Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37-38). It is no coincidence that He taught people to place Him before family (when their will conflicts with His) in the same context of bearing a cross (i.e., enduring the consequences of truth). There is no greater cross to endure than obeying Jesus when our family will not.
Paul is commended for making this difficult choice when he left Judaism to become a Christian. He was sincerely serving God as a devout Jew, but he was wrong (Acts 26:9-11). By the grace of God he learned the truth and was saved in Christ (1 Tim. 1:13-14). Nevertheless, this was a choice that left Paul at odds with his family and friends who did not follow him into Christianity. Fortunately, he endured his cross as he persuaded other Jews to do the same (Rom. 10:1-4).
Jesus says the gospel includes faith in Him as God’s Son, repentance (Acts 2:38), confession (8:36-37), and a water baptism to be saved from sin (Mark 16:15-16; 1 Pet. 3:21). Some will refuse to obey this truth because they do not want to condemn family and friends who believe something else. This is when we must decide if we want God’s approval or man’s. Since Jesus alone can save us (Acts 4:12), we should place our faith in Him and encourage our family to do the same. They may not appreciate it and may even ridicule us for our decision, but that is the cross Jesus has called us to bear in finding eternal life. Paul endured such a cross and left us an example to follow (1 Tim. 1:16). Will we do the same in loving Christ more than this world? Will we bear our cross for Jesus in the same way He endured His cross for us (Rom. 5:7-9)? –Mike Thomas