Speaking of Jesus, John 7:5 reads, “For neither did his brethren believe in Him.”
If there is one thing that a significant majority of people in the Church agonize over it is their family. Whether it be Grandparents whose absent Grandchildren break their heart, a Mother whose Son simply refuses to attend or discuss Jesus, a Wife whose Husband would rather fish than attend Worship with her, or a Son whose Father refuses to hear him about Jesus or Church, our family can quickly devastate us. But there is hope for us in God’s Word.
Consider this staggering fact, Jesus Himself had family who didn’t believe in Him. It wasn’t that they didn’t know that he was special, it’s just that they thought He had lost His mind and therefore weren’t willing to support Him. In Mark 3:21 we read “And when His (Jesus’) friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on Him; for they said, He is beside Himself.”
Already in my short time as a Pastor I have met people who have been rejected by their family for being a Christian. And I have met people who desperately long to have their family in Church. What most people in that situation share is a sense of guilt or regret about their rejection or their family’s absence from Church. They secretly think like this, “If I had been a better witness for Christ then my family wouldn’t think me so crazy.” “If I had been a better Mother or Father my Children wouldn’t have left the faith.” “If I was just a better Wife then my Husband would join me in Worship.”
There are some problems with thinking that way.
First, let’s take Jesus, He was a pretty good guy right? He was a pretty good Witness, a pretty good Son, a pretty good Brother wouldn’t you say? And yet despite all of His powerful teaching, despite all of His miraculous works, despite all of His self-less love, He was unable to win His family! His own Brother’s didn’t believe in Him. What a sad commentary on humanity. Even if God was your brother, you wouldn’t automatically accept Him or be saved. This fact alone should take a huge burden off of us. We are not responsible for the salvation of our family or their Church attendance.
Perhaps you blew it as a Dad, maybe you were a terrible Brother, maybe a pitiful Spouse, regardless, the Bible teaches us that even if we had always done everything right (like Jesus) our family still might reject us. That sets us free. Their unbelief, it’s on them, it’s not on us. You cannot save your family.
Second, let’s take the desire itself. Someone who has been rejected by their family for believing in Jesus must ask themselves the question, “Why do I want my family’s approval?” Someone who longs for their family to be in Church must ask themselves the question, “Why do I want my family in Church?” I have found that the answer to those questions is often surprising because what usually motivates Human Behavior is not very flattering
Unfortunately, because we all have sinned and come short (everyday!) of the Glory of God, often we want the approval of our family because it makes us feel better about ourselves. It validates our faith. We think, “Well if my Dad thought I had made the right decision then I would be sure.” The reality is, the only approval that counts is not the approval of our earthly Dads but the approval of our Heavenly Father. And the Gospel of Jesus tells us that in Christ we already have our Heavenly Father’s total approval. There is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. We are God’s Sons and Daughters in whom He is well pleased.
The Grandmother who longs for the Grandchildren to be in Church often wants that not for the Grandchildren but for herself. How wonderful she would look if all her Grandchildren attended Church! If they were able to take up their own pew she would be so happy. And not to mention how everyone else would be jealous! Of course, you see the problem there.
If we try to find our validation, our happiness, our salvation, in anything other than the completed work and person of Jesus Christ we will never be satisfied. If you think you are a super Christian because your family comes to Church you are wrong. You are just as good a Christian if your family never darkened the door as you would be if you and your family filled up 10 pews. Your validation comes from the love of God in Christ and is freely given to you by Grace through Faith. You couldn’t be any better in God’s eyes because of what Jesus did for you.
So what shall we do with our family? We need to see that our families not attending Church or believing in Jesus cannot be laid on us. Even Jesus had lost family members. And we need to see that often our desire for our family is self-centered. But does the Bible hold out any hope?
James is one of Jesus’ Brothers. And after the Resurrection He believed in Jesus and wrote a letter that eventually found its way into the Bible, the Book of James. So yes there is hope for our families. But what we should realize is this, God loves our Spouses, Children, Grandchildren, Parents, etc. more than we ever could. He has done everything possible on His end to accomplish their Salvation. He is drawing them to Himself every day and so we should, as Jesus says, “Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven,” and trust that all of these things will be added to us. We should take God at His word, we should believe that He is working all things together for good in our life and that He will not withhold one good thing from those who trust in Him. Our focus should not be on our family but on our Lovely God.
One of the real dangers, something I want to shield you from, is that your desire for your family might wreck you. Our country is full of people who say, “I used to believe in God but then this happened.” So many people want to use God simply as a means to an end. And so if God decides to do something that contradicts their plans they ditch God. That is the real danger. So let me ask you a really tough question, if your family never accepted you or Jesus, would you love Jesus just as much, and would you see that Jesus loves you just as much? How you answer that question might just tell you if what you really love is yourself, your family, or God.
Can you say, “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done,” and be satisfied in your God who does all things right?