November 7 I Monday
“We love because He first loved us.” —1 John 4:19
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? Jesus teaches us that a disciple lives a life of love and introduces this by talking about hate. He goes, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). This sounds like a very harsh statement from Jesus. Some of us may think, “Well, He didn’t really mean that,” but, what exactly did Jesus mean?
Jesus used the word “hate” towards the seven closest relationships that we can have: our father, our mother, our spouse, our children, our brother, our sister and even our own life. Yet elsewhere in the Bible, husbands are taught to love their wives, children are to honour their parents and we are to love our neighbours as ourselves, which assumes that we love ourselves.
Why did Jesus use the word “hate” then? We find the use of “hate” in the New Testament the same way we would use it: to detest or regard with less affection. It is a Hebrew way of saying to love something less than something else. This is evident in a parallel passage in Matthew 10:37, “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.” In other words, “hate” is “to love less than Me.”
This is a problem for us: loving those closest to us less than God. If we imagine the love we have as a 100-gallon tank and a portion is given to each person we love, it is complicated to proportion our love in such a way as to love more or less than another. But love is not experienced as a quantity, it is a source from which we draw. There is a deep part of our lives that can only be met by God; a love that can only be experienced in relationship with God. Any other attempt to meet that need in other relationships, through marriage, family or friendship, will eventually lead to a disillusionment, because it will never be enough.
We will only find in a relationship with God the depth of love that He has for us, where we know in the deepest part of our beings—no matter what else is true about us—we are loved. As a disciple of Jesus, when we love Him above all else, He becomes the source from which we can properly love our parents, our spouse, our children and even ourselves.
Prayer: Dear God, thank You for Your love for me. Out of Your love for me, I can truly love my parents, my spouse, my children and even myself.