R. We are called into many relationships in our lives. Martin Luther talked about these as some of the vocatio (vocations) we have been given. All of us have a vocation as daughters or sons. Some of us are privileged to be called to the vocation of father, mother, spouse. Each of these relationships, these vocations, are ones God has called us into and to which we should be attentive.
What God did not call us to was to so idolize any one of those relationships that we ignore our primary calling as God’s children or as human beings called to love and serve other human beings. Jesus’ teachings and questions often tests these callings. Which is most important, our calling as God’s children claimed in baptism or our family? Look at Mark 3:31-35 where he identifies his family not as his biological mother and siblings but as those who do the will of God. Or those places he calls people to drop everything and follow him (the calling of James and John [Mark 1:19 ff], or the disciple who wanted to bury his father [Matthew 8:21-22]).
Given those two principles; that God has called us into the relationships we have, especially those of our immediate family, and desires us to be attentive to those relationships and that God also calls us to love God above all others and to care for those who are not in our blood family, how do we balance these?
The specific answer will depend on you. Nobody can say for sure that this is the way to go, or here is the specific ratio. Instead, as with most of our Lutheran dialectics, we should keep these two things always in tension. Each acting as a check for the other. Am I neglecting my family to help others? Am I idolizing my family or my children over my God? Am I inflicting harm on my or their faith life and relationship with God because I place their worldliness happiness and benefit above God?
This life of faith we live will never be perfect. Thankfully, we have a God who is merciful and kind. The best we can try and do is be faithful to all the relationships we have been called to, be attentive to how we might be neglecting one for the other, to check in with others and listen to their encouragement and admonitions, and pray for God and/or our family’s forgiveness when we get it wrong.
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