Perhaps one of the hardest and least accepted facts of the Christian faith is that rebirth does not simply mean we have a new, living Spirit; it also means we are part of a new family. Whilst it is not particularly rare or difficult for Church members to call each other by familial names or even to consider their congregation to be an extended family: it is very difficult to accept that in the new life our closest family may not be the people to whom we are genetically related. The net result, particularly for believers whose immediate family that are not themselves saved, is that a constant tension or even battle exists between the demands of the blood family and those of the spiritual one. This essay attempts to glean a few suggestions from scripture as to how this balance is correctly achieved.
There is no doubt that for the majority of people the single most significant factor upon this earth that drives our lives, attitudes, behaviors and successes are our families. Yet it only takes a moment of thought to show that the vast majority of our relatives were not picked by us to suit our goals; they merely turned up by accident of birth. Humanly speaking we also know that many families are at least partially dysfunctional and our society is littered with abused or abandoned children, wives, husbands and various other family members.
Notwithstanding the family unit is one ordained of God and the criteria of it are well defined. Each house is to have a male head who has obtained full independence from his parents. Ideally a household is to have children who honor and are obedient to their parents who in turn are not unduly onerous to their offspring and raise them in knowledge of God. Jesus Himself was part of a Godly family. The Lord did not, of course, have a wife or children but as the eldest son of a widow he would have been the head of His household which would have consisted of Mary and His siblings. Thus to all intents and purposes His responsibilities to His Earthly family would not be that different from a married man with children today. Therefore when He was informed that his mother and brethren were outside we should consider it in the same vein that we would if the preacher had been told his wife and kids were outside the church.
There is no doubt in most people's mind that their primary responsibility is to their family; so if we are born again and our family is not in tune with things of God where does our responsibility lie? Is it to try to bring about a Godly family as defined in the earlier paragraph? Or are we to move on and abandon our earthly family in favor of our Church lives?
I suspect most of us recoil at the thought of leaving behind our families and will instantly turn to the former paragraph to show that it is infeasible. However the Lord Himself recorded in Matthew 19:29 that, at least sometimes, people will be called upon to forsake brethren, sisters, father, mother, wife or even children. He doesn't say it should be done glibly or willfully; but he does state that some of us will be called upon to do so for His name's sake. It should be noted also that in this case the loss is to be returned upon this earthand this is almost certainly performed by the church family.
However, whilst we may be called upon to make this sacrifice, it is a calling and not the norm. The norm is for us to stay in the marital state we are in at the point of conversion. We are also told that even church leaders are to apply themselves, and be successful in, the ruling of their own households.
We must be careful to read what the Lord states in Mark 3. He doesn't state that all religious people, or all who attend the synagogue are His family. He states it is those that are obeying God. This can be important as sometimes the conflict between church and family is cause by dysfunction within the church and not through genuine Spirit leading.
We must also be careful not to over read what the Lord states in Mark 3. Whilst those around that obey the Law of God were His family it should be noted that it is Mary that the Lord provisions for whilst He is upon the cross. Thus we should possibly intuit that the Lord's words are more directed at showing the importance of the church family than in denigrating the import of His natural one.
The only true summary of this issue is that it is an issue because it does not render itself to trivial conclusion. The Lord has ordained our blood families for the physical and emotional benefit of society, ourselves and our offspring. The Lord has ordained the Church for the spiritual benefit of society, us and our offspring. These two are at least partially antithetic and insofar as one has to lose then a believer's first responsibility is to attend to spiritual matters. But this is a matter of the utmost delicacy and must be done fully and wholly under God's guidance. 'Til He come. Amen.