Recently on the blog I’ve been talking about idolatry (here, here and here). The essence of idolatry is giving something or someone other than Jesus the place of ultimate devotion in our lives. One of the main reasons we fall for this kind of idolatry is that we aren’t taught what kind of devotion Jesus demands. So often the Gospel is preached as a form of fire insurance. We are often given the idea that all we have to do to follow Jesus is pray and ask Jesus into our hearts and from that moment on He is kinda like a genie. His job is to answer our prayers and fix our problems but not make any real demands on our lives. Now granted we shouldn’t cuss in public, get involved in big sins and we probably should come to church once in a while and give some money, but that’s about it.
Is this right? Does Jesus exist to serve us or do we exist to serve Him? Is He a genie that we can command or is He the Lord that makes demands? Can we have a kinda sorta commitment to Jesus or does He demand that we be fully devoted to Him?
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:26-27 (NKJV) “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:33 (NKJV)
When you read the teachings of Jesus you see that He often uses hyperbole’s to make a dramatic point. That is what He’s doing here. He doesn’t really expect us to hate our families. This would contradict His other teachings about loving one another as He has loved us. Instead what He is doing is making an extravagant statement to get our attention about the kind of devotion we are to have for Him.
The Jews were a very family oriented people. In their minds one of the greatest things you could do was to love your family. Most religious teachers demanded a level of devotion by those who followed them but none would have dared to tell a student they should be more devoted to them than they were their families. According to Jewish Law there was only One who had the right to demand greater devotion than family. There was only One who was worthy of more devotion than family. That was God. Jesus is saying here that He deserves and demands this same level of devotion.
The idea of being more devoted to Jesus than we are to our families is probably as odd sounding in our day as it was in their day. Yet this is what Jesus expects. This is what He demands. This is the only thing He will accept. You see at the end of the verse He says we cannot be His disciple unless there are no rivals to His devotion.
As a husband and a daddy I’ve found that the greatest rival to my devotion to Jesus is my family. But I cannot let myself become more devoted to my family than I am to Jesus. I must constantly ensure that I am more devoted to Jesus than I am to anything else in this world, even my family.
I think one question that we have about this is why? Why does Jesus expect us to be more devoted to Him than we are to our families? To answer that we have to remember who Jesus is. Jesus was not just a teacher. He was not just a prophet. He was not just a miracle worker. He was/is all of that and more.
In John 12 we are reminded that Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah 6 was a vision of Jesus in all His glory. We are told in John, Colossians and Hebrews that Jesus is the one who created all things. So the great and glorious creator of all things willingly cast off His glory and came to earth as a human. He lived a perfectly sinless life. He did amazing miracles and taught in ways that astounded everyone from the great theologians to the common people. Then after about 33 years of life He was betrayed by one of His disciples and murdered on a Roman cross.
Yet the cross wasn’t a surprise. In fact the cross was the entire reason He came. We always have to remember that Jesus didn’t come just to live a perfect life, do miracles or give us great teaching. He came for the explicit purpose of being crucified for our sins. After fully taking the wrath of God in our place and fully paying the penalty for our sins, Jesus died and was laid in a tomb for three days. After three days He rose from the dead eternally victorious over sin and death. Now because of His sinless life, sacrificial death and victorious resurrection we are able to be completely forgiven for our sins and have the hope of eternal life.
I love my wife and I love my daughters. There is very little in life I’d rather do than spend time with my family. As wonderful as they are, they aren’t Jesus. They didn’t die for my sins and rise from the dead for my justification and they don’t make it possible for me to have eternal life. Jesus is worthy of our full and complete devotion to Him because of who he is and what He’s done. Nothing or no one on the earth comes close to being as worthy of our devotion as Jesus does.
At the same time let me say that as a mom or dad, husband or wife, the best thing you can do for your family is be fully devoted to Jesus. Some have a fear that being fully devoted to Jesus means that we will neglect our family. That is not remotely the case. If I am fully devoted to Jesus I will love my wife as Jesus loves the church. I will not love my wife that much if I am fully devoted to anything, even her, other than Jesus. If I am fully devoted to Jesus I will love my kids as Jesus has loved me. I will not love my kids that much if I am fully devoted to anything, even them, other than Jesus.
For further study read 1 Kings 16-22 and 1 Samuel 2-4. Who was Ahab more devoted to God or his wife? Who was Eli more devoted to God or his sons? How did this turn out for Ahab’s wife? How did things God for Eli’s sons?