Posted on September 18, 2013
#20: When Your Family Doesn’t Believe
Patti* became a Christian during her junior year of high school. Her mother was furious, believing Patti had been overtaken by a cult. When Patti clung to her new faith in spite of intense family pressure to abandon it, she was forced out of her home—left on her own at age 16.
Last week in a hospital waiting room, I overheard a woman offer to pray with her brother whose wife was in surgery fighting for her life. Her brother sniffed, “Pray if you want, but I don’t do that hocus-pocus.”
Do you have family members or friends who think you’re a fool for believing in Jesus? who believe you’ve bought into a hoax? You’ll relate to Jesus’ position in today’s study.
Read Mark 3:20-35 and its parallel account in Matthew 12:24-32, 46-50.
Crowds gathered wherever Jesus went. Most were eager followers, but a few were enemies watching for the right moment to seize Him. One verbal slip, one false claim—or a claim they could twist into something false—would allow them, by Law, to put Him to death (Deut. 13:5; 18:20). They’d begun drumming a relentless beat: “He’s a madman, a lunatic, a megalomaniac. Who does He claim He is? God? He’s crazy.”
Perhaps influenced by that beat, on this day Jesus’ family was on their way to take charge of (literally, to apprehend or arrest) Him. His brothers, who didn’t believe in Him (Jn. 7:5), had brought their mother Mary to “talk Him off the ledge”—to persuade Jesus to come home, stopping this madness before He got Himself killed.
At about that time, Jewish leaders arrived from Jerusalem. These were the bigwigs, carrying plenty of clout. They took up the beat. “He is crazy. What’s more, he’s possessed. We’ll tell you where His ‘power’ comes from: Beelzebub. Satan. By the prince of demons he’s driving out demons.”
This charge from respected authorities could have corrupted the peoples’ view of Jesus, destroying His credibility. So Jesus refuted them with sharp logic.
• “Why would satan drive out satan, opposing himself?” (v. 23-26)
• “Only by binding a strong man can a thief plunder the man’s house. I can only free men from satan’s house of darkness by first having bound him—not by partnering with him.” (vs. 27)
• “Be careful where you tread; you’re an inch away from blasphemy by attributing things of God to satan! It’s an eternal sin; there’s no coming back.” (vs.28-29)
The leaders’ hostility was frustrating to Jesus. Those who should’ve been the first to welcome Him were His strongest opponents.
But Jesus must have been especially hurt by his own family’s disbelief. From all appearances, He would win the crowds but lose his own brothers. (Eventually, at least two of His brothers would come to faith, but not until after His resurrection.)
If you grieve over an unbelieving spouse, parents, or children, understand that Jesus knew the same pain. He too longed for the salvation of family members. Without rejecting His unbelieving brothers, He claimed the believers for His family: “Who are My mother and My brothers? Here are My mother and My brothers! Whoever does God’s will is My brother and sister and mother.” (Mk. 3:33-35)
If your blood-relatives are outside of Christ, by all means work for their salvation, pray for them, and be the light of Christ in front of them. But rely on your spiritual family—those who share your faith in Jesus—for strength and fellowship. Meanwhile, never abandon hope that your blood-family will some day be part of your spiritual family!
What about you?
Do you have unbelieving family members? I’d be honored to pray for them with you. Comment below or message me with your requests. There’s power in prayer and strength in numbers. I’ll add my prayers to yours!
*Not Patti’s real name, though her story is true.
© Diane McLoud 2013
Thank you so much for this lesson. I deal with this a lot!
As in every other life-situation, it’s good to know that Jesus understands our hurts, isn’t it? Praying for you today, Cindy.
My father spent his whole life contemplating religion and spiritual matters and alternately choosing atheism, humanism, agnosticism and various forms thereof. However, he always went to church with the rest of us. He said he never wanted his family sitting on a church pew without him there. He was also the dad who would pull a $20 out for the youth leader to help with their gas expenses. I appreciated his support. Unfortunately, he passed away with none of us being clear on his final beliefs. We love our family and pray for them– without condition or strings, realizing that ultimately, this is a heart conversation they need to have with God.
It helps so much to know that God is perfectly wise AND perfectly merciful. He knows every heart, and will do what’s right for each of us when we stand before Him. I agree, Julie, that our job is to love unconditionally and PRAY!!
Thanks for this lesson Diane. There was one scripture that I was always unsure of and you explained it here. Every family has at least one who just wont accept or believe. My family is of no exception, but I pray for them constantly. My prayer has always been “Lord, whatever it takes to turn them around and bring them back to you, please allow it to happen.” Pray believing and prepare yourself for whatever that may be. Our ways are not His ways.
I remember reading a line in a Christian novel that struck me, and I’ve never forgotten it: “God is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness.” If He needs to temporarily affect our happiness in order to restore us to holiness, He will. We, on the other hand, would usually prefer to be happy! So glad He’s a 100%-wise, 100%-loving God who makes no mistakes.
Thank you for this Diane. I have an unbelieving father. When I was younger we all went to church together as a family but when I was 6 my parents divorced. My dad has never gone to church again since then. When I ask him about his faith, his answer is, I’m not a practicing Christian. I think somewhere he knows and does believe but chooses not to live it out. He clearly tells me that it’s not for him? I’ve wondered so much about why he chooses not to act on his faith but I’ve been praying for him for years. I would love if you would join me in my prayers. I definatly would love to see who my father can become when Christ is the center of his life. Thank you.
I’d be honored to pray for your dad, Jenelle. Thanks for the comment! He—and you—will be in my prayers.