JESUS HATED FAMILIES. That’s the impression he leaves with many folks today when they read his mission statement:
“I came to turn sons against their fathers, daughters against their mothers, and daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law. Your worst enemies will be in your own family” (Matthew 10:35-36).
That brings us to the Bible question of the week. It comes from Erin Drew.
She’s actually asking several questions.
“I just came across this article in The Huffington Post about ‘The Five Scariest Teachings of Jesus’… and one of them instantly had me think to myself… I need to email Steve Miller about this because it’s the first time I’ve ever heard it before.”
Erin quoted the Matthew 10 Bible passage above, which The Huffington Post writer judged as the Number Two scariest teaching of Jesus. Scariest of all, according to the writer, was “Do not resist an evildoer” (Matthew 5:39).
Then Erin wrote:
“We want our faith to be pro-family, but it is clear that Jesus saw the faith as a cause of division. This is tough to swallow, but also abundantly clear.
“In other parts of the Gospels, he promises eternal life to those who leave their families to follow him, and we see him reject his own family when they come to visit, turning instead to his followers and saying that they are his mother and brothers.
“It wasn’t nuanced, and it wasn’t hypothetical – Jesus’s apostles really did abandon their families. For example, we know that Peter was married, but his wife probably was left impoverished and overwhelmed when he abandoned her and his job for three years to follow Jesus.
“Was Peter really married when he left to follow Jesus? This is the first I’ve ever heard that before! How do we know this?”
That is one long-winded question.
And it comes with a fair number of presumptions that The Huffington Post writer pulled from somewhere other than the Bible.
The Jesus Quote
Jesus was doing two things with that tough quote of his.
- He was telling his followers what was going to happen to many of them because of their faith in him. Many followers of Jesus – past and present – have become estranged from their families because of their faith. It’s a fact.
- He was quoting an Old Testament prophet. Not just any prophet. He was quoting Micah, the prophet who predicted that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
Whoever wrote the Gospel of Matthew – presumably Jesus’s disciple, Matthew – went out of his way to link Jesus to Old Testament prophecies. He did this as a way of assuring his fellow Jews that Jesus was the predicted Messiah.
Jesus didn’t hate his family
There was one point, early in Jesus’ ministry, when his family thought he had baked his brains in the desert: “He’s out of his mind” (Mark 3:21).
They came to take him home so he would shut up and stop embarrassing himself and the family.
In time, the family came around. Miracles would have that effect, I’m guessing.
His mother was there when he died. One of his brothers, James, is reported to have led the Mother Church, headquartered in Jerusalem.
Peter didn’t abandon his family
Yes Peter was married. He lived in Capernaum – the city Jesus adopted as his ministry headquarters.
Peter certainly did follow Jesus for however long Jesus ministered – scholars debate whether it was one year or perhaps three. But almost all of Jesus’s ministry took place in the area of Capernaum, where his disciples lived.
Scholars call this area “The Evangelical Triangle” because Jesus spent so much of his time in the area around three neighboring cities: Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida.
A body could walk that triangle in half a day. It was 10 miles (16 km) from Capernaum to Chorazin to Bethsaida and then back again to Capernaum.
Out in the morning. Miracles for lunch. Home by dusk.
Certainly Jesus took some trips beyond the triangle. But to say that Peter and the other disciples abandoned their families with no regard for what happened to them seems quite the stretch.
Jesus loved families.
He especially loved kids.
When Jesus said, “Let the children come to me” (Matthew 19:14), it probably wasn’t to tell them scary stories about how their mommies and daddies were going to leave them alone so the grownups could hang out together, eat fish, and do fun stuff like walking on water.