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3 blessings when choosing God over family

choosing God over family

There aren’t many situations for Christians more difficult 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:

  • Moses called for the execution of the individuals responsible for the Golden Calf. This meant some Israelites had to kill their own relatives. Exodus 32:27 says, “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.’”
  • 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. 1 Kings 15:13 records, “[Asa] removed Maachah his grandmother from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah”

Jesus is the premier teacher and example on this subject…

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. Matthew 12:46-50 records:

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.”

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—also 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” in John 2:4 and 19:26. There were two relationships between Jesus and Mary:

  • Mother-Son earthly relationship
  • Sinner-Savior 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.

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. It’s painful, but it’s also a great privilege.

Discuss:

  • Have you ever had to choose God over family? If so, would you be willing to share about it below?
  • Can you think of situations that would involve having to choose God over family?

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30 thoughts on “3 blessings when choosing God over family

  1. Yes there have been times I’ve chosen God over family. Specifically my mom is a recovering alcoholic and there are times I have to limit my interaction with her because she brings me down. I have to choose God, trust in Him about the situation and let it go.
    As a mom, my kids can distract me from getting that quiet time with God I need. You are right that our kids need to see our faithfulness to God. I try to do my quiet time when they are watching a movie so if they ask what I’m doing, I can say I’m putting God first. This post was great. Thanks!

    1. Hi Jessica,
      Thanks for reading and sharing an example from your life that’s required choosing God over a family member. If you want to limit your children’s time watching television, one other possibility is doing your quiet time before they’re up, or having them read the Word at the same time.

  2. My wife and I are both born again Christians reuniting after many years of separation. However, my wife is on a mission as she says to establish her ministry. I am all for it and willing to support her as best I can. Yet, she has pretty much eliminated any time for us as a couple spending hours in prayer, church, and, reading her bible. Even so much as believe it or not, turning on Daystar during sex and changing the subject when I am attempting to woo her into bed. I am left to either embrace her or leave her in this take it or leave it relationship. I can’t even take her to dinner because she is either fasting, or preparing for prayer. I fully admit that my frustration is reaching a crescendo and my faith is being tested. If I say anything to the contrary, I am trying to “change her”, or “distract her from her path.” At this time, we live 300 miles apart. She lives in a minimalist apartment, and I have two fairly nice homes. She works 2 jobs, I am semi-retired and can support her without her having to work. Even her own son lives near me, Her statement is I love you and our son, but I love God more. Submission to her husband is not in her vocabulary. and she refuses to see the importance of our family under one roof in a traditional marriage relationship citing that God has called her to this path and there is no negotiating. Can you feel my frustration?

    1. Hello Larry,
      First, I’m only hearing your side of the story, and Scripture is clear we should hear both sides of a story before coming to a conclusion. I’ve been in counseling enough times, heard one person’s side of a story, thought to myself, “There’s no way I can imagine it being different than this” only to hear the other person’s side and be corrected.

      With that said, I’ll try to provide what counsel I can.

      First, I would approach the pastor and/or elders of the church in which she’s serving. If this is a godly church, then:
      1. There should be limitations on her involvement, ministry, service, etc. While women can (and should) serve in the church, their primary ministry is to their husband, home, children, etc (Titus 2).
      2. The pastor and elders will receive your concerns, understand your marriage is more important than her ministry, and encourage her to pour less time into the church and more time into her marriage.
      There’s also the possibility that if her marriage is as bad as you describe that she’s disqualified from serving in the church until her marriage is improved.

      It seems as though your efforts with her are not working and it’s necessary to involve the leaders in the church.

      I can’t tell from your comment if you live together or are separated. It sounds like both are true? If she’s separated from her husband, she should not be serving this actively until her marriage is restored.

      As far as feeling your frustration, assuming what you said is true and I’m not missing some important details, yes, it sounds very frustrating. God would not “call her to a path” that compromises – or worse ruins – her marriage, which seems to be what she’s claiming is the case.

  3. Great points, Scott! I’m blessed to have been raised by committed Christians who modeled this for me. One example I saw growing up- When relatives from out-of-town would visit they were invited to church with us. If they declined, we’d meet them afterwards but didn’t miss service for them.

    1. Hi Beka,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. That’s a fantastic example. I appreciate you sharing. I was actually having trouble thinking of more practical examples of what it can look like to choose God over family (or friends). I hope people read your comment to see what it can look like.

  4. When we choose God over family or anything else, we are blessed in more ways than we can ever imagine.

    1. Hi Tara,
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Do you see some ways besides the three I mentioned?

  5. 4th choosing God over family is what we are supposed to do. All great points and yes, it truly does set us up for show the next generation what matters most!

    1. Hi Caroline,
      Yes, it’s what we’re supposed to do. Thanks for adding that. But do you see a 4th blessing associated with obeying God in this way?

  6. Choosing God over family is not easy but in the end it’s worth it. I am currently at the moment sticking with God and not family and it’s leading to me court. My dad cosigned a student loan a few years ago and now its time to pay it back but my husband and I have no money. God has told us that he will take care of the bill as long as we believe and have faith. My dad doesn’t believe God speaks to me and so now is suing me and taking me to court. His words were “are you willing to tell a judge God speaks to you”? And honestly yes. I know this is a spiritual battle and its really my belief in God that’s on trial but I know in the end God will win. Continue to pray for my husband and I.

    1. Hello Kamara,
      I’m sorry to hear about the situation with your parents, especially about your parents taking you to court. 1 Corinthians 6:1-4 says:

      1 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church?

