************ Sermon on Matthew 10:37 ************


By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman


This sermon was preached on July 9, 2000


Matthew 10:32-42
verse 37
"More Important Than Family"

Introduction
Topic: Family
Subtopic:
Index: 1667
Date: 7/2000.101
Title: More Important Than Family

There was, long ago, a Frisian king, a pagan. He had been told the story of Jesus by a missionary and was about to be baptized. Just as he was about to kneel at the font, he asked the missionary where his dead parents were. "In hell," was the missionary's reply. "Then I want to be with my parents when I die," declared the king as he hurried away from the baptismal service.
This story illustrates the opposite of a profound truth: that love for Jesus comes first, before anyone or anything else. Or, as Jesus puts it in our text:
(Mt 10:37) Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me ...

Some of us have to make a choice between loved ones and the Lord. Those who don't need to make this choice ought to thank and praise the Lord that their loved ones support them in their decision to put Jesus first. And, they need to pray for those who are forced to choose; they need to pray that the Lord will uphold them and keep them strong. Those who do need to make this choice have to avoid the temptation to compromise. In fact, they make a poor choice if they end up choosing family over Christ and church and principle. Jesus says such a person "is not worthy of me." That's pretty strong language, isn't it?!

We begin today a series of sermons on marriage and family. In this first message I want to remind you that mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, are not most important.

I Jesus More Important Than Family
A Consider what the Gospels tell us about the importance Jesus placed upon His own family. In the Gospel accounts Jesus is unmarried, and His 12 disciples are either single or leave families as decisively as they drop their fishing nets. Even as a boy, Jesus exhibits a startling detachment from His biological family. Luke records the story of a 12-year-old Jesus in the temple. His parents rush back to Jerusalem when they discover He is missing. When they find Him in the temple He is admonished for making them so anxious. Do you remember His response? "Why were you searching for me? Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" (Lk 2:49). And, do you remember what Jesus said when He is told his mother and brothers are outside looking for Him? He said, "Who are my mother and my brothers? ... Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother" (Mk 3:33,35).

B In our Scripture reading and earlier Jesus proclaims a kingdom that will divide and destroy families.
(Mt 10:21) "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death."

(Mt 10:35) For I have come to turn "a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law ..."

A man wanted to go and bury his father before he followed Jesus. Jesus bluntly said, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God" (Lk 9:60). Another man wanted to go and say good-bye to his family before he followed Jesus. To him Jesus said, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God" (Lk 9:62). In one of His parables Jesus says a recent marriage ceremony is not an adequate reason to delay answering the call of the kingdom (Lk 14:18-20). Listen again to the words of our text:
(Mt 10:37) Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me ...

These words about family may be hard for us to hear today. But they must have been even more difficult for Jesus' original audience. In Jesus' day economic survival depended upon the family and clan. Also, in Israel children were necessary to carry on the family name. Those without children lost their place in the covenant community because they did not live on in future generations. There would be no memory of them after death and their name would be erased from the land of the living and the congregation of Jehovah.

C In Jesus' eyes, however good family may be, it is not sacred. Family never comes before knowing and serving God and His Son Jesus Christ. Rather, it comes under knowing and serving God and His Son Jesus Christ.

Jesus is telling us today that none of us are truly free to be Christ's disciples until we break with everything that hinders our commitment to the Lord. Whether they be family or things, if they come before Jesus they must be abandoned. History provides us with an incident illustrating this important principle:
Topic: Gain
Subtopic: Through Loss
Index: 4156
Date: 3/1986.22
Title: No Competition

When Julius Caesar landed on the shores of Britain with his Roman legions, he took a bold and decisive step to ensure the success of his military venture. Ordering his men to halt on the edge of the Cliffs of Dover, he commanded them to look down at the water below. To their amazement, they saw every ship in which they had crossed the channel engulfed in flames. Caesar had deliberately cut off any possibility of retreat! Now that his soldiers were unable to return to the continent, there was nothing left for them to do but to advance and conquer! And that is exactly what they did.
Something similar is suggested by Christ in the words of our text. He declared that we as His followers must break all ties that weaken our commitment to Him. Jesus didn't mean we should literally hate our loved ones or renounce all material possessions. Instead, He was making it crystal-clear that no person or thing should be considered worthy competition for the Son of God!

I always think here of what Paul writes to the church at Corinth.
(1Cor 7:29-31) What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; (30) those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; (31) those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
In other words, family and possessions are not most important. Instead, as Jesus puts it, we are to seek first the kingdom and its righteousness.

Jesus forces us to look at our family and our family ties. He forces us to ask if family ties are secondary to our relationship to Him. Does Jesus come first or do family ties come first? That's the question Jesus wants us to ask and answer.

II Church More Important Than Family
A In asking whether Jesus is more important than family ties we also have to ask whether Jesus' body the church is more important than family ties?

