I’ve not spoken to my mother in years.
I never imagined my life this way, but I had a choice to make: listen to my heart or follow God.
I could no longer accompany her down the path she was going. Tolerance of sin, justification of self, and wresting of Scripture to please the flesh.
I could no longer pretend I was honoring God by keeping company with someone who professes Jesus Christ but lives contrary to Him.
If you find yourself in the unenviable position of having to choose between family and Christ, part of you will find great relief to shake the dust off your feet concerning those that hinder your Christian walk. Those that cause so much tension and tumult over your stand for God’s truth.
And part of you will weep daily that it has to be this way.
I’ve done both.
When Christian duty brings tears
At first, you’re filled with sorrow and beg God to lift the heavy tarp of pain smothering you. You vacillate between anger, sadness, frustration, and the labored sighing of depression as you go about everyday tasks.
You’re in mourning, after all. It feels as if your errant loved ones were all crammed into the same compact car and went careening off a cliff before your eyes.
(Not only did I lose my mother to the evil, anything-goes, ideology of the world; I also lost my sister, father, brother, and the most heart-rending of all, my two adult daughters.)
You ask God to turn back time to when you were blissfully ignorant of what must be done and life was good.
But it wasn’t, really. The same insidious self-deception was only lying dormant. Waiting for the right conditions to spring forth more destruction on those not guarding their spirit.
But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. I Corinthians 5:11
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. . . And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14
I could not ignore the biblical commands to avoid brethren choosing self over Christ.
Even if that meant losing a piece of my heart.
The bond of family
Growing up, we look up to our parents. We wake up each day with our siblings, love hanging out with our cousins, look forward to seeing our aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, and we respect and adore our grandparents.
Most people never question allegiance to family. They take it for granted that their loyalty to their family is paramount. Blood is thicker than water, and all that.
But Christ had something different to say. And He warned us beforehand. (Why are we so shocked when it happens to us?)
Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. Luke 12:51–52
How many of you think this was spoken for some other family? Some other situation. Surely, not yours.
Who is my mother?
When you became a believer, everything changed. You accepted a higher calling and your allegiance shifted from your birth family to your spiritual one. Listen again to what Christ said:
While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.
Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.
But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?
And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. Matthew 12:46–50
When your family becomes a detriment to your faith, causing you to compromise your beliefs and become tolerant of sin, then it’s time to let them go.
Your true family is anyone who honors and obeys God and does His will. It’s that simple. But it becomes complicated when we let our emotions reign and cause us to waver.
King Solomon stumbled here. He allowed the emotional pull of pleasing his many wives to sway him into dishonoring God. He allowed his feelings to interfere with his obedience to the Most High God.
And he was the wisest man who ever lived!
How much more should we be on guard and prevent the influence of others that would corrupt our Christian walk?
Our parental duty
As parents, we have an even greater responsibility to protect our children from the powerful sway family members have over them.
Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, anyone who they look up to but who do not hold the doctrine of Christ as sacred can detrimentally affect their spiritual lives.
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. Romans 16:17–18
The older generation ruins the next while they proudly proclaim to them freedom and their tainted version of love. The young are deceived and their future destroyed as they grow up repeating the same damaging ideology they witnessed.
Whole families implode.
Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. 1 Corinthians 15:33
Those you surround yourself with will affect your life one way or another, dear Christian.
Either they will build up your faith or tear it down. This is vitally important to understand. It only takes but a small splinter of compromise here and a tiny infection of doubt there to invade the whole body.
Remember: a little leaven leavens the whole lump (Galatians 5:9)!
Are you willing to forsake your family for Christ?
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. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26–27
At first glance, this admonition to hate our family seems ridiculous.
We love our family dearly and we’re told in God’s word, repeatedly, that loving others is what sets us apart as Christians.
But in Luke 14, Christ is making a distinction. While hate here means to detest, it also means to “love less” anyone or anything that lays claim to your heart and mind over the claim Christ has on you.
When familial love comes between you and your obedience to Jesus Christ, your reaction should be one of repulsion (hatred). Not tolerance and excuses.
Christ comes first, everything else is secondary.
Christ comes first
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 10:37–39
How do we love our family more than Christ? By clinging to what they offer us now over what Christ offers us for all eternity.
When we tolerate our family’s misrepresentation of what Christ did for us and tolerate their justification to live however feels right at the moment, we are placing our love of family above our love for God.
The spirit of compromise, the spirit of self-importance, the spirit of self-deception; if we live by any spirit other than the Spirit of Christ, we are none of His. (Romans 8:9)
Do we realize how serious that is!
Obedience is not a game to be played when it suits us. A game we play when all is going well.
No, obedience is our sacrifice of love to the Father, it is our bond of service to the One who paid our price.
Why is living a Christian life so hard?
Because we must die daily. We must sacrifice our wants and desires of good things now for better things later.
And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive and hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. Matthew 19:29
But our reward—eternal life—is waiting and is worth far more than a life full of vacuous happiness that a physical family or physical objects can give us.
There is nothing we sacrifice here that won’t be multiplied a hundred times beyond what we can imagine in the coming kingdom of God.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. Mark 8:35–38
The Christian life is an uncompromising one. But many view Christianity from an entirely emotional standpoint and continue to live much the same way they did before conversion.
Yet God sent His Son to die for us. Christ paid our price and freed us from the consequences of our sins—not so we could continue to live in them and still reap the benefits of Christian status.
If fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, even grown sons and daughters think lightly of Christ’s sacrifice, we can’t keep them close to us and say nothing.
Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. Philippians 3:17–19
The obedient life of a Christian
My mother’s absence in my life has dulled to a shimmering mirage of what could have been. A faint echo of happier times and sweet communion that is no more.
My daughters’ absences are not so faint. There remains a sharp, self-incriminating gouge of the plucked-out eye and the ragged scar from the lopped-off hand that I must patiently endure (Matthew 18:9).
I wake from gauzy dreams of familiar laughter and the fond remembrance of a touch to the stark reality of vacancy and silence.
Obedience takes strength, dear Christian. A strength not found in ourselves, but one we need to ask for.
My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. Psalm 73:26
When memories conspire to drown me in self-pity and keep me mournful, I read how Samuel mourned over king Saul and what could no longer be.
And the Lord said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons. 1 Samuel 16:1
Our losses will yield sorrow, but God wants us to continue following Him with head held high and gaze at His glorious promises, not cry over things we can’t change and wallow in unfruitfulness—that does us no good.
Delight in obedience
Obedience to God—straightforward, no holds barred, not-mindful-of-our-losses—obedience can be the hardest thing we ever do as Christ-followers.
Our Christian duty is before us every day. So, carry on, dear Christian. Do the hard work of faith and delight in obedience even if it hurts.
By doing so we will reap the incomprehensible rewards of God’s love and an entrance into His kingdom that cannot be compared.
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. John 14:21
If you’d like to read more, I continue this controversial topic in When Christian Duty Strikes the Heart—Part 2.
Abiding in the Vine,
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