Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Family Rejection

Family Rejection
Who are my mother, my brothers, and my sisters?  What happens when your family rejects your walk before the Lord?
By Rev. Greg Schermerhorn

This is a difficult problem, but one that many Christians throughout history have experienced.  Even our Savior and Lord Jesus experienced rejection by his family.  What do I mean by rejection, you ask?  Well, rejection takes many forms from the blatant, even militant variety to the would-be “spiritual” sounding type.  Rejection is given by non-believers and believers alike.  In this context, the common thread is a disbelief in your ability to know and follow God’s plan for your life.  From the non-believer, the rejection is from the view of the world and is, by default, opposed to God and His plans.  From the believer, it is, in some ways more insidious because believers think they know what you should do and what is in your best interest, even if their thoughts are in direct opposition to the leading of the Lord in your life.  The truth is, rejection and opposition are going to be facts of life for the believer in Jesus Christ, especially for those who are fully committed to serving Him.

Now, don’t take this as a “Doom and Gloom” pronouncement.  It is not intended that way.  It is intended as a caution so that you can be prepared for this issue when it comes up in your life.  Studying Jesus’ life reveals that He experienced rejection from His own family.  Mark 3:20-35 tells us the story of Jesus teaching in the vicinity of His hometown.  His family, that is to say Jesus’ mother Mary, His half-brothers, and His half-sisters went to go see Him and bring Him home because they believed He was crazy or “out of His mind”!  When they arrived to “get“ Him, the crowd told Jesus that His Mother, His brothers, and His sisters were there seeking Him.  Jesus replied in this way:
Mark 3:33–35 (NKJV)
33 But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” 34 And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”
Jesus was doing the will of God the Father, as He was called to do.  He was not going to allow His misguided family to deter Him from the mission He had been given by God.  Was this a hard decision, sure, but it would be impossible for Jesus Christ, the Son of God to sin and disobey His Heavenly Father.  Was it disrespectful to His mother, brothers, and sisters?  No, because they were asking Him to turn His back on the mission God had given Him.  They were, in fact, being disrespectful to Him and His calling.

God set up authority structures for us in our lives to guide us and to protect us.  We have all been under the authority of someone and are all still under the authority of someone and or something.  For example, we were all under the authority of our parents as we grew up.  Your parent’s authority was defined by the government’s law and by God’s law.  Both government and God had areas where their authority exceeded your parent’s authority.  Your parent’s could not ask you or demand that you do something contrary to the government’s law or God’s law.  While many will debate the authority of government over a parent and child relationship, Christians will not debate the authority of God over children, parents, and government.  God’s authority is the ultimate authority for the Christian.  If government law violates God’s law, the Christian will follow God’s law over government law.  Thankfully in America, the instance of that violation is far and few between.  As Christians, we are admonished to be in subjection to authority as Rom 13:1-7 requires of us.  This includes the area of paying taxes.  Overall, we must be subject to the authorities in our lives unless they are violating God’s authority.

Jesus said :
Matthew 10:34–39 (NKJV)
34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.
Jesus said He would cause division in families.  Why?  People would have to choose their loyalties…Jesus Christ or family.  Even today, many family members cannot bear the fact of being placed in a seat behind the Son of God!  But Jesus is very clear on this matter when He says, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 

Family is not the only source of rejection.  Friends can reject you too.  Family just seems to hurt more because we have been taught our whole lives that “Blood is thicker than water”, “You can only count on family when things get tough”, and “In the end, family’s all you’ve got.”  Most of us have heard statements like this our whole lives and have had them drilled into us so that they have become a part of who we are.  Jesus teaches us differently as we just saw.  Our true family are those who seek God and do His will!  Our true family are our brothers and sisters in Christ!  This family is not one church or denomination.  It is the BODY of Christ.  That is, the ENTIRE body of believers in Jesus Christ around the world!  This is our family!  So we, as born-again believers have a huge family that will love on us and accept us for who we are in Christ!

Jesus said something else about rejection:
Mark 6:4 (NKJV)
4 But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.”
Jesus was not accepted by His own family, His own relatives, His friends, and by His neighbors.  The whole area around where He had lived growing up rejected Him because they could only focus on His past.  Now, that’s a funny thing considering Jesus was the sinless Son of God.  How much more difficult is it for us, who have a sinful past, for our families and friends to focus on our present life versus our past indiscretions?  Here is the context of what Jesus’ contemporaries said of Him:
Mark 6:1–3 (NKJV)
1Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. 2 And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! 3 Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.

If your relatives and friends have rejected your Christian walk and service to God, you are not alone.  You are in the very best of company.  As you have seen, our Savior and Lord suffered the same rejection.  Take heart and know that this is expected.  Don’t let your commitment to the Lord be weakened by an unbelieving relative or a weaker believing relative.  Keep a strong witness, always remembering who you serve.  They will try their best to derail you.  Your relatives and friends may even become the unwitting instruments of Satan in their “well meaning” attacks on your behavior.  My best advice to you is to remember to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and your heart open to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.  Remember the admonition by the writer of Hebrews:
Hebrews 12:1–3 (NASB95)
1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

I hope you find encouragement that our Savior is our living example of perseverance and overcoming.  Jesus is the source of our identity and the source of our strength.  Only with Him can we do all things (Phil 4:13) and to Him we must give all honor, glory, and praise in all that we do (1 Cor 10:31)!