The first thing Jesus did when he called his disciples was to get them to leave their wives and children. This was a replay of the days just before the building of the second temple, when the men of the newly resettled Jerusalem were asked to leave their families. But it goes back even farther, this call to believers to shed whatever might be holding them back from doing God’s will, from giving God their everything. Women tend to hold men back, and men tend to hold women back, and children and jobs and possessions can be a spiritual sinkhole.
From scripture, we know that Adam took Eve’s advice rather than God’s. Had she beguiled him, or did he just want to keep the peace between them? When Eve invited Adam to eat the fruit, he must have known it was in violation of God’s rule. It couldn’t have slipped his mind. They had total liberty, he and Eve, to do whatever they pleased, with the sole warning not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And yet there Eve was, standing beneath the forbidden tree, naked and calling his name. Her lips glistened with the juice of the fruit she had just taken a bite from and was holding out for him to eat. Some of the juice had dripped onto her bare breasts. They glistened and looked delicious. Why had they not looked delicious before? Adam suddenly felt ravenous. Eve looked like lunch.
What’s a fella to do?…
Again, I don’t know if Adam was beguiled by Eve or just wanted to keep the peace, but he went against God and chose instead to please his wife.
This is why Jesus had his disciples separate from their families. This is why, before the building of the second temple, the men were ordered to leave their pagan homes. This is why Solomon in all his wisdom should have known better than to mince, increment by increment, deeper and deeper into the wiles of his demon-worshiping wives and concubines until he’d lost his way altogether.
It’s easy to turn from God when there’s a bright and shiny object catching your eye. That’s why the devil comes as an angel of light, to sparkle and shimmer his way into your soul. He wants you to look in his direction, not in God’s; he wants you to heed his advice, not God’s. We humans are so easily sidetracked and persuaded. Is it because we naturally want to choose the course of least resistance, like an inbuilt spiritual gravity pulling us ever downward, or is it because there’s an allure of the senses in rebellion that excites us in a way that we think obedience never can?
Jesus, from personal experience, well knew the dynamics of family life. He knew that if his disciples stayed with their families, they’d hold them back, they’d be calling the shots, and the discipleship would take a back seat to what the wife wanted, to what the kiddies wanted, to what the boss wanted.
Recall that Jesus’ mother and sisters came to take him back to Nazareth from Capernaum. They tried to stop him from doing his ministry work. They thought he’d gone mad; they thought his life was in danger from the claims he was making and those being made about him. But Jesus is no Adam. He saw through his family’s concerns and spied the devil peeping out from behind their skirts, holding out delicious dripping fruit for him to eat. He was not hungry for that fruit, and so he remained in Capernaum and continued the work set out for him by God.
A year or so earlier, prior to starting his ministry, the first thing Jesus did was to shed everything he had and was. The 40 days and nights in the wilderness were a transition as well as a test. Jesus could not have done his ministry work had he not first made this transition. Jesus the carpenter, the son of Joseph, had to become Jesus the rabbi, the son of God. And the only way for Jesus to do that was to physically separate himself from his home, his family, his job, his possessions, and everything that had formerly defined him.
Well, you say, that was Jesus. We don’t have to do that because he was the Messiah and we have a different mission.
True enough, that Jesus had a different mission than us, a different role to play in the Kingdom, but we’re his followers, so we’re to do as he did. That’s what it means to be followers. Scripture shows that like his disciples, his early followers also left their families and possessions and went all-in for the mission. At least the genuine followers did.
Jesus advises us to become eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. Paul advises us not to marry. Both admit that this particular advice is not for everyone, as not everyone is willing to go that far to serve God.
What about you? How far are you willing to go? Part of the way? All the way? Have you done your 40 days and nights in the desert? Have you left you behind? Have you separated yourself from your family and friends and everything that defines the pre-ministry you from the one who serves God and God only?
Or are you following the devil’s version of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, clinging to your former life and meekly following behind your family when they come to take you back?
To separate yourself from your loved ones doesn’t mean you have to hate them. It just means you love God more, as per the Commandment. It just means you choose to follow Jesus’ advice rather than the world’s.
The choice is always yours, but the path has been laid and the right way forward is clearly marked. You can’t remain in the world, in the bosom of your family, and at the same time follow Jesus. If that were possible, Jesus would not have had his disciples leave their families as a first order of business.
Again, the choice is always yours, but the path has been laid and the right way forward is clearly marked.
Nothing in your life should sidetrack you or prevent you from serving God and God only.