Reprinted from When Thou Sittest In Thine House, by Abraham Kuyper, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1929. Used by permission of Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Your home naturally opens itself to two classes of people. There are two kinds of folks who mingle in your narrower environment. There are two groups of persons which, though they do not belong to your immediate family, are inseparable from the family-life: first, your kindred, and in the second place, your intimate friends.
Such the Scripture calls these two groups, and when Captain Cornelius, who was in garrison with the legion Italia at Caesarea, as the first convert won from the heathen world, received the holy apostle Peter from Joppa in his house to get instruction in the gospel of Jesus, it was not with wife and children alone that he welcomed the apostle, but in company of many others, consisting of “hiskinsmen and near friends” (Acts 10:24).
By two links your household is connected with the broader life outside. The one of kinsmen and blood-relatives, and the other formed by sympathy of spirits.
Your kinsmen you find, your close friends you choose. But both circles are woven in with the circle of your own life. Something which is at once evident, in that you have other “acquaintances” and to some extent other “friends,” but with whose family you are not intimate, while on the other hand with your kinsmen and close friends it is the rule, that of itselftheir children associate withyour children, and the common intercourse of the households establishes something more than a personal, something different from an individual, if you please a sort of household-relation.
Yet, although these “kinsmen” and “close friends” mingle not infrequently on a footing of equal confidence with your family, the relation of the two to you and to your household is an altogether different one.
The tie of “kindred” was laid without your cooperation, that of intimate friendship alone by thechoice of the heart.
Thereby the tie of kinship lies more in our natural; the tie of close friendship more in ourspiritual sphere of life.
Result of this is that, so long as life in your circle moves along a lower level, kinship is more strongly emphasized, while, he higher the spiritual life becomes, the more highly the more particular friendship is esteemed.
Almost everyone has uncles and aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces, even he who himself is nothing; but to have intimate friends, one must himself be something, something that attracts, something from which a spiritual tie can be woven.
From biographies of great men, you rarely learn anything of their uncles and aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces, but all the more of their spiritual kinships, of their bosom friends, of the Jonathans who were permitted to associate with their Davids.
And among those who as God’s children stand higher the case is the same. They honor indeed the ties of kinship, but they have their closest ties with the brethren in the kingdom.
According to rank, kinshipprecedes, but, weighed spiritually, “special friendship” wins.
In the face of this, would you assert that the tie of kinship is from God, and your friendship’s tie from yourself?
Then you make a separation which is false, and you oppose the teaching of Scripture as well as the experience of life.
For shall not he who is rich in both, thank his God for a sympathetic kinship, and for finely attuned friendship, and honor Him as the Fountain of all good, from whence came to him this tie of blood, as well as the relation of the heart of a friends?
And as regards Scripture, is it not implied already in the paradise-word: “A man shall leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife,” that the tie of blood may not discard the tie according to choice, yea, that, where the two clash, the tie of blood must recede?
Is not the call that went out to Abraham: “Get thee out from thy country, and from thy kindred,” the parole whereby spiritual calling, spiritual environment of life, and so also the spiritual tie, is put above the natural?
And when Jesus says that he that doeth the will of His Father who is in heaven is to Him a brother and a sister, and elsewhere tells us that he who cannot leave father or mother or child for His sake is not worthy of Him—does not this same divine ordinance express itself herein, that both the natural and spiritual ties have rights, but that, as often as difficulty arises, the lower tie of nature must lower the flag before the higher spiritual tie?
When the infant John was born, both came out at the same time.
First the tie of kinship, which spake from the family when they said: “There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name John” (Luke 1:61). And then the spiritual tie, when Zacharias wrote: Apart from all kinship, with an eye to his spiritual calling, his name must be John.
Not Zacharias, but John would be his name!
In our Christian households, at times, this twofold tie occasions difficulty and conflict when we have a family behind and a family around us who do notseek with us the service of the Lord.
