PATRICK: I’ve left some family who do not believe because they want me to agree with them follow them in worldly ways. It’s heartbreaking at times, and I try always to be sensitive to the Spirit when He wants me to contact them and what to say, which I do. I know Jesus wants us to love the sinner and our enemies, but at the same time He speaks of leaving one’s family and farm to follow Him. I know this is a struggle many Christians face and the danger of being legalistic looms over such relational struggles. Any thoughts?

DAVE: You raise a good issue. It’s not an easy one to deal with. Obviously, our love for Jesus must far surpass our love for family/friends/enemies (Matthew 10:37). Sometimes that priority will lead us away from them. As long as our heart has the right attitude, it’s okay to leave. At one point Jesus said to the man whom He was calling but wanted to bury his father first, “Let the dead bury the dead you follow Me now” (Matthew 8:21-22). In other words, I think Jesus was saying that “some people will never get saved and are ‘dead’ even though they are still alive in the flesh, and there is Something of Utmost Importance speaking to you right now.” Jesus also said of the Pharisees who were His enemies, “Let them go for they are blind guides” (Matthew 15:14). The Apostles left their wives and families (how completely we do not know) and Jesus said there will be a reward in Heaven for that (Matthew 19:27-29). So certainly leaving certain people is not only permissible, it may be dictated by the Spirit. It doesn’t necessarily mean we stop loving and praying for them because we will never know whether or not they will get saved someday.

On the other hand, many Scriptures say that family commitment is important and good. For example, if a spouse gets saved, they are not to divorce the unsaved partner unless the unsaved demands it (1 Cor.7:12- 13). Also, a man should provide for his family. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ Loves the Church and gave Himself up for her. Wives are supposed to submit to and respect their husbands. Fathers are not to provoke their children to anger. Children are to honor their parents. None of these contexts remotely suggest abandoning the family for God. So perhaps leaving the family is for a special calling, i.e. Peter and the other eleven, and more people over the centuries. But maybe this is not to be the norm for all Christian men and women.