A Christian man was nearing death and thereby was on the verge of entering the presence of the Lord. Poignantly, he said to his son, a professing Christian, “… the eternal bond is strong enough”. In saying this he was asserting that spiritual relationships are stronger than physical relationships. This statement follows the emphasis of our LORD when a multitude said to Him “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:32b-35). We have to be clear here that Jesus is not denying his physical relationship with Mary and his brothers; he is not even denying that they might have true spiritual relationship to him. What he is claiming though is that to have spiritual relationship, which is demonstrated through obedience to God’s Word, is to have a superior and stronger relationship with Himself.
This has implications for how we view the situation as it relates to our families and faith in Christ. There are three issues we need to focus upon. They are priority, responsibility and fellowship.
Priority. True faith always puts God first. We put God first because it is logical to do so, but also because we love to do so. There are intellectual reasons and emotional reasons. When we reason it out we always conclude that God is the One who has ultimate claims upon our lives. He is the one who has created us; He is the One who has redeemed us. This is summed up by Paul when he says to the Corinthians You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies (1 Cor. 6:19b-20). In fact, God should be honoured with our whole beings; that is God’s reasonable claim upon us.
However, as Christians, we do not grudgingly give Him the first place. Rather there is a passion which drives us to prioritise Him in our lives. We want him to have the pre-eminence because he loves us so much. John puts it like this when he says: This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10). His love for us, expressed most deeply at Calvary, compels us to give Him the pre-eminence.
This whole teaching is summed up in the words of our Saviour in Luke 14:26-27. If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. We can easily mis-interpret the words of our LORD here. Essentially He is saying that our love for Christ should be so overwhelming that every other loving relationship is as hatred in comparison. This interpretation must be true otherwise his statement is a flagrant contradiction of the Holy Spirit’s call for husbands to love their wives (see Eph. 5:25), and this can never be.
Responsibility. Having stated what we have concerning right priorities one of the key ways in which we demonstrate our priorities is in how we treat our families. Paul says Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim 5:8). The sixth commandment is Honor your father and your mother (Ex.20:12a). And for the Colossian congregation there are these words: Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged (Col 3: 18-21).
Our passion for Christ then is to be worked out in the relationships that God has set us in in the family. To neglect these relationships out of a professed commitment to Christ is a denial of that profession. Moreover it is only when we have Christ as King in our lives and we are truly working out the implications of Him being LORD that we inject into our families that which is good and wholesome. Self-sacrificing living benefits our families. And this kind of lifestyle is only found when Christ is the overwhelming passion and priority of our lives.
Fellowship. Nevertheless we must assert that the Christian ultimately has a stronger relationship with others in the family of faith than they do with their natural family. Paul says to the Corinthians Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Cor. 6:14). If we have non-Christians in our families then they are in darkness. However, along with our fellow Christians in the church we are children of light. We have fellowship on a spiritual and eternal basis and so that is far stronger. Our bonding with fellow Christians is then ultimately nothing to do with natural ties. Rather it is everything to do with us being “in Christ” together.
So we ask the question why is it that we are not closer to our fellow Christians in the church. The answer to this question surely focuses on how much each of us is knowing Christ in our lives. The more we are passionately following Him then the more we are drawn to others who are passionately following Him. Contrariwise, when we are on fire for the LORD then we sense the coldness of a non-Christian environment even when that includes our parents, children and other nearest and dearest.
Let us remember then that “eternal bonds are stronger”. It is such a privilege to have those eternal bonds. We are a blessed people. So let us make Christ our priority, let us fulfill our responsibilities and enjoy fellowship with one another. And thereby may all be for the glory of our God.
(Taken (and edited) from the Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of July 2009)