There are many difficult choices in missions, but what could be harder than being forced to choose serving God and his glory over the family God has given you. In many instances missionaries are faced with extended families who do not support their call to global missions. Christian as well as non-Christian relatives have been known to oppose and even stand in the way of a missionary’s departure to fulfill God’s will.
How is a missionary to respond when parents, siblings, grandparents and cousins are not on board with missions? Should a missionary depart if extended family does not echo their call to missions? And, how does a missionary honor his father and mother if parents do not support their missions work?
This is a battle which far too many missionaries must face when moving toward the mission field. Never be surprised who Satan will enlist to discourage you from dedicating your life to serving God.
In 1 Samuel 20 Jonathan was placed in a difficult situation by his father. Saul asked his son Jonathan to put his father, his family and even his own future reign ahead of God’s glory. Jonathan choose to honor God over obeying his father Saul. Jonathan protected God’s chosen son David, instead of doing what his own father asked. Jonathan’s decision was more than a choice between his father Saul and his friend David. Jonathan was asked to select God’s glory or his own happiness and his family’s name. When Jonathan’s father forced him to choose the honor of his family over God’s glory, Jonathan did not hesitate, he chose God.
Make no mistake, it grieved Jonathan to no end to disappoint his father. But, he did not hesitate to place God’s honor above the happiness of his family. Scripture is clear that following God will cost us those things dear to us. A disciple of Christ cannot serve both God and something else, even family (Mat 6:24, Luk 14:33, 16:13, Jon 12:25, Act 20:24, Rev 12:11). A follower of Christ cannot place his family ahead of God (Dut 13:6-8, 33:9, Mat 10:37, Luk 14:26). In Jonathan’s case, following God cost him a relationship with his father. What has following God cost you?
When put in a place to choose God or family a disciple of Christ must always select the Creator of the Universe. Yes, it is hard when family forces Christians to make such decisions. But, our relationship with the ones who gave us biological life, can never supersede our obedience to the one who gives us eternal life.
Honor Your Family
If your friends and family are counseling you away from fulltime ministry service they are not focused on God’s glory. Keith Green said, “You would never be foolishly ‘neglecting’ your family’s needs by obeying God’s call to go. God will show you the way.” You can provide no greater witness to your family than your obedience to God’s calling.
Throughout Scripture God commands us to honor our father and mother (Exo 20:12, Lev 19:3, Dut 5:16, 27:16, Eze 22:7, Mal 1:6, Mat 15:4, 19:19, Mar 7:10, 10:19, Luk 18:20, 1Tim 5:4, Eph 6:2). How does one honor their father and mother if your parents don’t support your call to missions? The Bible tells us to love our neighbor, love God and love strangers, but Scripture reserves the word honor for our parents. There is no one else who the Bible commands us to honor.
Honoring our parents teaches us to honor moral authority, yet God is an even higher moral authority than our parents. There are many ways to honor parents. They get special treatment. Parents are biblically unique and deserve to be treated in a unique way. Pray for your parents, be patient with them, provide a God-honoring example for them. Find a way to love your parents through the missions process.
Missionaries do not get a pass. They must honor their parents even when parents disagree with missions. But, missionaries must worship, obey and glorify God. There are no perfect family members, but there is a perfect God who is to be unconditionally followed.
Do not delay your calling to missions because of family. You can provide them no better witness then going when God calls you. We must trust our family, our health and our very lives to the Lord. Dedicate all you have to his service and the expansion of his kingdom.
To whom should we submit? With whom should we side? Friends, family, co-workers and neighbors or the one true God? Will we side with Christ only up to the point of discomfort or are we willing to sacrifice everything for his glory? When a choice is to be made between obedience to God and the ones we love, we must never hesitate and embrace God’s glory.
Family is important. Idols can be made of the very things which are good in our lives, those things given to us by God. But, idolatry toward a good thing is still idolatry. God’s glory must come before all. We must give our allegiance to the one who’s kingdom has no end. If your extended family does not support your call to missions, choose God, choose missions.