And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:34-35)

Jesus offends a lot of people. There is, ironically, nothing controversial about that statement. What may be a bit more surprising is that one of the groups Jesus offends is those who think family is everything.

Jesus doesn’t deny the importance of one’s role in and responsibilities towards their nuclear/blood families (“Honor your father and mother”). But he does teach that believers belong to another family, and have roles in and responsibilities towards this family as well. When we become a Christian, we have a new vertical identity as a child of God, and we have a new horizontal identity as a member of God’s family, the church.

People sometimes say something like: God first, family second, church third, career fourth. The problem with this is we tend to make a firm separation between our responsibilities to God and our responsibilities to his church. We tend to see faith in Christ in very personal, individualistic ways.

But much of what God calls us to involves the church. As a Christian, we are called into a people, and we have a new family. We have responsibilities to more people than just those in our home.

This neat ordering of priorities makes things simpler, but it also easily leads us to idolize our nuclear family, and diminish the importance of our church family.

A better way forward is to recognize that we have responsibilities to our nuclear family, and we have responsibilities to our spiritual family. Neither one cancels out the other. Neither one should continually be sacrificed on the altar of the other. Sacrifices should go both ways.

Ask yourself: Is there a chance I am leading my spouse and kids to despise church because of how much I commit to it versus them? Or, is there a chance I am leading my spouse and kids to have little to no regard for the church because of how little I commit to it verses them?

Christ died for the church, and he loves it dearly. Through his blood spilled for our sins, we are united to other believers, and called to love and commit to them as family.