Thursday, September 2, 2010

Family Idol

I remember getting in terrible trouble while running a Bible study. I suggested that our culture had made an idol of the family. In many of our country's discussions of morals and relationships the family is held up as the essential unit of our society. We want to protect the family at all costs. It is amazing how many things can be frowned upon on the basis of protecting the family.

This isn't to say that the family isn't important. God created families to raise children and prepare them for the responsibilities of living faithfully in the world. Ironically stories of well adjusted families are scarce in scriptures. Truthfully we don't do much better. Though we have got better at acknowledging the damage that families can do to each other, we don't do much about creating healthy families.

What got me most in trouble was the idea that God asks us to put God above our family. In this Sunday's Gospel: Luke 14:25-33 Jesus challenges his listeners by saying they need to hate their families to follow him. Reading sermons and commentaries on this saying you will find that a lot of people try to explain away the word hate. We want to preserve the sanctity of the family, even when it appears that God is challenging it.

I would suggest that a lot of people hate their families, not all of them teenagers. People who look back on their lives as children and blame their parents for everything that is wrong with them. I have had to mediate between children as they argued around their mother's death bed.

Once we take away the family's sacred position and place it in it proper relationship to God. Things become clearer. Families are just as corrupted by our brokenness as any other relationship. To follow Jesus we need to be willing to leave behind all the things that we want to blame our failure on.

To really follow God leaves no space for other idols. We must give all our life to God. Paradoxically dedicated ourselves fully to God means that we will live more as more loving people in our other relationships, including those of our family. We are freed to see clearly, speak the truth in love and offer both confession and forgiveness.

I believe the only true way to save our families is to realize that they are NOT sacred. The only holiness in our relationships comes from God's love flowing through us, not from the nature of the relationship itself.

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