It was a weird car ride back in 1980-something. I was riding with my family in our maroon 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlas, and we were traveling down 287 heading home from a trip. We had just spent time with more of our extended family and it was rather late in the night.
None of us are sure why, but we got on a rhyming binge and couldn’t stop. I think it started with the word “destination” and went crazy from there. We were rhyming, laughing, and crying as Dad tried to keep the car on the road. You know how you laugh so hard your eyes fill with tears and you can barely see straight? That was us and we all still remember it fondly. It was weird. It made no sense at all. However, we will talk about it and laugh again when we get together.
I’m sure most families have their own version of unique stories. I also know it’s not every family that has lots of great, fond memories. Some families have really tough histories and few times of laughter and silliness. That being the case, it seems like somewhere in almost every family (even if it has to include extended family members) there is this sense of comfort and welcome when we’re with family.
In my own life, being with family is right at the top of my list! Whether it’s just at home watching a movie with my wife and kids, cooking out on the grill, or getting together with my parents and sister’s family…I truly L.O.V.E. these special times. We all do Thanksgiving together (rotating homes every year), and I look forward to it all year long!
So, I ran across this video from Francis Chan that made me consider my affection for and heart toward my own family. Watch it real quick and give it some thought.
As a pastor, I’ve seen this kind of overzealous sense of family take over some families. Other pastor friends of mine have shared similar occurrences in their churches. The truth is that some families will elevate their family above everything else. There are families who were at one time very involved in the church, serving faithfully, helping out and using their gifts to bless others, begin to pull back and fill their time with all things family. If you have a family that you love, as I have said about my own, it’s probably not difficult to see how this happens. We just love being with our families, watching our kids grow up, even move on to have their own kids.
If you want to, you can use the Bible to build a case for this type of family first approach. See 1 Timothy 5:8 for an often used verse. However, to put your family first, above everything else, you have to ignore a myriad of other responsibilities given to followers of Christ. To put it plainly, those who do elevate their family and give it this place of preeminence in their lives (to the level of not faithfully serving, supporting, engaging the church) have to turn their backs on God’s purpose for His church.
Thom Rainer wrote a great book that provides a clear, concise picture of what it means to be a church member. It’s a really good book, especially if you are part of a church family. Matt Chandler said of this book,
If you love your church, are frustrated with your church, or don’t understand why membership matters, I encourage you to pick this book up and read it.”
We’re not all at the same place in life. Our families look different, are in different stages, include many people, or maybe it’s just yourself right now. None of that matters when we see clearly our responsibility to be part of God’s church…the church for whom Jesus gave himself.
Ephesians 5:25 says, “…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” He didn’t do that and institute the church so that we could take it or leave it, or relegate it to the back burner so that we can enjoy life and family however we want. In fact, Jesus taught that if our family gets in the way of us being faithful to serve Him, we should leave them behind in order to be a faithful disciple to Him. (Luke 14:25-33) He is teaching what it means, what it will cost, to be one of his disciples.
All that being said, family is a huge blessing in lots of peoples’ lives. There is great comfort, companionship, and joy to be had in a strong, supportive family. As followers of Jesus, we must diligently seek to keep family in its proper place as it relates to our responsibilities to God.