What happens when your faith interferes with family?

Ali Stigall

Like a lot of people in South Carolina, I grew up in a safe, cushiony small town church. Every Sunday, we sang the doxology as the offering plates made their way across the aisles.

Mr. Jerry, singing the loudest, led the choir while Mr. Buck’s hearing aid whistled in the third row. It was a church full of love, tradition, and predictability. Kick your heels under the pew, and put on your best cherub impression.

When I moved away and began attending a newer, large church with a contemporary service congregation of hundreds, my relationship with Jesus changed. It was no longer based on acts of service because I felt guilty for not doing what I “should” do. My heart changed and the act was up. I now did things because I knew they were right and confirmed by God’s Word and His will. 

When Your Family Doesn’t Understand Your Faith

The new me had a hard time interacting with my family. They still belonged to the small, hometown church where the average attendance was 17 people and the thought of the Holy Spirit transforming someone was as foreign as an urban traffic jam. 

Whenever I would bring it up at the dinner table, it got strangely quiet. 

“When is Carolina’s first home game?” they’d ask, changing the subject. After awhile, I just stopped mentioning it because I did not want to keep pushing them away.

This provoked many questions. If I was not willing to talk about Jesus to the people I loved the most, then was I really making Him my all? If my family decided not to stick by the new me, would I truly be willing to count on God as my father, my mother, my family? I knew I was lucky to be in an accepting family, but what if this change of faith was too much? Those early days with my family were a test, one Jesus mentioned would happen in the book of Matthew. 

Jesus is speaking to a young ruler who wants to know what he is lacking in order to follow Him. Jesus replies, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21). 

The young ruler was saddened to hear this because he was a wealthy man. This was not what he wanted to hear. And so, he left. 

Do I love Jesus enough that I am willing to walk away from something familiar in order to follow Him?

The wealthy ruler faced a decision we all have to make at some point in our faith: Do I love Jesus enough that I am willing to walk away from something familiar in order to follow Him?  

However deep our love for our family is, our love for Him must be deeper. A relationship with Jesus will last into eternity while our familial relationships last during our short time on Earth.

This does not necessarily mean you should write your family off. Jesus wants us to take care of our family. It is so important that 1 Timothy 5:8 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.” 

A Call to Love Not to Give Up 

Walking away from the church I grew up in felt like turning my back on generations of family tradition. At times, it even felt like I was the only believer. What I learned through the tension is that even though we may be at different places in our faith, I have to love my family where they are, just like God does with us. 

Titus 2:7-8 says, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”

While my family may not think the same way I do, I can still love them and set the example for them so that they may see the power of faith in Jesus.

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