Loving Your Unsaved Family & Hating Your Unsaved Family
Psalm 139:19 “Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men. 20 For they speak against thee wickedly, [and] thine enemies take [thy name] in vain. 21 Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? 22 I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.”
Luke 14:26 If any [man] come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
In light of the above two passages, please consider the following quote from a professor:—-
“We express our hatred of those who hate God by counting them our enemies. So we read in verse 22: “I count them mine enemies.” This is an act of the believer. Those who hate God may still feign friendship with us. They may even seem to seek our friendship. But we, on our part, refuse that friendship and regard them as our enemies. We make this known to them also: “Depart from me therefore, ye bloody men,” we say to them, according to verse 19. We have no communion with them. We do not help them in their wicked course of life. We condemn them and their evils…. Nor may the believer personally include the wicked in his fellowship, in his family visits, in his games and in his festive meals. There may be contact, but it consists of the admonition, “Repent!” This holds even though the wicked is a close relative. All should know-including my parents, my children and my wife-that for them to leave God is to leave me; to become God’s enemy is to become my enemy. Did not Jesus say in Luke 14:26: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” We have friendship with those who are friends of God. This is the implied teaching of the text. They are not necessarily the nicest personalities. They may even sometimes treat us unkindly. Nevertheless, I count them my friends. Those who love God, I love. Those who bless God, I bless. Those who are friends of God shall be friends of mine.”
I take this matter very seriously having briefly (about the span of two months) attended a ‘congregation’ that not only held to this mindset, but also lived it out, as they thoroughly distanced themselves from parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. I can tell you that the effect was downright cultish in nature. The preacher at issue boasted about how he has nothing to do with his daughter, maligned her for her unbelief, and did so multiple times on air (television) and on the Internet for all to see – and that, over an extended period of time. If the daughter were to view this, to behold the vileness and malignity of it, how would it make her feel? How open would she be to embracing Gospel truth (or what appears for a season to be Gospel truth) if her false prophet father berates her openly before men because she does not believe the Gospel? Though God alone is responsible for opening and shutting the hearts door (in regeneration and conversion) I believe that He uses means to help break up the ground or to help harden it; in other words, a vicious, belittling declaration of truth is less likely to be used of God to convert than a gentle one. So though he purposes to set himself forth as a “Grace and Truth” minister, this man evidences himself to be otherwise, in his hardness of heart in this regard (amongst many other things worthy of its own post). Many in his congregation abandoned their families, or pretended to do so (so that they would be more fully accepted) but the end result was just a greater (and ungodly) reliance on their “papa” — this is a great evil, one that continues to trouble me. Now, this isn’t to say that all who hold to this view are cultish — but having walked amongst those who apply such teaching — I trust a general warning is, nonetheless, in order.
God saves children; that is, He both regenerates and converts them. Are we to imagine a saved child, or teen, declaring to his unsaved parents; ‘I count you as my enemies; until my dinner is ready, depart from me therefore, ye bloody parents! I desire to have no communion with you but do condemn you and your evils…. I will not visit you in the living room, nor at the kitchen table, nor will I greet grandma or aunt Suzie at our festive meals.” Will the unsaved brother say to the unsaved sister “repent sister, and depart from me until you do… because you are a bloody sister! To not be a part of God’s family is to not be a part of mine… I disown you, touch none of my toys! Share none of my toothpaste! for being God’s enemy you are now an enemy of mine and I must hate you, along with mom and dad, because “If any teen come to Christ, and hate not his father, and mother, and sisters, and grandma and granddad, then that person is not of Christ.” — does any of the above sound right to any of you? What if a mother were to say to her unbelieving child/teen, “depart from my household you worker of iniquity because you know not and love not God — I will no longer feed you, talk to you, or having anything else to do with you besides saying repent thou devil and depart from me until you do!” I am not mocking all who believe this but only those professors (from their podiums) and those preachers (from their pulpits) who, by nature of their position, should know better.
