The four questions I want to consider here are:
1. What effect does being in the family of God have on how we view ourselves?
2. How does our being in the family of God affect our relationship with our Christian family members?
3. How does our being in the family of God affect our relationship with our non-Christian family members?
4. How should we treat non-Christian family members?
What Effect Does Being in the Family of God Have on How We View Ourselves?
How do these verses affect how you view yourself and your relationship to God?
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Mark 3:20-21, 31-35:
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” 31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
I find these verses to be incredibly flattering. Think of it. We are God’s children. We are part of Jesus’ family, even more so than an unbelieving member of His natural family might have been.
As part of God’s family, you can hold your head high. You have the dignity of being a child of the King. You are a prince or a princess over all creation. And it’s not by right of birth. God invited and chose you to be His child because of your faith and obedience in His Son.
How Does Our Being in the Family of God Affect Our Relationship with Our Christian Family Members?
How does your relationship with a family member change once you both become Christians?
For me, I would think that your bond with that person would become closer. Even if you had nothing else in common with them, you now have the same worldview, the same convictions and morals, a common faith story to draw from, and a common eternal home to long for.
How Does Our Being in the Family of God Affect Our Relationship with Our Non-Christian Family Members?
Just as our faith draws us closer to likeminded family members, so it drives a wedge between us and those in our family who don’t believe.
Remember that Jesus said His family members were those who did God’s will, not necessarily those who were related to Him by blood or marriage.
He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
These are difficult verses to read, but Jesus is very clear in saying that our natural family members are not as important as following Him. And sometimes, we may need to make choices that divide us from our non-Christian family members.
For example, our beliefs may cause us to disagree with a member of our family. They may see nothing wrong with supporting a woman’s right to choose abortion, or doing whatever it takes to climb the ladder of success, drinking to excess, or telling dirty jokes. In some cases, we will need to let our stance on certain issues be known, and we can’t be ashamed of what we know to be the truth.
Those disagreements naturally cause us to be more distant from them. They or we may also choose not to spend as much time with the other. It’s unfortunate, but when we don’t have the most important things in common with them and can’t make concessions that would compromise our obedience, that’s the natural result.
How Should We Treat Non-Christian Family Members?
Consider these verses.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
1 Timothy 5:4:
But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.
It seems that the Scriptures are clear in telling us to help and care for our family members. But there is a distinction to help Christians first. We all have limited time and limited resources. If there’s a choice to be made, we should help and bless those in our Christian family of believers before we would help someone outside the faith. At the same time, we aren’t to shun our non-Christian family members or disregard our responsibilities toward them.
I believe we can also continue to enjoy our relationships with unbelieving family members albeit in a more reserved nature. As one person said, we may not have our non-Christian family members for eternity, so we need to enjoy them while we can.
Spend time with them and engage with them as much as possible without doing anything that would tarnish your Christian example or displease the Lord.