On May 8, 1994 First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton received an honorary doctorate and then delivered a Mother's Day commencement address at George Washington University. Her speech that afternoon dealt with the institution of the family and how she thinks it has changed. She said,
If it ever did, [the American family] no longer does consist of two parents, two children, a dog, a house with a white picket fence, and a station wagon in the driveway. Instead of families looking like the Cleavers on 'Leave It to Beaver,' we have families that include test tube babies and surrogate moms. Instead of Sunday night family dinners, we now have cross-country telephone conference calls. Instead of aunts and uncles and grandmas and grandpas, we have nannies and day care centers.

Mrs. Clinton believes that the traditional family is dead. She further believes that the traditional family is ineffectual and no longer viable. With this viewpoint she did not urge the graduates to preserve and support the traditional family unit. Nor did she speak of its vital role in culture. Rather, Mrs. Clinton suggested ways of replacing the traditional family.

Mrs. Clinton went on to recommend what she called an "extended family" to fill the void as traditional families dwindle. She urged the graduates to look out for their friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens as they would members of their own families. She concluded by saying, "When the traditional bonds of family are too often frayed, we all need to appreciate that in a very real sense we have become an extended family."

In November of 1996 Mrs. Clinton published the book, "It Takes a Village" as a follow up to these remarks. She argues that "IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD." She writes, "I chose that old African proverb to title my book because it offers a timeless reminder that children will thrive only if their families thrive and if the whole of society cares enough to provide for them."

I hate to say that Mrs. Clinton is basically right when she talks about the extended family. I don't agree with her reasons but I do agree with her conclusion. In fact, I want to go a step further than Mrs. Clinton and say the extended family should be more important than the biological family.

We who are Christians have a name for Mrs. Clinton's extended family. We call it the body of Christ, the church, the communion of saints. According to Jesus this extended family should be more important to us than our biological family.

B More than one Christian family expert has said believers have 3 priorities, and in this order: God or Jesus, family, and church. Notice, family is placed before the church. I remember a fellow student being called on the carpet in Seminary because he did not have his work done. His answer to the professor: God comes first, then family, then Seminary. I do not know for sure but I suspect his answer today would be similar: God first, then family, then church.

There are two dangers or errors we need to avoid. We need to avoid churchiolatry that is, turning the church into an idol; I have met too many people who do that. But we also need to avoid familiolatry that is, turning family into an idol; and I have met Christians who do that too.

C Let's take a look at what the Bible says. Paul tells us that it is through the church not the family that "the manifold wisdom of God should be made known ..." (Eph 3:10). It is the church not the family that is given the command to preach the Gospel to all nations (Mt 28). It is the church not the family that is commanded to be salt and light (Mt 5). It is the church not the family that is being built into a spiritual house (1 Pet 2:5). And, the gifts of the Spirit are given to build up and encourage the church (1 Cor 14) not the family.

Jesus tells His disciples they may lose their families, but they will receive a hundred times as much (Mk 10:29-30). He is talking about the brothers and sisters in the Lord that they will gain. He is talking about the church as the family of God and as the household of faith.

What it comes down to is this: for the Christian, church is First Family; and the biological family, though still valuable and important, is Second Family. Husbands, wives, sons, and daughters are first of all brothers and sisters in the Lord; only secondarily are they spouses, parents, or siblings of one another.

Jesus forces us to look at our family and our family ties. He forces us to ask if family ties are secondary to our relationship to His body the church. Does the church come first or do family ties come first? That's the question Jesus wants us to ask and answer.

Conclusion
It is good to honor and esteem our families. We recognize that the family is the building block of society. However, Jesus does remind us that mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, are not most important. Of more importance is Christ Himself and His body the church.

Does Christ and His body come before family in your life? That's the question we all have to answer.

I want to remind you what happens every Mother's Day and Father's Day. Church attendance goes way down. Do you think God is honored when we honor our parents rather than Him?

What often happens when an unchurched family member drops in just before you are planning to leave for worship? You decide, for their sake, to stay home or to do something with them. Aren't you putting family before the Lord and His church?

Or think about this. God tells us that believers are not to marry unbelievers; He tells us this as a command. Yet too many Christians decide to marry an unbeliever anyway. When this happens, aren't you putting family before the Lord and His church?

A family member leads and lives a life of sin. You protect, cover-up, and make endless excuses for their behavior. Aren't you putting family before the Lord and His church?

Your conscience tells you not to do certain kinds of things like family vacations in Las Vegas or family activities on Sunday that keep you from worship. Yet, to keep peace in the family, you do them anyway. Aren't you putting family before the Lord and His church?

Or, the exact opposite: your conscience and principles tells you to do certain things like pray and read the Bible at meal time. Yet, to keep peace in the family, you do not do them. Aren't you putting family before the Lord and His church?

We all face situations like this that challenge us from time-to-time. And we have to make a decision about what is more important to us: the Lord and His body or our family?

I want to challenge you, congregation, to make sure family and family ties are never more important than Christ and the body of Christ. I want to challenge you to examine your priorities. Hear again the words of our text:
(Mt 10:37) Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me ...

You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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