ABC Extra – When Family Members Don’t Believe

May 2, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

It always concerns me when I’m talking to a parent of a young child and he says something like, “I’m going to let my child make his own decisions about religion as he grows.  I may take him to church every once in a while, I’ll give him a Bible, but ultimately, it’s up to him.  I don’t want to cram religion down his throat.”  I once heard of some parents who took their daughter to church until she was eight, at which time they began to ask her: “Would you like to go to church this morning, honey?”  I leave it you to guess which decision she made.

This past weekend in worship and ABC, we kicked off a new series titled, “All in the Family:  Discovering God’s Plan for Your Family.”  In this series, we are taking a look at the roles God has given husbands, wives, parents, and children to play in their families.  At the heart of each of these roles, however – whether your role is that of a husband, a wife, a parent, a child, or some combination thereof – is the preeminence of Christ.  In other words, if you are part of a family, you should never simply leave it up to another family member’s discretion as to whether or not they want to “be religious.”  Rather, you should clearly, compellingly, and persuasively present Christ’s gospel.  You should model to and for your family what a Christ-centered life looks like.

In our text from Matthew 10, Jesus gives us a straightforward estimate of the cost of a Christ-centered life:  “I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:35-37).  A Christ-centered life means that you are to love Christ and follow Him above all else – even your family.  And if this upsets your family – if this turns them into “enemies,” as Jesus says in verse 36 – so be it.  It is important to remember that at the same time the gospel of Christ unites, it also can divide.  It is a “stumbling block” to those who refuse to believe (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:23).

Interestingly, the Greek word Jesus uses for “enemies” is ekthros.  This word is first used in the Bible in Genesis 3:15, when God curses the Satanic serpent for tempting Adam and Eve into sin:   “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your Offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.” The Greek word for “enmity” is again ekthros. This is the Bible’s first prophecy of Christ, reminding us that He, as a descendent of Eve and the very Son of God, will crush the head of Satan on the cross.  We also are to be enemies of Satan and all he teaches and touts.

Sadly, sometimes, even within families, one person teaches and touts the truth of God while another teaches and touts other things not of God.  In this way, they become an enemy of the faith as Jesus says.  But there is still hope!

In the early days of Christianity, it was not uncommon for two pagan people to marry and then for one to convert to Christianity.  This created a situation where one spouse was believing and the other was not.  Thankfully, the Bible offers some guidance on how to graciously and whimsically witness to those in our family who do not have faith in Christ.  Though much of the biblical guidance is given specifically to husbands and wives, it can certainly be applied in the context of other family relationships as well.  So here are three thoughts on how to witness to unbelieving family members.

First, remember that even if a family member does not trust in Christ, they are still part of your family!  The apostle Paul writes, “To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).  Notice what Paul says:  If your spouse is an unbeliever, you don’t disown and divorce him or her; rather, you stay in the marriage.  After all, that person is still your spouse!  He or she is still your family!  Thus, a difference in faith is not a basis for estrangement.

Second, your life in Christ and for Christ is a powerful to witness to family members who do not believe.  The apostle Peter writes to wives who have unbelieving husbands: “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives” (1 Peter 3:1-2).  Peter’s goal is for wives to “win over” their husbands by their witness to Christ, even if their witness to Christ is a silent one.  This witness to Christ is one born out of behavior and purity.  Thus, as we spend time with unbelieving family members, it is important to ask:  What kind of witness – in word and in deed – am I giving for Christ?

Third, your greatest affection must be for Christ, not for your family.  Jesus could not be clearer:  “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37).  Your highest allegiance and affection must be for Christ.  To love anyone – even your family – more than Christ is sinful.  Indeed, it is only by loving Christ that a person can truly learn how to love his family.  For the best love we can give our families is a love that is from and of God.  Any love that we give our families apart from this love is only a cut-rate love.  And who would want to give their families that?

Having unbelieving family members is never easy.  But, by God’s grace working through His holy Word, unbelieving family members do not need to stay unbelieving forever.  They can be transformed.  Jesus can save them.  After all, he saved us.  And if Jesus can save a guy like me, there’s hope for us all!

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
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