The Bible has a lot to say about how we should interact with our families. God expects us to honor our family members and treat them with respect, but there are times when disowning family members can be necessary in order to protect oneself from toxic or abusive relatives. The Bible speaks of disowning in a few passages, but it also gives clear guidelines on when this drastic action should be taken.
According to Christian apologist and theologian Dr. Michael S. Heiser, the two most popular passages addressing disowning family in the Bible both come from the New Testament. The first is Matthew 10:37, which reads: “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” This passage is Jesus’s instruction to his disciples that the love for him must be kept above all other loves, even those for our family members.
The second passage is found in Luke 14:26, where Jesus says “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” This passage has caused some confusion, because Jesus is not actually asking us to hate our families, but to prioritize our love for him over everything else.
While the Bible does say that loving God must be our top priority, it also cautions against cutting off ties prematurely or rashly. Jesus gave the example of a man who was disowned by his own father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and spoke of the father’s joy in welcoming him back with open arms (Luke 15:11-32). This passage is an example of redemption, not of disowning, and the Bible stresses the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation.
At the same time, the Bible does have advice for those who find themselves in situations of abuse, be it physical, mental, or spiritual. In certain cases, it may be necessary to permanently disown family members in order to protect oneself. Jesus said in Matthew 10:21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.” He acknowledges that this will happen and is a real danger, especially when dealing with abusive family members. In situations like these, distancing oneself and even cutting off ties may be the only way to avoid further danger or abuse.
When Should We Disown?
Disowning family is a drastic measure and must only be used as a last resort. It should be considered only in extreme situations of abuse or danger, as even then, distance can be handled without completely severing ties. Other ways of distancing from family can include limiting contact to necessary communication only, refusing to visit or host them at one’s home, and not inviting them to special events. If these measures are taken and are still not enough for one’s safety, then the difficult decision of disowning can be made.
If one does find themselves in a situation where disowning becomes necessary, they should keep in mind that God’s grace extends to all and He can help us find peace and strength in Him. Matthew 19:29 says “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” God is always there to listen and to give strength and guidance, and is willing to be there for those who have to take on the difficult task of disowning their family members.
The Example of Shammah
The example of Shammah in the Bible sheds light on this important topic. Shammah had three wicked brothers, and in spite of his father’s strong disapproval, he still disowned them because of their wickedness. His father begged him to at least be kind to them, but Shammah would not be humble to their wickedness and chose to disown them for his own protection. This story shows us that although we should always strive for forgiveness and reconciliation, there are times when disowning can be the best choice.
Ultimately, disowning is a very serious decision that should not be made hastily or out of anger. We must always remember to prioritize our love for God above all other loves, but we must also consider the consequences of our actions and act carefully. We should strive to forgive and to reconcile, as this is what God desires. But in cases of extreme abuse, disowning can sometimes be necessary for our own protection and wellbeing.
What To Do Before Disowning
Before any drastic decision is made, it is important to weigh all the options available first. Unless the situation is dangerous, it is best to try to settle the issues through communication first. This could involve seeking counsel from a trusted pastor or other members of the community, and possibly even counseling sessions. The Bible does not encourage rash behavior and we should always pray for guidance before making any big decisions.
It’s also important to note that forgiveness and reconciliation should always be the goal, even when one has to take extreme measures, such as disowning someone. God always forgives, even in the most dire of circumstances, and we should strive for this level of grace and mercy as well. It is not easy, but with God’s help, anything is possible.
Disowning family members is a heartbreaking decision to make, and one that should only be taken when necessary. The Bible speaks of disowning in a few passages, but cautions against it when forgiveness and reconciliation can be still achieved. If one finds themselves in an extreme situation of abuse and danger, they should remember that God is always willing to listen and help, and He will guide them to the right decision. Ultimately, the most important thing is to prioritize our relationship with our heavenly Father over any other kind of relationship.