Mis-Focused on the Natural Family:
How Familyolotry Contradicts God's Will
"Has God indeed said...You are to have no other gods before Me...And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength." (Exod. 20:3; Mark 12:30)
Man's favorite idols are those things which the Lord created for man to enjoy and be blessed by, but which man perverts and puts above God. An idol or false god, is anything that people worship (ascribe ultimate worth to), whether a material statue; self; a person, place or thing; a false belief; or a government or institution. Whatever is the prime focus of a person's life day in and day out, moment by moment, is their god. Whatever is the master passion of a person's heart - which passion drives important decisions of how one spends his/her time and resources - that master passion is that person's god.
Today, the family has become an idol to many people labeling themselves as "bible believing christians". Truly, the family is focused on to a much greater extent than the one True and Living God's Son, Jesus the Messiah. Tragically, choices about "the family" are given much higher priority than Jesus' call to forsake all and follow Him.
There is a believer in Indiana, a man named Jim. He got saved about 5 years ago, and has been very sincere in his desire to live his life for Jesus. However, Jim is confused on some important matters and as a result, serves in his local evangelical, bible believing church with great love and earnestness. God is trying to reach Jim and thus Jim is facing a trial, and this trial is not from the world around him, but from the leadership and members of his religious organization! How could this happen, you say? Well the story goes like this.
You see Jim's wife is not seriously interested in following Jesus, and she attends the meetings of another competing religious organization on the other side of town. Jim loves his wife and their two young children very much, yet he has been enduring more and more conflict with his wife. You see Jim has asked his wife to please go with him to his religious organization's meetings, but she refuses. Jim also wants their children to be involved with his organization's "worship service and Sunday school", but his wife insists the children "continue in the church in which she and Jim were married". Jim has no desire to force his faith on his wife and children, yet he is also called by the Lord to lead his family where the Lord directs. Jim has been loving his wife as best as he knows how according to what the religious leaders tell him.
Jim has brought this situation up to the man he consider's his "Pastor" so-called, and his "Pastor's" counsel for the last three years has been for Jim to "not rock the boat with his wife since their marriage is the most important thing the Lord wants Jim focusing on right now". Jim's shepherd/clergyman tells Jim that "God hates divorce, and so you need to do whatever it takes to keep peace in the home". Jim's shepherd tells him, "the success of your marriage and raising your children in an unbroken home is the most important aspect of your witness for Jesus Christ". Jim's shepherd tells Jim to "Just concentrate on the plank in your eye". Jim has been listening to his shepherd, but there has been a growing discontent with the fruit of following his counsel. Praise the Lord, Jim is listening more and more to The Shepherd's voice!
Jim's wife has settled into a shallow relationship with him that avoids all talk of serious matters, and she avoids spiritual discussions with great determination. Jim has been growing in the Lord, and has heard the call of God to serve Him elsewhere. He has been active in supporting an organization that supports christians in other countries, and he has been informed that a position has opened up and they have asked him to come help. This would require Jim moving his family from Indiana to Tennessee. Jim has prayed about it and has heard the Lord's still small voice clearly call him to that work in Tennessee. Sadly, here is where the trial flares up.
Jim has told his wife of the Lord's call and his plan to move the family to Tennessee, and she has told him that if he moves to Tennessee, he is going to do it alone - without her or the children. Jim has gone to his shepherd with this, and his shepherd has told him, "if the Lord has not opened the heart of your wife to such a plan, then it isn't from the Lord, because the Lord does not want broken families. The most important part of your witness to the lost world is the health of your family". The other people in his religious organization repeat their shepherd's counsel to him. Jim is torn. What is Jim to do?
This situation is no doubt very common in the United States. What would be even more common, however, would be that a husband who got saved and started seeking the Lord with all his heart, would be misled before he would even consider making a decision that might cause his unbelieving or non-submissive wife to divorce him. What is more common is the husband never questioning the clergyman he is following and thereby writing off the calling of God as his own will and not the Lord's will. No doubt countless men are not following Jesus as a result.
What should Jim do? Jesus' Words provide the answer very clearly - Jim should follow the call of the Lord Jesus no matter what the cost. We will examine the scripture that gives that directive later on in the article.