Some may argue “clearly we have in view adults and not children” but I say, what difference does it make? Are we to behave as a normal child to the unsaved parents up until 16, or 18, or 21 and then once “emancipated” we forsake them except to tell them to repent and to depart from us because we hate them with a perfect hatred? This is foolishness to me. Moreover, God warns of those who are “without natural affection” (Romans 1:31; 2 Timothy 3:3); He declares in 1 Timothy 5:8 “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” God commands that we are to honour our father and mother. That word honour (in the original languages) means “to estimate and fix the value of that which belongs to you; to honour, esteem and revere it/them” — we are commanded to not be disobedient to them when still under their charge/household. We are not, however, commanded to forsake them or to deal harshly, or dishonourably, with them.
If a believing spouse is biblically encouraged to stay with an unbelieving spouse (who is willing to stay with them), for the spiritual sake of that unbelieving spouse and their children (see 1 Corinthians 7:12-14), is it not reasonable to conclude that we are to stay in contact, even loving contact, with sisters, brothers, parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, children, etc.? We are not to get caught up in their revelry, materialism, false religion, idolatry, or their overall sin and wantonness — however, we are never called to stop loving them as our natural family or to stop associating with them in that light. We are not to be of the world but we are also not to be altogether out of it. We are not to be of our families (as it pertains to their earthly sin) but we are not to be altogether out of our families either — unless they put us out. It is when THEY close the door, when they depart from us, when they actively blaspheme and revile God (as in a ‘pearls before swine’ scenario); and when they declare “it is either the family or your God,” that we must evidence this hatred by separating from them… but it is not a blanket matter… We are not to actively go about hating (in the general sense of the term) our parents, children, and siblings simply because they are unsaved. We evidence this hatred when we choose God over them in light of their own actions, stances, and demands — and they view such a choice as our hatred towards them as a result. Our hatred is an “I hate the sin in you, the sin you manifest so much, by forcing me to choose between you and God that I will actively stand with God any day against you and hate you for your gross opposition to God” — however, in our Western society, rarely is such a forced choice put to us… If we were in Muslim, or predominantly Catholic, or historically pagan/animistic/polytheistic lands, it may very well be different — but in our day, and in our society, we are rarely put to this kind of test (so to act as if we are is premature at best and downright wicked at worst).
So remember, we evidence this hatred when, in forsaking us, we accept their forsaking without wavering when it comes to our faith and profession, and (thus, in turn) forsake them. But that is their call, not ours. We are to remain open to them, available for them, so that they may behold our light, behold the good works God works in us, and maybe, just maybe, God will use such things if/as He begins to draw them. But to only say “repent or else depart from me you evil ones” is utterly foolishness to me, as it is to those who were saved in association with Christian family members who loved them, prayed for them, and kept the doors of Christian communication open to them long enough for God to use that witness unto their eternal benefit.
Finally, consider these last two points.
(1) Joseph, Daniel, Nehemiah, and others were godly men serving ungodly kings. Philippians 4:22 speaks of believers in Caesar’s household. We read of centurions who were saved. Many view Theophilus as having been a Roman official. If believers can work amongst the ungodly, serve the ungodly, be cordial and friendly towards the ungodly — in the workplace, government, school, etc. — how on earth can we argue that we are to so hate our unsaved natural family as to refrain from any real relationship other than saying “depart from me thou vile enemy, until you repent.” We are to depart from God’s enemies, and we are to hate (organically) God’s enemies, but we are to understand this in the right, in the proper, context — some of God’s enemies are not actively manifest revilers, scoffers, and blasphemers… some are (by God’s providence) calm enough, divinely restrained enough, to interact with — without dishonouring God in so doing.
(2) Jesus had two unbelieving brothers (at least): James and Jude. Do we have any record of Jesus telling them ‘depart from Me ‘thou enemies of God,’ until thou repent?’ Do we see anywhere where he so treated his carnal family? I suspect that the Lord kept the doors of communication open for them and, at some point, saved them (at least James and Jude) according to God’s eternal decree, purpose, and work. In light of this, perhaps we should do the same.
To God be the glory!