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  • Writer's pictureKendall Ellis

Anti-Family Values Jesus?

This is a sermon preview for the first week of our Kingdom Family Values series. Visit FBCM’s website to listen to our livestream.

[Jesus] said to another man, “Follow me.” 

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

-excerpt from Luke 9:57 - 9:62 (NIV)

Science suggests that no one is actually a good multi-tasker, and I’m definitely proof of that. I can only do one thing at a time, so at any given moment when I’m interrupted, my go-to phrase is “Give me a minute.”

I don’t ask for the minute to be rude. It’s quite the opposite! I ask for the extra time so I can transition from what I’m currently doing and be able to give the person my full attention, as they deserve. Assuming it’s not an emergency situation, most people are happy to patiently oblige. And on the rare occasion that there’s a crisis, then of course we turn immediately to the matter at hand!

Everything I’m describing here is rather normal. It’s so normal, in fact, that this might be the most boring sermon teaser you’ve ever read. As a society, we understand that priorities must be made, and there are certain things–especially our families–which rightly demand our attention first.

This is what makes some of the Bible’s comments on families and the Kingdom of God shocking! "Family-Friendly" or "Family Values" have been used by some Christians as synonyms for "Christian teaching."

But what if Jesus doesn't always sound "pro-family?"   

In Luke 9, a man says he wants to follow Jesus, but asks Jesus to allow him time to bury his father first. This seems like a reasonable “give me a minute” type of request! Yet, Jesus responds: "Let the dead bury the dead" (Luke 9:60). Yikes! Surely Jesus isn’t being literal here! (Or is he?)

Stirring the pot more, later in Luke’s gospel, Jesus says, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters -- yes, even their own life -- such a person cannot be my disciple" (14:25-27). Harsh, much! C’me on, Jesus, there’s no way you actually hated Mary! (Or did you?)

How do we understand these hard sayings about family? Kingdom family values cannot simply be matched up with our normal societal ideas of "family values.” Jesus points us to his Kingdom, which cuts through what we imagine the good of (biological) family to be and offers us something even greater.

Perhaps Jesus isn’t actually as anti-family as he comes across sometimes. Perhaps Jesus’ hyperbole is trying to tell us something about the very real cost of Christian discipleship. God is certainly not calling anyone to literally sacrifice their kids like in Abraham’s case. God probably isn’t calling you to leave your family and burn all the bridges behind you, either.

But there does come a point where we have to give everything we have, including our families, to God. 

Thankfully, if there’s anything I’ve learned through the years, it’s this: As much as I love someone, God loves them more. We can trust God with our families. We can trust that God will care for us when our families fail and turn their backs on us. We can trust that God will care for our families and meet their needs better than we ever can. And when we do finally surrender our families to God, we can watch the promise of God unfold:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Jesus made reconciling with us a priority. We were so important to Jesus that he gave his everything–his family and his very life–when he chose the cross and overcame death. It’s time that we recognize that such a love is worthy to be made our priority, too.

When we properly prioritize God (even over our families) then we see everything else falling into place (even in our families). It won’t always be easy. God’s timing won’t always be as fast as we’d like for it to be. And honestly, our family situations might not have the outcome we want, even if it works out for our good in the end. 

Reflection Questions

  1. Does your earthly family generally encourage your faith or challenge your faith? How so?

  2. What does the way Jesus talks about family tell you about the value of priorities within the Kingdom of God?

  3. What do you think it might look like to surrender your family to God?


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