Defying your family for the gospel

Defying your family for the gospel

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus answered with the words of Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37). That seems pretty straightforward, we might think. Put God first. Sure, I can do that.

It’s one of those commands that is so familiar that we can lose just how radical and difficult it is. There are many other things that are also important to us and which vie for our attention. One of the potential rivals for our love and affection is our physical family.

With that in mind, I want to draw your attention to something that King Asa of the southern kingdom of Judah did in 1 Kings 15:13. As part of his reforms to restore godly worship to his country, he even defied his grandmother Maacah. She had an Asherah pole, a symbol of worship of a common Canaanite deity. Asa did not leave his reforms only to the people ‘out there’; he got rid of this idol in his own household. He cut down the Asherah pole and burned it. That’s gutsy. He also demoted his grandmother from her royal status for her idolatry.

Now I expect your experience of grandparents as you read this will influence how you think about what Asa did. But remember that this is an Eastern culture which values family above almost everything else; family is a much bigger thing for those who have grown up in the East as opposed to the West. When you combine the respect for family with the respect for age, defying your grandmother is a major thing. Yet Asa was prepared to suffer the contempt of his grandmother, and possibly other family members, by rejecting her worship of an alternative god.

In my ministry to many who have grown up in the East, I have seen many who have had to make stands against their family members. I have known people who have refused to burn incense at their grandparent’s funerals, even though it offended their parents, as it is a sign of worshipping ancestors. I have known people who chose to be baptized despite their parents’ objections, knowing that this signalled a break from the family religion.

What does serving the LORD with your whole heart look like when it comes to your physical family? It could mean choosing to invest significant time in the local church against your parents’ wishes. It could mean refusing to participate in festivals that celebrate other religions and gods. It could even mean making your parents angry by choosing to enter the ministry instead of a career choice that leads to success and respect on an earthly level.

Physical families are a gift from God, and often they are a positive influence in our lives. But when there is a conflict of what we should be worshipping, make sure you choose the One who is the true God of all.