To make this point, I stacked up a series of texts.
There are many passages that utilize the vocabulary of “family” in order to describe the church (see Ephesians 2:19), yet there are also some that elevate the terminology from mere metaphor to reality.
- 1 Timothy 5:1-2 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
On top of this, there exists an entire genre of events where Jesus was very clear that the Gospel would bring division into many natural families. In each case, the greater loyalty lies toward the spiritual family – the church.
- Luke 12:51-53 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.
- Luke 21:16-19 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.
Then there are these two instances where Jesus explicitly taught that His greater loyalty was to the children of God (the “saved”).
- Mark 3:31-35 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
- Luke 11:27-28 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
Finally, Jesus taught that the Gospel brings us into a new, spiritual, massive family that more than replaces our old, physical, natural family.
- Luke 10:26-31 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Then add to this the explicit command via John that because of the Gospel, we are to live with a life and death loyalty toward the family of God.
- 1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
In no ways does this excuse our obligations to our natural family! We are obligated to provide for our own families.
- 1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
The real question is, where does our final loyalty stand? Your natural family is temporary, your spiritual family is eternal. The greatest hope of every person is that those two families will forever overlap and we will see all our children and relatives and spouse(s) in the Kingdom to come. But if push came to shove, and you were called to act in some instance…. To whom would you be loyal? The family of [insert last name here], or the family of God? Does that sound cultish? Over the top? Or have we not fully wrestled through what it means to be “born again?”