The Family was Created by God for Good
If there is one thing that we all as disciples of Jesus can agree on, it is that God created the family (Gen. 2:18, 22-24) and that God desires that the natural family represent the love and commitment that He has for His people. The Father created the family before He created any other institution (Gen.2), and the Son makes clear that He desires one husband and one wife for life (Matt. 19:4-6). It is clear that the Lord intends the natural family to be the place where children can be loved and instructed in the ways of the Lord. Finally, I don't think that anyone would disagree that what God intends for the natural family is a wonderful thing that should be worked hard at to maintain by both husband and wife in the roles God calls each to - husband as the loving leader, wife as the submissive helper.
As amazing as it might sound, the scripture does not have that much to say about the natural family! Out of all the things said and taught in the scripture, the natural family is probably talked about less than one percent of the time! Contrast this to the time spent on the natural family by evangelical mass media! This should seem remarkable to the reader.
We have already seen that the Lord created the family as the basic human institution for societal order and that the family should be used by His people as a training ground in which to transmit and model His ways. Thus, love and truth should prevail, along with modeling authority - wife submitted to husband and children submitted to father and mother. However, the family can be, and is, used for evil purposes by those who do not know the Lord in as much as evil is modeled and children are trained in evil. You see, the family is not a person or a being - rather, it is an neutral institution. Since it is not a moral being, it is morally neutral. How one uses the family will determine whether it is used for good or evil.
Given these facts, it is equally important to understand what the family is not. The family is not intended by God, to be the focus of His people. The family is to be made to serve the Lord rather than God's people serving the family. As Jesus said, the Sabbath was created for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). In the same way, the family was created for man, not man for the family. The Sabbath was intended by God to serve a simple purpose for His people - that they might rest and use the time to be refreshed and remind themselves of the His goodness. As Jesus made clear, the Sabbath was not made to rule man's behavior and thoughts - it was not made by God to be the focus of the people of God. It was not made to control people's behavior.
In the same way, God made the family to serve a simple purpose - to serve as a basic unit of human societal organization. It could be used for good by His people, to teach the next generation His ways, or it could be used for evil by those who reject Him to teach the next generation man's ways. The scripture makes clear that the family was not made to rule man's behavior and thoughts - it was not made by the Lord to be the focus of His people. Rather, God the Father and His Son Jesus are to be the focus of His people, and this in spite of the constant exhortation by many to 'focus on the family'!
As you listen to the most popular voices representing the doctrines of the evangelical church speaking today from the pulpit of mass media radio, one will find that the family is preached as the highest priority. If you listen closely enough, you will hear that the family has taken a highly exalted place which, for all practical purposes, has become many people's god. You say, 'come on, isn't that going a bit far'. Well, let's first define what someone's god is? A person's god is the master passion of that person's heart and life. A person's god is that person or thing that receives the majority of that person's mind time and service to and work on. It is the focus of one's heart and life. It is that which is thought about and talked about most. It is that which is loved most by that person. This is a person's god. And by this definition of a person's god, today, in the evangelical church, many people's god is "the family". Each person has one highest god in their life. If you are a believer, then your God is to be Jesus' Father, the Most High God. It is not to be "the family", "your husband or wife" or any other person or thing.
It is regularly preached that nothing is more important than the family. If you visit the christian bookstores, you will find a large percentage of books dedicated to the family. Why is this so, and how have we gotten here? [By the way, if the book store calling itself "Christian" is not making available for free, inexpensive bibles, then it really has no basis for calling itself a "Christian" book store (Matt. 10:8b), and you should gently inform the owners of this truth.]
What Does Jesus Say?
In listening to familyolotry's main preacher, Dr. Dobson, one is taught that there is nothing more important than honoring the family and keeping unity and harmony in the family and preserving the family. Oh, Dr. Dobson would vehemently deny this and say that the Lord is the most important thing. However, just listen to the words of out his mouth. Dr. Dobson will talk 90 plus percent about his god the natural family, and the rest is lip service to "God". Jesus says that what proceeds out of a man's mouth comes from the heart. For those not blinded to the truth, Dr. Dobson's god is clearly the natural family.
