Whom Do You Follow?

Thought of the day:

Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27)

How do I follow Jesus in this way while loving and serving my family?

Thesis statement: There is a distinction between following and serving.

Jesus’ thrust is clear from the preceding context and from the rest of Scripture. Jesus is talking about priorities, not about making yourself an enemy of your family just because. He just finished the parable of the great feast, where the invited guests didn’t come to the feast because they were too wrapped up with their animals or spouse or possessions. So they did not receive the feast, though it was freely offered. (See also the sense of the word “hate” used in Romans 9:6-16.)

Jesus’ thrust might also be summarized by, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

I am a Christian. I already serve God. I read His Word every day. I come to church and I give to and serve the church. I give to the poor. I serve my family and my neighbors whom God puts near me, as best as I am able. If required I will lay down my life rather than deny my Lord and God when push came to shove. So I’m good right? This passage is just for the people who basically aren’t Christians, right?

Well, Jesus is talking to the church of His day. So we can’t say that Jesus is talking to the outsiders. Rather, just a little earlier in Luke 12 Jesus says, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” And then Jesus goes on to respond to a man who was obsessed with getting a bigger inheritance of earthly possessions by telling the parable of the rich fool: a man who laid up possessions for himself but was not rich toward God. The man was not able to take any of it with him when he died. (See also the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 where God’s Word is choked out of some hearts by the thorny cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches.)

So Jesus is talking about hypocrisy in the church, where the members look pious (like the Pharisees) but in their hearts they prioritize other things like money or animals or their family more than they devote themselves to their Creator, by whose name they are called.

And I find that these are words that I need to keep remembering and applying for myself in my own daily life. Because one of my biggest temptations is to get so caught up in living with and serving my wife and family that those relationships become my primary identity. I am supposed to serve them and love them, but they cannot be my primary identity. My primary identiy is to follow God, not them.

Now that I have been married a couple years, I have to remember my own saying that I told and taught my wife back when we were dating, “I love God more than I love you.” If I stop loving God more than I love my wife, then my identity is no longer firstly defined by the infinite Creator but by my wife. (Which does her no service, as she relies on me to be her anchor and head.)

The same thing goes for working my dayjob to pay the bills for my family. I do it out of love, but if I let it define my identity then I am no longer thinking of my identiy firstly as that of following God. God does not call me to firstly be a money-earner. God calls me to be the head of my family, and that means showing them Christ in my actions and words. That involves working a dayjob, but it means being much more involved than that too. Above all, it means serving Christ as the first object of my attention, and serving my family through that lens. They will see and Lord-willing follow in like manner.

Jesus says later in Luke 12, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.” (Luke 12:35-37)