13. Jesus and Family

No doubt family is important to humanity. So important that it is one of the two things almost every human being would kill and die for. The other is, of course, the nation-state. Interestingly, neither merit that kind of commitment according to Jesus. One’s nation is way down the list of priorities for God’s people. Family is a lot higher but not high enough to kill or die for. Only God is atop the priority list meriting such level of commitment. And while Jesus does promote the possibility of giving one’s life for God, he never supports, indeed, rejects in the clearest and strongest manner, the taking of life. Even for the family.
That’s why Jesus talks about “hating” mother and father. It’s hyperbole, to be sure, but the reality is Jesus will not accept or tolerate any other commitment or relationship that dilutes, distorts, or denies the ultimate priority of following him.
And why he foresaw family members rising up against each other before the authorities on account of him. And why he would not let the man who had to bury his father first, join his movement.
Jesus’ most programmatic statement on family is this:
“Then Peter said, “Look, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Lk.18:28-30)

Jesus completely relativizes natural family times. Not only are they not ultimate, they are replaceable with ties formed from faith in Jesus and participation in God’s New Exodus. In our world which idolizes the so-called nuclear family and allows nothing to challenge its primacy, Jesus is breathtakingly and scandalously radical. A radicality we westerners have still yet to truly engage.

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