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Should Christians Put Family Ahead of Christian Service?

Updated: Nov 28, 2020

Just last week on Christian radio, a Bible teacher said, “The priority for all Christians is God, your family and service in the church.” I realize that’s a popular notion with a majority of Christians, but I don’t think Jesus would agree with him!

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19:29 To begin with, it’s important to make the distinction between “the church” and “the kingdom,” although the radio teacher made no such distinction. Our service in the church is simply one facet of our service in Christ’s kingdom, as is service to our family, or in our vocations. Jesus rarely talked about our service in the church, Matthew 18 being the only one I recall.

So what should Christians do with the Matthew 19 passage quoted above? They ought to obey it!

There should be very little debate that the two priorities of the Kingdom of God are:

  1. Love God more than anything else.

  2. Love others as much as yourself. Matthew 22:37-38

The second priority includes your family, but does not give priority to your family, or to your church. There are times in our service to the kingdom, that our family and our church must take a back seat.

My wife was sitting in church one Sunday 20 years ago and was lead by God to go with a missions team leaving for war-torn Albania and Kosovo at 3:00pm that afternoon! We had kids at home, I had my work. She left the church service halfway through to pack her things, while I bought airline tickets. At that moment, her service to the kingdom, trumped her commitment to the family or church. And I couldn’t have been more proud of her!

However, several of her Christian friends thought she’d made an impetuous decision, that wasn’t considerate of her other obligations. (Apparently, “family first” Christians.)

“and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” Matthew 4:22

I believe Jesus wasn’t calling us to give no thought or any priority to our biological family, but clearly he was pointing us toward our spiritual family. In fact that’s exactly what Jesus was saying in this passage.

“Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.’ He replied, ‘My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.’” Luke 8:19-21

Our “new family” is any spiritual “brother or sister” who lives out the will of God, including your own family.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, one way or another.

How following Jesus works in real life.

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