For those more interested in Jesus' voice (very few...most are much more interested in Dr. Dobson's voice), what does Jesus have to say about the family? Let's take a look at Jesus' own Words on this matter.
Matt. 10:34-37, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father; a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.' He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of Me."
Let us first establish the context. Jesus is referring to situations where unbelievers get saved and follow him, while their other natural family members do not. Jesus is not teaching rebellion within believing families. Rather, He is teaching that when one becomes a believer, relationships with unbelieving relatives will change, and change drastically. Jesus says, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." (John 15:19) Therefore, here in this context, Jesus clearly teaches that, in the case of believers with unbelieving relatives, the natural family is secondary to following Him.
When the believer is a faithful witness to their unbelieving family, and they choose not to repent, believe and follow, then animosity and hatred will ensue from the unbelievers. This will lead to a breaking up of these relationships, and notice, Jesus choose the most important family relationships in his teaching. He said father against son, mother against daughter, and the marriage relationship of in-laws as well. In today's evangelical church, Jesus would, at a minimum be corrected for not being positive enough and for going a little too far with that teaching. At worst, He would be called a despiser of the "family" and an advocate of the deterioration of "our society", for he is clearly advocating the separation of the natural family IF you are willing to receive his Words and not twist them.
What should be the implication of this teaching of Jesus today? As a person who becomes a believer was formally positioned in their family with the father or mother as the highest authority, they now have a new Lord whose authority far exceeds any other person in their life. The believer has a new family, Jesus and His disciples, to whom they give loving allegiance over all other. And when the unbelieving members of their family ask the believer to put them first over Jesus' disciples and serving the Lord, then the believer should say no and serve the Lord anyway, no matter what the cost.
Matt. 12:46-48, "While He [Jesus] was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Then one said to Him, "Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You." But He answered and said to the one who told Him, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and 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."
Here, Jesus clearly demonstrates and teaches that not only does He reign as far more important than the family, but that spiritual brothers and sisters take precedence over the natural family as well! Here Jesus put off His natural family for His true family i.e. His disciples. In today's familyolotry, this act of Jesus is incomprehensible. If those who preach family first were honest, they would be forced to label Jesus as at least unacceptably rude here. When they do this, they judge themselves, and by their admission, they claim that their words as more important than Jesus'.
What would be the implication today? Well, if a believer's unbelieving parents don't want a son or daughter to server the Lord with other disciples in the believing community, then the believer must disobey their parents and obey Jesus. Honoring one's father and mother applies except where that father or mother asks the child to not put Jesus first, and true believing parents would not do this. The "will of My Father" that Jesus refers to in the above scripture quote is to love and obey Jesus far above all else (Mark 12:29-31).
Luke 14:26, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple."
The context of this verse is the cost of following Jesus. I encourage the reader to read the verses that follow. Here, Jesus makes it as clear as possible, in terms of what it means to truly be his disciple. Jesus does not advocate hate here and thereby contradict all His other teachings about love (John13:34). Rather, he uses a style of teaching of using dramatic contrast. What Jesus says here, in essence, is that your love for Him should make your love for others look like hatred in comparison. For someone to follow Jesus and place him as the Lord of their life - their love for Jesus should make their love for their father, mother, wife, and children, look like hatred in comparison!
It is very sad to see what the familyolotry preachers and followers do to pervert the plain meaning of this verse. Jesus specifically uses every important family relationship that exists - children to parent; husband to wife; brother to sister - and says that your concern about what they think about your devotion to Jesus is utterly unimportant. Jesus says that if your father, mother, wife or children get in the way of your love and thereby service to Him, that they lose and He wins. If your parents or spouse or children demand that you concern yourself with what they think when what they think contradicts Jesus' commands - and you listen to their voice instead of His - then you cannot be His disciple.
This teaching of Jesus has deep implications for familyolotry and a very direct bearing on the case of Jim at the beginning of this article. On the basis of this verse along, Jim's President/Pastor is exposed at a worshipper of the family. Jim's President/Pastor's advice is based on the worship of the family above love for Messiah Jesus. Jim should follow Jesus where He wants him to go. Jim's wife is an un-submissive and unbelieving wife who will make the decision to leave Jim. This is her decision, and Jim's conscience should be clear before the Lord should she choose to make it. Jim cannot control her sin and rebellion, and Jim should walk after Jesus, and not listen to her voice. Nor should Jim listen to the the other voices in his life insisting that he not follow his call, even though they claim to represent the Lord. For justification of this counsel, please examine the next set of verses.
