If you love Jesus, He’s going to divide your family.
He said it would happen, and His words have proven heartbreakingly true.
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household (Matthew 10:34-35).
Quite simply, Jesus is saying that He is the dividing line in every family. Those who are unreservedly dedicated to following Him are on one side, those who reject His offer of salvation and the call to take up His cross are on the other. There is a chasm between them that can grow by the day until it becomes impossible to cross.
Today this family tension has taken a decidedly political turn. But since positions on the most important social issues of the day (abortion, marriage, sexuality, self-reliance, etc. etc.) are determined by deeply held religious conviction, political divisions in a household are often a proxy for the underlying clashes over Christ, Christianity, and the Bible.
Hannah Selinger last week published a column in the Huffington Post in which she contemplates cutting off her in-laws from ever seeing her children again. It’s clear in the article that her in-laws are sincere conservative Christians of the Catholic persuasion, which has led them, in her view, to adopt a host of “repugnant” ideas.
They are opposed to the normalization of homosexuality, which makes them guilty of homophobia. They believe Roy Moore rather than the utterly unverified and plainly fictitious charges of his accusers, which makes them sexist enablers. They watch all the wrong shows on cable TV, and consequently have a worldview view “that’s disturbingly removed from reality.”
They oppose abortion under all circumstances, another evidence of sexism, and they believe in a secure southern border, which makes them racists. They support a president who is a “bad person,” which makes her wonder if her in-laws are bad people too.
The author’s in-laws are Christ-followers and she is not. Just as Jesus predicted, she is now firmly “set...against” them. Her patience with them is at an end. It is impossible to “keep exonerating them” because there is “no solution” to the depth of their “intolerance.”
She admits that her political contact with them was “heavy on the aggressive” on her part as she directed her Facebook posts at “any and all Trump supporters, including family members.” But in her own defense, she lamely says “I didn’t single them out specifically,” as if they couldn’t have figured out who she was talking about. Shame on her, for showing such blatant disrespect for her in-laws by taking them to task publicly like this. Not much honor for “father” and “mother” there.
Her bottom line: “I can’t just go on pretending that we’re a normal family...I can’t just pretend they aren’t who they are.” She can no longer leave her children in their care because they might “say something awful.”
Her daughter has complained to her, “You’re choosing politics over family.” But her daughter is not quite right about that. Ms. Selinger is choosing liberal politics over Christ, and that means she has to chuck her in-laws overboard.
Ms. Selinger believes “there are very definitive beliefs that separate good and bad people,” and her own in-laws now belong to the “bad people” group from whom she must protect her own children. In the name of “tolerance,” mind you, she “cannot continue to tolerate” their ideology. “The idea of them in our lives,” she concluded, “seems less and less possible.”
This is, of course, a terrible state of affairs, as it casts a foreboding pall over future Thanksgivings, Christmases and other holidays. But the pain will be deeper for her in-laws, who will be cut off from their precious grandchildren and denied an affectionate relationship with their grown children. A lot of heartache.
Meanwhile, Ms. Selinger will smugly and self-righteously disown her own in-laws and march on, feeling quite superior about the whole thing. Her heartache and grief over missed opportunity will come later.
The only way for Christian parents to avoid this eventuality is to betray Christ. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). If the price of being accepted by a son or a daughter is to reject the truth of Christ, we will have to learn to live without them with an abiding ache in our hearts.