In the Western world family breakdown has been largely due to the challenge of the sanctity of traditional marriage posed by homosexuality and the feminist insurgence. But in the Christian circles misplaced priorities, as Pastor Benny Hinn recently cited, is one of the major contributors to this epidemic.
Too many Christians – especially preachers – believe the order of priority to be God first, Ministry (Church Programs / Work) second and then family. I also thought the same. While rightly putting God first, I wrongly elevated ministry over and above my family. In fact, if I’m completely honest I never saw family love to be the true mark of Christian faith. But one day God completely changed my theology.
It was particularly shocking to me to learn that family love is the fundamental fabric of Christian faith. Family is stitched together by the sanctity of marriage. But love is what binds marriage. By family, I mean a spouse, children, parents, siblings, relatives or close people that mean the most to you. Jesus Christ demonstrated this by His, teachings, attitude and actions towards his own family.
Church history tells us that Joseph – Jesus’ stepfather – died when Jesus was a teenager. As the eldest son in the family Jesus took over the family furniture business as well as all other family responsibilities. Up to the time of his death Jesus was in charge of his family affairs especially his widowed mother. I was stunned to learn that one of the last statements of Jesus before he died was to his soul mate John. In essence, Jesus said to him ” please take care of my mum”. The Bible says from that evening John took Mary under his care (John 19:26-27).
For a hard-core African Pentecostal preacher like me, this was absolutely amazing! As spiritually sensitive Jesus was; despite all the pain, anguish and despair still it was his top priority to make sure his mum is well looked after in his absence. I thought Jesus would tell John to remember to pray, attend church or preach the gospel. But to look after his mother…!?
It was John (and only him) who taught repeatedly that Jesus’ only commandment is love (John 13:34-35; 1John 2:7; 2John 1:5). Love means unconditional selfless concern for the welfare of others. This is what others call altruism. So love, according to Jesus, is not an infatuation but an act of service. When Jesus said ‘love one another’ He meant ‘look after each other’. The Bible says Christianity is proven by how well we serve one another as a family.
People say love is blind but John has other ideas. He said if someone says, “I love God” but hate his family that a person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see at home, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 1John 4:20
Church fathers were very clear that one’s faith was measured by how one takes care of his/her own family- not by speaking in tongues, church attendance or by preaching ability. Family responsibility was a minimum requirement for church leadership. Unless God has clearly and specifically instructed you otherwise taking care of your family is your number one calling as a believer.
I recall God telling me one day that my prosperity and longevity here on earth (and whether I will enter heaven or not) is subject to how I serve those to whom I am directly responsible. He then showed me one of the most provoking scriptures I had ever read; it says; “But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.” (1Timothy 5:8).
According to this Scriptures looking after your own family is the mark of true faith. The early Church believed taking care of the needy to be primarily a family responsibility. Common Church Welfare support was exclusive to those that didn’t have any responsible family to look after them. And to qualify for Church supports the needy (for example the widow) had to lead a life that testified to a genuine relationship with God. And one of those testimonies was her record of looking after the poor and her own family if she had one. (1Timothy5: 9-16)
You are part of your family and your family is part of you. In this case, your dysfunctional family is actually a dysfunctional you and vice versa. Simply put, loving your family is loving yourself (Eph. 5:21-33)
People say love is blind but John disagrees. He said if someone says, “I love God” but hate his family members that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 1John 4:20