Of the Calling to the Right Love of Family and Friends
Jesus said: "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. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26, 27).
These words of Jesus are striking, particularly in the light of Jesus' own words to love our neighbor and to show love also to our enemies. What do they mean? They do not mean, as some have understood it, that we are simply to love father or mother less than Jesus Christ. To hate something or someone does not mean to "love less." The word "hate" in the bible never has any other meaning than to hate.
Jesus' words point us to the reality of sin which we are to hate. Every human relationship which God made good in the beginning is now corrupted and polluted by man's sin, whether that of parents and children, of marriage, or of any other human relationship. Even our own life, as it stands from our birth is corrupt and depraved. If our walk in any of these relationships is to be pleasing to the Lord, we must first die to them, hate them, as they lie in sin. We must die to our own life and hate its depraved root. In sorrow for our sin, we must turn from them to Christ. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) The grace of God which brings salvation works in us a new birth. According to this new birth, we die to our old life of sin, die to our own life, first of all. By it we also die to all the life of this world as it lies in sin. That work of grace causes separation between men, spiritual separation between one who loves God and the world which hates God.
Jesus said, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 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." (Matthew 10:34-36) The Christian gospel does not bring an earthly universal peace and brotherhood, but warfare, spiritual warfare between believer and unbeliever. For this reason Jesus adds that we are to take up our cross and follow him. (Luke 14:27) Being a Christian means standing for the sake of Christ, even against family and friends, and suffering for His sake. In fact, only in Christ are we enabled to walk rightly in the relationships of life. We must die to them as they lie in sin, that we might receive them anew in Christ.
How do we then receive them anew in Christ? It is in that connection that Jesus teaches in the parallel passage, "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." (Matthew 10:37) The love of Christ is an exclusive love. It is first, and we love others aright only when we first love Him.
That may mean that we must rebuke and call to repentance friends and loved ones though they cast us aside in response. That may mean that for Christ's sake, I cannot enjoy normal fellowship with family members because of their walk in sin and its barrier between us. That may mean that we must leave, because the gospel is corrupted, a comfortable and familiar church full of family and friends. We must love Christ first. A faithful Christian must be ready to suffer the loss of all things for the sake of his Lord, to bear even the reproach of family and friends for Christ's sake, if need be. Yet it is also in the way of seeking Christ first, that God will also work the repentance and conversion of family members whom He is pleased to call to salvation. Not compromise but the obedient love of Christ draws men to Him.
Are you walking as a disciple of Christ? What is first in your life, the Lord, or your earthly ties? Does your life and walk show it?
By Rev. Thomas Miersma, Missionary Pastor
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