Luke 18:28-30, "Then Peter said, "See, we have left all and followed You." So He [Jesus] said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life."
Notice in both Luke 14:26 and 18:29, "wife and children" are included. Peter openly confesses that he and the other disciples had "left all and followed You". Instead of being reprimanded by the Lord as being irresponsible family men and foolish, they are commended by the Lord and promised reward both in this life and the life to come, for having made such a great sacrifice. Jesus' other teachings in the gospels ensure us that Peter or the other disciples did not coldly abandon their families, but rather one of two situations must have been associated with their leaving their families. Either their parents or wives did not repent and believe in Jesus, and thereby put them out or divorced the disciples respectively, as the disciples choose to follow Jesus. Or the parents or wives repented and believed in Jesus and the disciples left them in the care of others while they went and were discipled by Jesus for several years. Either way, they left all natural family ties and went and followed Jesus. Again, this truth is hidden by the preachers of familyolotry.
Remember Jim? What should Jim Do?
Let us take one more look at Jim's shepherd's counsel in light of the Lights truths. If you recall Jim's situation, Jim was called to serve the Lord in Tennessee, which would require his moving his family from Indiana. Jim's unbelieving wife issued an ultimatum to Jim - if you leave to go to Indiana, you will go without me or our children. Jim foolishly went to his shepherd to ask his counsel. Jim's President/Pastor told Jim, in no uncertain terms, that Jim should not go to Tennessee for the Lord would not call him to some place that would cause his wife to leave him, since the Lord hates broken families.
Jim's President/Pastor told Jim to "not rock the boat with his wife since their marriage is the most important thing the Lord wants Jim focusing on right now". Jim's President/Pastor told Jim that "God hates divorce, and so you need to do whatever it takes to keep peace in the home". Jim's President/Pastor told him, "the success of your marriage and raising your children in an unbroken home is the most important aspect of your witness for Christ".
Just how does Jim's President/Pastor's counsel square up to Jesus' teachings? The reader with eyes to see will be able to judge that Jim's President/Pastor thinks more of "the family" than of following Jesus. This is sadly the norm in the religious organizations in America. However, the reader must know that there is something that God hates more than broken families. God hates idolatry and putting others in front of Him more than He hates anything else (Exod. 20:2-6; Mark 12:31) - and this includes family (Ezra 10:2-4; Nehemiah 13:23-30). In this day of family worship, this precious truth has been largely lost in the United States. Dr. James Dobson's counsel is taken above Jesus' commands and teachings. Now, Dr. Dobson would never admit to this, but if one reviews his teachings, one will see that the content of his teachings, and the end result of many who receive Dobson's teachings is the worship of (focus on) the natural family.
Sadly, an even more tragic case than Jim's reviewed above, is if Jim's wife was a professing born again, evangelical-Pentecostal-Baptist-fundamentalist christian, and she issued a silent ultimatum. The lack of submission of women professing to be disciples of Jesus is astounding [link to The Role of Believing Women]. What should Jim do if his wife was a professing "Christian"? Jim should do the same thing - he should follow the call of Jesus no matter what his wife thinks about it! This would be harder because Jim's President/Pastor would more than likely ex-communicate Jim for this! Jim would be called callous and un-loving and egotistic and insensitive, and every other word Satan throws at believers determined to follow Jesus. Jim would be sent to the local "Christian" psychologist so that he could become a more "sensitive man of God" [link to Can Christian Psychology Help Me?].
If his wife was seeking the Lord with all her heart, then she would gladly submit to Jim's leading in his calling. If, however, she has other things in her life she loves more than Jesus or her husband (in that order), then she would rebel, and due to the confusion of roles in the religious organizations, she would get most clergymen backing her up. How sad and tragic for all involved, for the wife in this example is out of God's will with her priorities.