If in your house you serve the Lord, and if His service stands equally high in the households of your kindred, the tie of kinship is not weakened by the spiritual tie, but rather strengthened.
But if from a not-believing family, by wonders of grace, you yourself have been drawn to the service of the Lord, then there is not the same tone of life in yourhouse and in theirs. Involuntarily a certain coolness arises. And the spiritual antithesis between you and them of itself introduces a certain tension in the mutual attitude.
This gives rise to a twofold tendency, which both can go too far.
On one side the tendency, insomuch as spiritually one stands over against the other, to discount the tie of kinship. And on the other side the tendency, for the sake of the family-ties, not to let the spiritual be heard.
The latter then goes at length so far that, being among one’s own, for dear peace’s sake, one shamelessly denies his Savior. While the former can lead to such inexcusable hardness that, in the end, one counts for nothing even the tie of one’s own mother or child.
Against both these sins you have to watch.
The tie of kinship has been laid by God. And therefore you have to honor it, so long and for so far as you can possibly do this, without in anything denying your Savior. But this same tie of kinship is, by God Himself who laid it, made absolutelysubordinate to the tie that binds you to Jesus, and therefore you sin against your Savior when, in associating with your family, the family-tie gets the better of your heroic love for Him.
Which way you have to take depends therefore upon the attitude which your family assumes towards your faith.
This attitude can be of threefold kind. With self-conceit and mockery one can look down upon your faith; one can treat it with cold respect; or with interest one can envy you.
When you notice that your faith creates interest among your kindred, the way of itself is open before you. Then you let your light shine, that at length they too may glorify your Father who is in heaven. Then you join yourself closely to them, and try to make yourself an instrument of salvation to them or to their children.
If, on the other hand, they show no interest, because they have no part in your confession, even though they may profess respect for Jesus, the glorious propaganda of your faith among your kindred is truly difficult. Yet there is no cause of breach. And it must become more and more the sacred art, without too free an approach, to make it evident in an unobtrusive way that He who is in you is stronger than he who is in them, and at the proper time the proper word of confession can be spoken.
But when your kindred take their stand over against your conviction and confession; when they drive their spirit in opposition to the spirit of your household; and conceitedly look down upon you as backward obscurantists and fanatics; and, in your presence or even in that of your children, allow themselves expressions that are offensive to your devout feeling and insulting to your Savior—then you must contest the tie of kinship its right and, without giving offense, carefully see to it that no corruptive influences go out from your kinsmen upon your children and upon your own heart.
This becomes particularly painful when joy or sadness in the family brings you together with those kinsmen who are your spiritual opponents, on such occasions as weddings and funerals, at which in all sorts of ways the higher questions of life come to order.
No one may then say that,because it concerns your family, at such happy or sorrowful solemnities, for the time being you are to lay aside your conviction. “Let the dead bury their dead,” said Jesus, “you preach the kingdom of God.” And therefore he who for the sake of family takes part at funeral or wedding, after modernistic ceremonial, commits sin. For though you have no right on such occasions to make your confession the rule of procedure, or place it in the foreground, neither have you the right, for the sake of the family-tie, to assume the appearance or the attitude for one moment as though for that time being your tie to Jesus is consigned to non-activity.
A redeemed one of the Lord who knows that it will come to this, however close the family-tie may be, stays away from such solemnities.
Nowhere and at no time may the tie of kinship enter claims against the tie that binds you to your God.
And then…think of your children.
Or are they not to be pointed out by name, baptized children from Christian homes, who, estranged from the faith, are now abroad in the paths of unbelief, because no one took it to heart that, while young and inexperienced, with dear uncles and aunts and cousins, they came unobservedly under worldly, Christ-denying influences?
This went on over the signature of the family-tie! One should not and could not keep his children away from their relatives! And one did not notice or see how by this very thing he kept his child away from his God.
He who loves his child and consecrated it to God will be on guard to avert every wrong influence from his darling, knowing how easily the young are lured astray.
Wrong influence is never more strongly seductive than when it comes from one’s kindred.