Wednesday, July 12, 2006

# 156: Primary Objective

There are several verses in the New Testament which require some down-to-earth explaining. I believe these verses are attempting to display the seriousness of the Christian life. Taking Christianity seriously (living as the New Testament commands) is where many modern Christians may be delinquent. Of all the demands Scripture places on anyone who desires to follow Jesus (His disciples), these verses are the most challenging.

These verses dispel any notions some may have that living the Christian life is a cakewalk. Luke 14:26. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.” Before I go any further, let me bring up another verse that will shed light on this seemingly impossible request. Matthew 10:37. “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;” This verse explains a bit more what Jesus was saying by using the word “hate.” On that note, let me excavate just a little more.

Jesus does not desire anyone to literally hate their loved ones or love them any less. But, that great love most have for their immediate family is considered as a form of hate. WOW! Let the light of the truth shine. To put it another way, the love Christ’s followers must have for Him and His cause will be ever greater than any love they have ever experienced before. The love Jesus is referring to is a novel, literally unheard-of type of love; that powerful God-type love was not only unheard of then; it, most likely, is still looked on as a pie-in-the-sky impossibility. For humans to display that agape (God-type) love, they must be firmly connected with the source of that superhuman love: Jesus Christ.

The above verses coincide with more powerful and descriptive verses that are mentioned in the three synoptic gospels: Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27. “He answered, ‘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 ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” “‘You have answered correctly,’”Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’” The organized church, in order to downplay such a harsh prerequisite to Salvation, has made this verse and others for effect into a hyperbole (not to be taken literally).

The question comes up: How will one’s family respond to being second as to importance, especially if some family members are not genuine, dedicated Christians? Again, I will let Scripture give that answer. Matthew 10:34-36. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 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–a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”

To put it in the vernacular: The sparks will fly. It is easy for me to put that principle on paper, but to actually experience discord in the family is the pits. But it may happen. One’s love for God and Christ will be tested. Nowhere in Scripture does it say, not one verse, that it will be easy to live as the New Testament teaches. It may, at times, be heart- breaking.

Another question now: How and when does one display that whole- hearted love for God and Christ, a love that is greater than all other loves, even love for family or self? Let me give a sort of hypothetical example: A devout Christian family, after paying all the bills for the month, has just enough money left over to buy a turkey and all the dressings for a Thanksgiving dinner. As the mother was about to buy everything needed for the dinner, they just got the news that a family with several children—that they didn’t even know—was in desperate need. They had absolutely nothing to eat in their home except oatmeal, and Thanksgiving was the next day.

They have two choices: They can say, “They will get over it; they won’t die. Life is cruel sometimes.” Or, “Jesus is in control of this situation.” Or they can send them the money they have saved for their special dinner so that the other poor family can have a nice holiday meal; and they can eat oatmeal for Thanksgiving. No doubt, the caring family will eventually get over the memory of the destitute Thanksgiving they experienced, but their joyful gift will never, never be forgotten by God. That is a perfect example of loving Christ more than self and one’s family. I could give another dozen examples of various situations of Christian love, but I am sure that everyone who desires to love Christ and His cause with all one’s heart, soul, mind and strength (loving Christ more than family) gets the message.

The main principle Jesus is putting forth by these verses is that the Christian life is not a piece of cake. It won’t be a lifelong party. It is serious business that may bring pain and sorrow. I am sure some might be thinking: “Can’t I be a good Christian and avoid those types of situations?” If one’s primary objective in their Christian life is to be obedient to all that Christ commands without a bunch of supercilious excuses, that type of life will follow, no matter what one does or where one goes, because Jesus Christ will always be in their midst.

What is your primary objective in life? If you answer that question honestly, you will know exactly where you stand with Christ.

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