During this holiday season, many of us will spend time and money, travel long distances and jump through countless hoops to make sure we visit our family. Even though we may or may not enjoy the experience, we do it anyway. I suppose we do so to feel normal. Maybe we do it to avoid being judged as cold and insensitive. But mostly I think we do it because we’ve been told over and over and over that “NOTHING is more important than family.” Well, maybe it’s time to shed new light on that statement.
I’m not suggesting that the family is unimportant. I strongly believe in the institution of family, the sanctity of marriage, and the benefits of loving parents. Each serves a vital role in raising children and providing for a healthy stable society. However, as with all other relationships in life, our family relationships need to be balanced against the teachings of scripture. With that in mind, I’d like to share at least three things that, according to scripture, are more important to our lives than family.
The first is Your Individual Relationship with Christ
In reality, the most our family can do is point us to God, teach us about God or try to example the love of God. But regardless of how they help or hinder, none of them can actually “be God.” Our families can’t save us, can’t die for our sins, can’t transform or restore our soul. And they were never intended to do so. Salvation, restoration and transformation comes from God alone. For that reason, our individual relationship with Christ must be the pinnacle relationship of life.
In fact, Jesus felt so strongly about this, that in Matthew 10:37 he remarked, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Jesus was not saying we should disdain our family. He was illustrating the degree to which we must value our relationship with him above family. In other words, our relationship with God should be the relationship we value most, nurture most, and develop most.
Yes, family was the first institution ordained by God. But it was not the first relationship. God created mankind for himself. He had a one-on-one connection to Adam and Eve directly. Their relationship with each other was the by-product of their relationship with God.
This may come as a shock to some people, but Jesus did not hang on a cross for families. He died for the individuals in the family. The degree to which the individuals live a God centered life determines the state of the family. Regardless of the type relationship we have with our families, each one is an imperfect, created being in need of a Savior just like we are. For that reason, we have to be mindful not to subconsciously look to our family to meet the needs only God is capable of meeting. Our soul’s allegiance must be to the finished work of Christ.
The second is Your Individual Authenticity
Your uniqueness was God’s idea. That means heaven has given you eternal permission to be authentically YOU without apology. Your fingerprint has never existed before. And it will never exist again. No matter how long civilization continues, regardless of how many people are born and die, none of them will ever, ever, ever be you. Everything about who you is a custom designed original, limited edition, “one of a kind.”
Being who God made you to be is more important than trying to fit in the boxes and bird cages of other people’s ideas and labels, especially if those other people are family members. You have a higher calling on your life than the role others need you to play in order to maintain predictability.
I’m not suggesting you become the family rebel. But I am saying that you need to give yourself permission to be who you are. You need to realize that the uniqueness of YOU is divine and ordained by a divine creator.
God places extreme value on your authenticity. To disregard it would be worse than disregarding the uniqueness of the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef, the Mona Lisa, Handel’s Messiah or the countless stars in the sky. God has never cloned a single person. Even though he made us in his image and likeness, we are not clones of God. So don’t allow a mere mortal to try and shape you in their image or likeness just to make you acceptable. You are already acceptable to Christ. And that is the only acceptance you need!
If you feel different from others it’s because you are! So rather than trying to change it, celebrate it and give thanks to God for the customized love he showed when creating you. Then ask for wisdom concerning how he wants you to use it to glorify him and make the world a better place.
Colossians 3:23-24, Paul instructs that whatever we do, we need to do it as unto the Lord and not man because it is the Lord Christ whom we serve. That means we need to value the “Who” of who we are as unto the Lord. Each one of us is fearfully and wonderfully made by a wonderful Savior and loving Father. Regardless of what others may or may not value, just remember, your authenticity was put on earth for such a time as this. Embrace it!
The third is Your Individual Ability to Hear God’s Voice
No matter how God-fearing your family might be, they are not your hotline to God. Although some can offer words of wisdom to increase your faith, you do not need them to hear God’s voice on your behalf. What we all need is more faith to believe that God desires to speak to us directly. He knows our frame and character, our uniqueness and the things that will get our attention.
When we make our family the mediator, we construct barriers that inhibit a direct connection to our creator. God can use mediators, but he is not bound by a mediator. God desires to speak to us directly. And he does not need our family to do so. Here are a few examples where God totally by-passed family and spoke directly to the person:
- Abraham: God spoke to Abraham so often, he was referred to as “God’s friend.” Initially God spoke to him while he was in the home of his father, an idol worshiper. But the voice of God was so impacting, it caused Abraham to leave everything in search of a land he had never heard of or seen. Abraham did not have a single faith believing family member to consult with or validate what he had heard. No mediator was needed between Abraham and God.
- Moses: When Moses encountered God’s voice at the burning bush, none of his family was present. He was living in a distant land far removed from family tradition, religion, or anyone who might otherwise be deemed as a voice of wisdom. In fact Moses was not even seeking God for himself. But the Lord was seeking him. God went straight to Moses as a sovereign act, and it changed an entire civilization.
- Samuel: God spoke directly to Samuel as a child, when he was only 5 years old. Granted, it took a few encounters before he realized it was God’s voice. But Samuel was not even living in the house with his parents and yet the Lord was able to speak directly to Samuel’s heart. And that direct connection continued for the remainder of his life. Samuel would later become one of the great prophets of the Old Testament. He was also the person who anointed a shepherd boy to become King of Israel.
And there are many many more examples such as Daniel, Mary (the mother of Jesus), John the Baptist, Paul the Apostle, you and me. The ability to hear God’s voice is not just a gift, it is a promise. It is the desire of God’s heart to speak directly to his children. It is the inheritance of those who believe, not something we get by permission from family.
I pray this will be a most enjoyable holiday season. Hopefully you can spend it with people you truly want to be with. But regardless of who you engage, how they behave, or the number of times you want to pull your hair out; after the meal and dessert, after the football games and laughs, after the family photos and trips down memory lane, take a moment to breathe. Walk outside. Look up to the sky. Then offer a prayer of thanksgiving to your Father in heaven.
Thank him for being the only one who can and will meet every need in your life. Thank him for never allowing you to get from family what you were only designed to receive from him. And thank God also that, regardless of what your family may or may not be, whether they help or hinder, inspire or discourage, his Fatherhood is your all-sufficient source and strength. Thank him for confirming what your heart already knew… there are a few things more important than family and it’s okay to say so.