Is there really any scriptural basis for "focusing on the family"? "Family first" has always been my motto. I spend every weekend with my wife and kids, and I’m committed to putting their needs ahead of my own. But at times I find it hard to reconcile these personal values with the Gospel message. Jesus actually tells me to hate my family. His words seem to say that the church trumps the family system. I’m confused.

Jesus did not say (for example, in Matthew 12:46-50 and Luke 14:26) that “the church trumps the family system.” As a matter of fact, we think such an interpretation of His words can be dangerously misapplied. A great deal of damage has been inflicted on spouses and children through over-commitment to church programs and activities.

What Jesus did say is that our love for Him should be so great and so overpowering that it eclipses all other loves. Even the strongest and most compelling of our natural human loves ought to look like “hate” when compared with our love for Christ. In other words, the depth of our commitment to Him is revealed precisely in our willingness to forsake even the very best things in life if called upon to do so for His sake.

And family is one of the very best and most important things in life. That’s exactly what gives this “hard” saying of Jesus its peculiar force. The Bible makes this plain in the creation account, where God makes a woman and a man, unites them as “one flesh” and blesses them with the exhortation to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:27, 28; 2:23, 24). It revisits the theme in Deuteronomy 11:19 and Proverbs 22:6, where the Lord instructs His people to train up their children in the way of holiness and truth. It underscores the message in the Psalmist’s declaration that “children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3). It emphasises it in the apostle’s solemn warning that “if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). For all these reasons, we do not hesitate to affirm that there is a strong and inescapable biblical basis for “focusing on the family.”

For additional Bible references relating to family values, see the following: 1 Corinthians 7, Ephesians 5 and 6, Colossians 3:18-25, and 1 Peter 3:1-7. The Law of Moses is full of similarly directed precepts and commandments. For further insight into the wonder of marriage, sexuality, and the male-female bond, we recommend that you read Song of Solomon. And if you want to get a taste for the value, importance, and preciousness of children, spend some time reading about Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah. Ponder the joy they experience when God removes their barrenness and grants them sons and daughters (e.g., the Prayer of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-11). Remember the words of Jesus: “Let the little children come unto Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:22).

More could be said, but perhaps this isn’t the place for it. If you’d like to discuss this subject at greater length, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Focus on the Family has pastoral counsellors who would love to speak with you over the phone or via email.

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