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Q&A: How Do I Hate My Family?

Question:

This question comes from Ryan:

"What are your thoughts on the command to "hate my wife and my children" and love God with everything I have? What does this look like in practice? This has been a big question for me as I wrestled with staying in a ministry that I love but requires a great deal of time versus leaving that ministry in order to have time to care for my family. Am I still loving God even when I take a step away from serving Him? This is difficult as I desire to attend Unboxed (for personal growth, opportunity to share with other disciples, and worship God), but know that my wife needs me to help as she wraps up the final semester of her masters. Whom am I loving more?"

ANSWER:

Thanks for your question Ryan, this is indeed a difficult one that strikes at some of the grey issues we can face, but I will try to unpack your question:


1.  You mention, "Am I still loving God even when I take a step away from serving Him?" which is a vital question.  What does it mean to love God?  What does it mean to serve God?  Can you do one without the other?  More to your point, can you not serve God by prioritizing and loving your family?  Has he not called you to that as well (Eph 5)?  Perhaps our understanding of what it means to "serve" God is too narrow?  I believe the heart of your question here stems from your understanding of Jesus' call (not command) to follow him as his disciple.  In Luke 14 as well as Matthew 10, we see the idea of following Christ being supreme in one's life, even over family (loving him more than these - Mat 10:37). But is discipleship to Christ the same as serving in a particular ministry in a church?  I believe this is what must be settled in order to answer your question.  

Unfortunately I don't think there are any one-size-fits-all pat answers.  And remember, it is very possible for us as believers to shroud our true motives of selfishness and laziness in the vein of "I'm doing it for my family (or whatever else we can plug in for family)".  These are difficult things that we need the Lord to help us weigh out and discern (Ps 139:23-24).


2.  A principle that I learned a long time ago and has served me well in these types of arenas, is what I heard called, the "divine order".  It essentially places a divinely (Scripturally) appointed prioritization on different relationships and circles in my life.  I am to love God first and foremost (Mat 10; 22; etc), then my immediately family (spouse, children, etc. - Eph 5; 1 Tim 5:8; etc.), then my church/spiritual family (1 Cr 12, Mat 12:50; 1 Jn 3-4; etc.), then the rest of the world (Mat 5; etc.).  This has been a helpful way for me to think about practical decisions in my life and how God would have me prioritize my limited time, energy, and resources available to me.  

This is not an easy process, nor are two believers going to necessarily make the same decision in the same circumstance.  I hope this response is helpful in some way! 

And for what it's worth, I believe this kind of thing is exactly what the apostle Paul is trying to spare all my single readers out there from! ;)  (1 Cr 7:32-35)

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