In the Bible Jesus says that we must love Him more than anyone else. For a long time now, about 8 years, I've been occasionally wondering if I actually love my mother more than Jesus. She died in 2003 and she was the best friend in life I ever had. I can never replace her and I miss her...
UK Apologetics Reply:
Okay, the first thing to understand here is that God is really pleased that you loved your late mother so much! God, after all, is the author of love and He planted it among human beings made in His image so that it would find a truly high expression within families and family life.
We need to consider a Scripture which has often been misunderstood. It is in Matthew 10:
34. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36. a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
37. “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." (Matthew 10:34-37, NIV).
The point which Jesus is making is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ will make you or break you depending on how you might react to it! Many within families who have come to the Lord Jesus do indeed become persecuted by family members. In such cases God is looking at whether the newly-called child of God will stand firm, or waver, or even fall back (the worst outcome). Yet God still expects such people to be decent and respectable towards other family members whenever possible. But - make no mistake - the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a rock of stumbling and a rock of offense for some (1 Peter 2:8). If one is clearly not being called at the present time, the best reaction to the challenge of Jesus Christ and His Gospel is to be respectful towards Jesus and the Gospel and respectful towards Christians. The very worst, and most despicable, reaction is to declare war on God and on Christians and Christianity, as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have done; having listened to both men speak and having read the written words of Dawkins it is clear to me that these men do not even understand the Gospel, yet, unquestionably, both men have sought to build a fame for themselves on their unwarranted opposition to it. I say now that without repentance they will be brought into a stern judgment for the inflammatory position which they have adopted. One might hope that they will yet repent.
To get back to Matthew 10, what Jesus meant in that chapter is that the Gospel may well bring a sword into families (where there is persecution). At such a time, God expects the new convert to show loyalty to Christ and, in this sense, demonstrate that he or she does not love a father, mother or brother more than Him. The tone and context is set earlier in the chapter:
16. "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16).
Jesus also states,
21. "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.
22. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved."
So the whole context in this part of Matthew 10 refers to when the message of the Gospel causes division; in that scenario, God expects His people to be true and faithful to Him. Without question, God certainly expects Christians to love Him more than their family relatives but this is the bigger, broader, philosophical view of love in all of its ramifications which is being referred to, and which is required. This should not be confused with normal family love. We all have a solid love for our spouses, parents, sisters and brothers, but that is a more immediate-type physical love of family closeness and connectedness, yet it has limitations. Would many of us willingly die for a physical brother if he were plainly a rogue and a scoundrel? I don't think so, we would say that he had brought ruin on himself because of his own behaviour and he should bear his own burden. Yet many of us would indeed die for a fellow true believer, or for our Lord Jesus Himself. So God becomes the true and ultimate life focus and life direction of the true believer, we place all our trust and faith in our elder brother, Jesus Christ. In this way, we demonstrate and ultimately prove our love for God. In that manner, we are prepared to give up everything for Him - we don't have the slightest doubt that Christ is the only Saviour of the world and we are prepared to follow Him everywhere - now, that is real love indeed!
So we should not confuse family love (which is a good and fine thing and which is itself ordained by God), with the greater and all-encompassing love which we have for our Lord Jesus, but we must ensure that God remains our central life purpose and direction and that we don't get sidetracked. For sure, a newly married couple will be quite besotted with each other, but, as they mature and perhaps as children come along, they usually get a better focus of love. If we are honest, a young man's love for his new wife is strongly based on the marital bed, it is really quite a restricted 'love,' strongly based, as it is, on the passion, excitement and aspirations of youth. As one gets older I think the tendency is to understand love much better. Actually, the more we love other people, the more we learn that love is a spiritual quality which goes beyond this world, having its true and ultimate foundation in the things of God. Indeed, God Himself IS love (1 John 4:8).
But how can we even begin to understand the sheer magnitude of God's love for us? It is demonstrated by His eternal desire for us to share Eternity with Him! That - and nothing less - is what He has called us to! There are many passages in the Bible which give us God's definition of His ultimate spiritual love. The most well known verse is John 3:16,
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes on him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16).
Another Scripture which expresses God's magnitude of love for the believer and His determination to never give up on us is the whole of Romans 8 - why not read right through that chapter within the next day or two?
So God's love and commitment to His people stretches from Eternity to Eternity and He wants us - right now, as much as we are able - to learn this divine perspective of love. For sure, in a time of persecution he expects us to stand right by our Lord Jesus and not to waver, even if our major opposition might come from family members, yet God Himself is the true author of family love and He delights to see it.
Robin A. Brace. January, 25th, 2011.