Was Jesus Anti-Family?

There has been some confusion among critics of the faith regarding Jesus’s stance on family. Was He anti-family? Let’s take a look.

Sites that specialize in undermining Christianity and its teachings have found passages where Jesus appears to supposedly despise family and family values. I have a few problems with these findings.

The first passage commonly brought up begins right at Christ’s boyhood in Luke 2:41-51. It records a twelve-year-old Jesus parting ways with His parents in order to go about His Father’s business. The problem was that since His parents hadn’t realized He had stayed behind He must have been lying. A few thoughts:

  1. Clearly, Jesus had wisdom beyond His years in order to understand the assembly of the law since He was shown to be listening intently (i.e. Nehemiah 8:2). Would it be so far out of line to suggest this wasn’t the first time He had joined an assembly of such kind?
  2. If this is so I would think Jesus stayed, not because He was rebellious and wanted to be separate from His parent’s company, but that He had a higher business to attend. In verse 49 He tells them that He has a heavenly Father whom He was to be more observant to than His earthly parents and that they should have placed the burden of His protection on Him rather than themselves.
  3. Respect to God does not mean disrespect to parents since God was to be the highest authority. It’s told many times obedience to God first will result in provisional additions elsewhere.

This passage was the first glimpse into the mission of Jesus and as it was so His parents failed to understand what it meant. They didn’t know what was to come for the boy, only that He was the messiah. In context, there is simply no way this can be read as a rebellious act (rebellious in the sense that he disliked his parents’ authority went to explicitly disobey them). Mary keeping the event in her heart wasn’t a sign of a mental scar, but a promise that all would be explained.

The next passage in question is John 2:1-5. This account has Jesus saying to His mother, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” This is seen as an outright sign of dishonour. How can Jesus dishonour His mother? Simply put, He wasn’t. This was a very common phrase in ancient Greek and was never a sign of disrespect. See other instances where Jesus uses this term (John 4:21, 8:10, 19:26, 20:31; Lk. 13:12, etc.)

Regarding the second part of the verse, J.P. Holding in Tekton’s article on the same issue says this,

This is a Semitic phrase that indicates that the speaker is being unjustly bothered or is being asked to get involved in a matter that is not their business. It can be impolite, but not always. The intent must be determined by the context, and the first part of Jesus’ saying does point to the latter intent.

The next objection is found in Matthew 12:46-50 where Jesus says to a messenger, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Further saying, “….whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Was Jesus completely rejecting His parents? It’s difficult to see how this is so since nowhere does the text indicate that Jesus was rejecting His parents. This is nothing more than an opportunity to use their presence as a lesson, that all who do the will of God are brothers and sisters in Christ. Can’t this also include His parents who were carrying out God’s will?

A rather strange objection one critic pointed to was found in Luke 11:27-28, where a woman tells Jesus how blessed His mother was for having given birth to the messiah. Apparently, since Jesus corrects her in the next verse, He was rebuking any praise given to His mother. This is simply not so. Jesus’s words, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it,” were to show the woman that the blessing she prizes in one woman is greatly inferior to the blessing possessed by everyone who has knowledge of and walks in the will of God. If Mary had not walked in God’s will she would not have had the opportunity to give birth to the messiah in the first place. This passage is not a rebuke but a comparison.

An objection is also found in Luke 14:26, where Jesus says, “If any man come to me and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” To answer this I will point readers to Tekton TV’s vid answering the issue.

In essence, this goes back to what we said before, that looking after the interests of God first will result in provision elsewhere.

Finally, critics point to Matthew 10:34-37 and Luke 12:51-53 where Jesus says He has not come to bring peace, but a sword to divide. “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” This is another wording of the above passage regarding the priority of life. This is reflected in the two greatest commandments, to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbour as yourself, in that order. It should also be noted that sometimes the truth can divide families and communities. There is no promise against that, especially regarding the radical ministry of Jesus. This passage is a warning on the exclusive nature of truth, not a literal mission to divide families because….critics haven’t gotten as far to explain why.

Overall, objections that Jesus is being anti-family lack contextual support.