      I’m glad to hear that you’re trusting God, but I’m not sure what you mean when you said:

      God has told us that He will take care of the bill as long as we believe and have faith.

      Do you mean you believe God is going to pay the bill for you, or something along those lines?

      If you cosigned the loan with your dad, then you have a responsibility to pay the bill. You shouldn’t leave it up to him to pay it, especially since it was for your schooling.

      Part of letting our “yes be yes” is repaying what we owe. I hope you will repay the loan as soon as possible. If you do, perhaps your dad won’t take you to court.

    2. Yes sir we understand that but we currently don’t have any money and my husband is unemployed still looking for a job. When I mean by having faith is God told me everything would be taken care of bc we have no money.

    3. Okay Kamara, thank you for the explanation!

  7. In following God’s call to go overseas, we knew we would be choosing God over family. Reactions from family members were all over the map; it didn’t seem to matter whether the person was a Christian or not. There were good reactions and less-than-good reactions from Christians and non-Christians alike.

    We had to come to grips with Matthew 19:27-30 and decide whether we believed what it said or not. And it’s really one of the main issues all Christians eventually need to decide, even in many more ways than “big” decisions to move overseas.

    Whether you believe this truth or decide not to. It’s a crossroads we all face at several – even many – different points in our lives. How we answer this question reveals whether we really have the Spirit of God working in our hearts to make us more like Jesus or not (at which point, we are really not genuinely converted, after all.)

    If you back up to verse 16, you see – in context – Jesus’ interactions with the rich young man. We get to see the choice he made. And we get to see that more important than obeying commandments (on the surface) is a willingness to follow Jesus and do what he says. The young man obeyed the commandments, but he walked away from the one who gave the commandments in the first place. His god turned out to be his wealth and the “security” he provided him.

    1. Great thoughts brother, thank you. I didn’t think of going overseas as a missionary as an example of having to choose God over family, but it makes perfect sense.

      You kept saying, “we.” Does that mean Jess faced this too from her family members?

      You know the situation with my parents as well as anyone. Things were terrible between us when I left the Catholic Church and became a Christian, but by God’s grace they’ve been saved and our relationship is the best it’s ever been. Unfortunately, we have some other family members – all Catholics – and the relationship with them has never been the same.

  8. Scott… Some good thoughts… Thanks! What I have reflected on is the command to love our Lord and others. Our love for both often seems to cause the wedge. We know our calling is to our Lord, living in the Light is the only way to truly live. Families may not approve and may reject our choice, but if we love them… truly love them… we will gracious live a life of obedience to the Lord. Our family my blame our faith for the division, but the division is caused by sin. Many believers have put their lives on the line in order to remain true to their Lord and love their families. I was always impressed by the life of Charles Fineberg who was declared dead by his orthodox Jewish family when he converted to Christ. They would return his letters unopened and hang up the phone when they recognized his voice. His love for them and his Lord remained steadfast.

    1. Tim, I didn’t know that about Charles Feinberg; I only knew of him through things John MacArthur has shared. I was at the pastor’s conference for this story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4yJZf6tELI

  9. but *what* do you do with the sometimes overwhelming PAIN that division can cause? I confess that often times I wish I could forget my faith, just so I can restore the relationship

    1. Christina, I don’t want to sound like I’m preaching at you, but you asked, so I’ll try to answer best I can…

      First, I don’t know your exact situation, but I know I was very separated from my family when I embraced Christianity. By the grace of God, as you know, my parents are now part of the church I pastor…which is something I NEVER would’ve imagined happening. Never. My wish was just for them to become Christians, say nothing about actually become Christians, be baptized by me, and move to be with Katie, the kids and me. Eph 3:20 in action. So the first thing I might say is hold out hope that things can really turn around. It took years and lots of prayer.

      Obviously that’s not a guarantee though. If it never happens (and it might not), you have to look for the ways God’s grace is being sufficient for you despite those painful relationships…look for the ways God is blessing you through this: you have a great husband that loves church, loves going w/ you, is involved, and most importantly loves God. And you have a bunch of Christians around you that see you as part of their family.

  10. My parents have always been a disappointment to me. I choose Christ every day of my life. I am blessed to have Steve and Randi and a wonderful Pastor who cares.

    1. And they (and we) are blessed to have you.

  11. I have been sruggling with this my whole life. Even now, my moms been in town for almost 6 weeks and has not called me once or offered to come to our house to see or help me. Feeling a little down about now.. Thanks for the love and support of my church family.:) I love each one of you.

    1. I’m so sorry Keri. That is rough. It probably doesn’t help that you’re stuck at home recovering from surgery, isolated from everyone. Your church family does love and miss you.

  12. Wow. Really appreciate you putting these thoughts into words. It’s not easy when you’ve had to set up barriers and gaps with your family – for whatever reason – and hopefully those separations can heal (by God’s mighty work), but what a blessing to share those worldly struggles and life in general with an eternal family when it can otherwise feel very lonely! Good stuff.

    1. No kidding. Those early years right after becoming a Christian when I really just had my church family (Elwyn) would’ve been miserable without them.

  13. Needed to be said.

    1. needed to be read 🙂 Thanks Scott Have always felt that to be true, but at times it’s sure a rough place to be. Thank you God for giving me strength to never put You on the back burner because of what my family may think of my walk.

    2. Hopefully your example Bonnie will influence them for Christ.

    3. Hi Jeff,
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

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