If the natural family is to be exalted above all else, then anything which harms the family will be viewed as the worst kind of evil. If your god is the natural family, then anything that 'destroys the family' would be viewed as tantamount to destroying your god. For the believer, that which tries to destroy God is Satan. For the confused christian or moralistic God-fearer whose god has become the natural family, anything that would be viewed as "harming the family" would more than likely be viewed as Satanic. Thus, divorce has come to be viewed as basically the unforgivable sin. This is tragic and is not of the Lord. Yes, divorce is very seldom God's will. The Lord's desire is that a husband and wife live joyfully together for life (Matt. 19:4-9). For a more in-depth look at this issue, link to Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage.
The New Testament makes divorce an option in two instances for the believer. First, if the believer's fianc�e has lied to the prospective husband or wife that they are a virgin, when in fact they are not. If the marriage occurs and the one lied to finds out, then they are free to annul the marriage (Matt. 5:32). Some interpret Matt. 5:32 to mean that divorce is allowable when a spouse commits unrepentant adultery (Matt. 5:32). I believe the former interpretation is correct due to the fact that the word "fornication" is used instead of "adultery". However, it is between the individual and the Lord in terms of which interpretation to believe. Just remember, the Lord desires marriage to be permanent, so forgiveness and commitment is always the best route.
However, in today's mis-focused on the family environment, the divorced person is looked upon as "unclean". With the God-Fearing moralists (who are not disciples [link to Are God Fearers Christians?]) decrying the decay of the society with divorce at the root, and most clergymen jumping on the bandwagon, the legitimately divorced believer is thrown out with the bath water. Yes, this author understands that there are very few "legitimately divorced believers". Yet even for the illegitimately divorced believer, divorce is not the unforgivable sin, and the forgiveness and restoration of that person is only a repentant heart and prayer away.
Those who worship the natural family and condemn all divorce as sinful, are quick to quote Mal. 2:16 which says, "For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce..." If you look at the context of the preceding verses, it is clear that the divorce that God hates is the divorce obtained "treacherously", meaning without legitimate grounds (Mal. 2:14).
Earlier in the very same chapter, God identifies something that he not only hates, but considers an "abomination" (Mal. 2:11), which in scripture is at least as bad as God hating something. And what is it that He calls an abomination? The marriage to an unbeliever! Ironic, given the lack of understanding in churchianity on this issue. It is all right for a "Christian" to marry someone who claims to be born again, with a "Christian" denominational label, yet who has no fruit in their lives to evidence a real relationship with Jesus. Yet it is anathema for a believer to divorce his/her unbelieving spouse on legitimate grounds! [link to Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage]
Satan is using all kinds of things to keep people religious people in particular away from the basics that the Lord would have them doing. What are those basics? Growing in their love for Jesus and making disciples of all nations. This is the call of Jesus' disciples - it always has been, and always will be. Yet, many are being ensnared by false gospels, false doctrine, false gods and false jesus'. Often, Satan's most effective means to mislead people is to use something that God created for good and twist it to be more than God intends it to be. The most obvious example of this is the fact that God created His spiritual Family for His people to worship and serve him. Yet look at the religious organizations which claim to be His "church", yet are nothing more than lost man kind's attempt to make his own way to God through religion. The same can be said of an earlier "institution" God created, the natural family. The vast majority of those in churchianity are elevating the natural family to a place God never intended. The family is being twisted so that believers serve it, instead of it serving the believers so that they may serve the Lord. The family was made for man, not man for the family. Mr. Dobson may exhort you to "turn your heart towards home", but you would be in grevious error to do so according to Mr. Dobson's definition of home. Mr. Dobson's home is where your spouse and children are, or the house in which your spouse and children live in. For the best definition of "home", see John 14:1-3, and turn your heart towards heaven!
May the few remaining disciples of Jesus be wary and not fall into this trap. May Jesus' disciples ensure they are following his basics of the simple worship of his Father and the making disciples of all people as He commands us. May those men and women who mis-focus disciples of Jesus towards the natural family and thus away from the Lord and his spiritual Family, repent and return to simply following Jesus. May the true disciples of Jesus separate from the world's kingdoms, and become Jesus' true Family.
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