“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
I’ve always struggled with the balance between these two commandments from Jesus. I love my family. A lot. I am quick to speak about how much I love my Dad, and should probably be a lot more vocal about how much I love my mi madre and mi hermana as well. (Fortunately, they know despite my lack of public declaration.) I also love a lot of my friends like family. I have two friends that I consider brothers, and a broader circle of friends that treat me like family. Growing up on the west coast away from most of my extended family, I learned at a young age that the lines between friends and family is blurred by the depth of love we have for each other. I grew up with a large group of my parents friends that we referred to as ‘aunts and uncles’. Some were my dad’s Marine Corps friends, others were neighbors, while even more were people from church. Some of my fondest memories are of times spent with our surrogate families.
This view of family has remained consistent over the years. Just last night I had dinner with my childhood neighbor, who is definitely a family-figure in my life, and continues to treat me as such. In this regard, I consider myself blessed beyond measure. A deep appreciation for my friends and family has been a consistent part of my prayer life for years.
I love my family, both by blood and by choice. And It would be very easy to say that family is the most important thing in my life. But it’s not.
I look at the command “Love your neighbor as yourself’ and see the faces of many people, both literal neighbors and friends, and family. (This does not cover the breadth of ‘neighbor’ as implied by scripture, but we can address that later). I see family as a context in which we learn to love those we are around. But more important than the ‘how’ we love people is the ‘why’ we love people. We love our neighbors because God first loved us. We love our neighbors because we love God first.
It’s very easy to put family up on a pedestal. It sounds so great, to treat each other like family. We all desire to be a part of a family, and we fight for those we care about. But when we get our love for family and our love for God out of order on our priority list, we lose sight of the Kingdom that God intended. God’s truth is sacrificed for relational stability. We care more about ‘sticking together’ than we do about ‘sticking to the kingdom’.
Jesus stated ver clearly that families would be split because of God. This wasn’t something new. The Old Testament is filled with stories of families being divided over mixed priorities. The Lord was very careful to remind His people over and over that He was to take precedent over their families. When His people put Him first, they were blessed. When they put their own families first, they were not blessed. It’s as simple as that.
Family is a blessing from God, but it is not God. Family is a means to love, but family did not create love. If we truly want to love our families, we must first love God.
My prayer is that your family and friends know they are loved. More importantly, I pray that your love for your family is second only to your love for God.
One love, one heart.