Depending on your family of origin, it may be very difficult to identify with the passage that follows. Most of us come from loving and caring families with whom we are very close, and we can’t imagine life without them. On the other hand, you may have the kind of family that drives you crazy. In these cases, disliking them may not be a very far stretch at times! Of course, there are people who have no family and who would give anything for even a dysfunctional one.
The point Jesus is making here, however, isn’t really about “hating” your family. It’s about who comes first. For the most part, we would do anything for our family before anyone else. Family comes first, right? But do they come in front of Jesus? Loving your mother or father, sister or brother, and even your spouse or children more than the Lord will lead you down the wrong path. We must put the Lord above all else; everything and everyone.
Putting the Lord first is only right because only he is perfect and worthy of being our foremost priority. And putting him first actually enables us to love our earthly family even better because we can be understanding and forgive them when they fall short of perfection (as we all do).
What a costly demand, especially when we are living our daily lives with these people. Not only are we connected by blood and traditions, we may see or talk to these people every day. We may live with these people, even sleep in the same bed with these people, so it’s very easy for them to become the center of our lives. We share our fears, our hopes, and our dreams with them. They are our support and comfort.
Part of the cost of being a disciple of Jesus is saying that he is more than all of those things and believing that he provides more support, comfort, love, and closeness than the people with whom we spend most of our lives. That is what it means to “hate” your family and pick up your cross. Carrying your cross means you are making all worldly things secondary to identifying with the sacrifice of Jesus. This is so hard to do, especially with family that you love, need, and care for; but it is worth the cost to be a disciple of the One True King. The cost may appear extreme, but the payoff is eternal.
25A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, 26“If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. 27And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.”
In what ways do you put your family before God?
What does it look like to “carry your own cross”?
Praise God for giving you the relationships in your life. Ask him to give you focus and perspective to see why and how Jesus must come first. Thank him for giving you the strength to carry your cross and ask him for the courage to pick it up daily.