him so. When they did, the response that Jesus gave is both startling and instructive.

He answered and said to the one who told him, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers? … Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

By saying this, Jesus does not show disrespect to his immediate family. Instead, he showed greater respect to his spiritual family. Those who follow Christ should take the same perspective to heart. To do this, learn to show appropriate respect to your parents and relatives; but when their requests contradict or compete with the will of God as revealed in Scripture, learn to give first priority to your spiritual family.

Learn to give first priority to your spiritual family.

Jesus repeats this perspective elsewhere in Matthew’s gospel. He required serious-minded disciples to make his commands a greater priority than the dearest filial duties, such as caring for and burying your parents (Matt 8:21-22). Furthermore, he insisted that anyone who loves and shows affection for parents or siblings more than him is not fit to be called his disciple (Matt 10:37-38). Strong statements like this would have sounded stunning to those who heard them, because first-century Jews emphasized strong earthly family and ethnic ties, as many cultures do today. Jesus, however, urged for even strong ties among your spiritual family. Have you adopted this perspective?

To those who desire to follow Jesus, I offer three simple challenges.

  1. First, to those who experience difficult family pressure, learn to identify with Jesus and share this experience of suffering with him. Throughout his earthly ministry, his closest family misunderstood him and refused to believe his teaching (John 7:5).
  2. Second, to those who do not experience this family pressure, learn to recognize subtle ways in which you still give earthly family greater priority than your spiritual family. Just because your family doesn’t persecute you doesn’t mean that they are encouraging you to follow Jesus. In fact, when you don’t experience family persecution, you may be in even greater danger of placing family over Christ.
  3. Third, to all who follow Jesus, learn to treat one another as family. Together, we are the “household of faith” (Gal 6:10). God is our father and we are his children (1 John 3:1). We are brothers and sisters to one another (Matt 12:50). So, learn to pray for your spiritual family, your church. Spend time together, celebrate with one another, speak with one another, serve one another, and meet one another’s needs. And whatever you do, don’t withdraw from gathering together with your spiritual family, especially when your earthly family pressures you to do so (Heb 10:23-25).
4 replies
  1. Tsering Gurung
    Tsering Gurung says:

    It is comforting to know that our Lord Jesus understands our life so well not only because he is the all knowing God, but He himself walked the same earth and suffered the same trials as us, especially family rejections. Thank you for this post pastor!

  2. TOvermiller
    TOvermiller says:

    For various reasons, I’ve been meditating on this topic recently. I look forward to speaking about it during our Lord’s Table service this coming Sunday. I thank God for you and Dawa. You are a true spiritual brother and sister to me. Praying for you!

  3. TOvermiller
    TOvermiller says:

    David, glad it strikes a chord. Do you happen to know Vincent Saywer? He pastored here at Faith Baptist Church ( prior to me. He also graduated from Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary in Lansdale.

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