So I ran across this quote from David Shibley the other day. Not sure where I read it, but I hung on to it and have been processing it for a good while now. “God is not calling us to win the world and, in the process, lose our families. But I have known those who so enshrined family life and were so protective of ‘quality time’ that the children never saw the kind of consuming love that made their parents’ faith attractive to them. Some have lost their children, not because they weren’t at their soccer games or didn’t take family vacations, but because they never transmitted a loyalty to Jesus that went deep enough to interrupt personal preferences.”
To be honest, family life and ministry life has always been an interesting and challenging combination. I have been doing ministry quite a bit longer than ‘family’, so I knew there would be a definite adjustment factor for me. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7 speak about it being good for a man not to marry. Most theologians have traditionally interpreted the first two verses of the passage to show that Paul is suggesting celibacy as a higher calling than marriage. The usual explanation – especially for those in ministry – is the greater opportunity to dedicate themselves entirely to the Lord. The church fathers taught this view and it impacted the Roman Catholic Church as they forbade their clergy to marry, so as to not keep them from their higher calling.
This explanation has always been troublesome because at the beginning of time God said “it is not good for man to be alone” and in a sinless world instituted marriage. Since then it would seem that marriage has been the norm for Christians.
But there is little doubt in my mind that a life lived on mission can quickly and easily be distracted… by so many things, family being just one of those. Yet the calling to mission includes the family and I would say even goes out from the family. How can I lead others to do what I’m not leading my family to do?
I desperately desire for my wife and children see the consuming love I so often preach about. A love for Christ that compels my life and calling as a husband, father and pastor to go into the world with the love of Christ.
Caught rather than taught… it’s a great teaching principle that has to be applied to how I live out my faith before my family and those around me. Words become meaningless devoid of action. God asks for the faith He has given us to be expressed through a life of selfless devotion to the cause of Christ and for the sake of the Gospel.
Jesus trained His disciples in an amazing way for the work He would have them accomplish following His departure. He did not gather His disciples in a formal classroom and begin to lecture. Instead, Jesus did His teaching “on the way” (and thus explaining why the early Christians were called “Followers of The Way”). The roadways of life was Jesus’ classroom. He communicated His principles, values and mission right in the middle of daily experiences. The real beauty of our Lord’s teaching is that He taught and led by example. He fleshed out in His own life what He expected His followers to do.
Shibley’s final sentence, “A loyalty to Jesus that goes deep enough to interrupt personal preferences”… even family life is so incredibly challenging. But if I want my three boys to ‘get it’ than I have to ‘live it’… only by His grace and solely for His glory!