Faith Family and Natural Family
Faith is everything. The term ‘Faith’ has different meanings. “Have faith in yourself, you can do it!” In this expression, faith means confidence. But the Gospel of Matthew is speaking not about your self-confidence. Christian Faith is the personal commitment to Jesus. For a disciple of Jesus, nothing can substitute the total allegiance to Jesus as saviour and Lord. Jesus demands us to prefer God over even your own family. There is a background to this Gospel teaching.
When the Romans destroyed Jerusalem city and the Temple in 70 AD, Jewish religion was devastated. Pained by the loss of their temple and religion, many Jews hardened their attitude to those who deserted Judaism, which included Christian converts. Many of the families had some members becoming Christians while others remaining loyal to Judaism. This caused tensions within families and Christian members bore the brunt of the wrath of their kins. In such a situation Matthew offers some direction. He reminds them what Jesus said, “Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 10:37-39). Though it appears to be asking to hate one’s family, it is far from it. Jesus’ native language was Aramaic language which lacked nuance of expressions like ‘love MORE’. Therefore, Jesus used the expression, ‘hate your family’ to mean prefer God over your family. The message is not to allow family and socio-political pressures to fail your commitment to Christian faith.
The challenge you and I, as Christians, face would be different. Whether to accept job offers which blatantly promote anti-Christian values is a real challenge many believers got to recon with. We pray to the Spirit of God for the right guidance in such situations.