In Part 1, we looked at some issues connected to the over-elevation of the family within Evangelical Christianity. As much as God truly desires that we love, value, and care for our families, He also makes it clear that even our families are to take second place to Something—or, rather, Someone—infinitely more deserving of our affections.
There is clearly a difference between providing for dependents and raising our children with a nurturing and biblically rich upbringing versus idolizing family activities, traditions, or preferences. Even family togetherness can take the place of Christ. In order to help us avoid problem priorities, we need to demonstrate our greatest treasures, realize the temporal nature of family, and follow Christ without reserve.
Demonstrating Our Greatest Treasure
In Treasuring God in Our Traditions, Noel Piper suggests many ways to point our hearts and minds toward Christ. Unfortunately, even the most faithfully church-going families can mistakenly make family togetherness the main focus of holidays and even life itself. Both godly marriages and biblically structured families are means to an end, and that end is Christ; we must not confuse the symbol or vehicle with the main end of life. As a traditional catechism boils down Scriptural truth, the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We must make sure our children know this and see it lived out in tangible ways.
Realizing the Temporal Nature of Family
Not only is family not to be our greatest treasure here on earth, but even its best examples are still temporary. While theologians debate about whether we will recognize our dearest human relationships in Heaven, marriage will clearly be unnecessary (Mark 12:25): We will, instead, embrace the reality at which it hints (Ephesians 5:31). Not only are all families and marriages ultimately temporary, but many of them will not even last throughout this lifetime. Even with the best intentions, we will fail our children and our other loved ones: If we love them truly, we will point them to the One who will not disappoint, the Rock that will not be moved.
Following Christ Without Reserve
Of course, some who—like the Pharisees—wish to neglect their familial responsibilities might point to Luke 14:26, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” The word translated “hate” in that verse, when compared with other Scripture, clearly does not mean to despise; instead, it is a comparative expression that denotes the difference in our love for family when compared to our love for God.
In Luke 9, Christ rebukes would-be disciples who wish to delay following Him in order to bid loved ones farewell or to take part in lengthy Jewish mourning customs for recently deceased loved ones: “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Instead, Matthew 19:29 extols those who leave the generally desirable comforts of home and familiarity and wealth for Christ’s sake: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.”