Jesus’ words are difficult to hear today. He tells us that anyone who loves their mother, father, or child more than Him and that anyone who does not take up their cross is not worthy of Him. What exactly does He mean when He says these words?
I think Jesus is pointing to a few basic truths of discipleship: 1) We can’t be attached to anyone we love more than Him - especially our families. 2) We can’t be true disciples without embracing the cross we are given. 3) We must live like He did - detached, free, and walking the way of the cross.
We often want to sidestep these commands along the Christian path. I want to be attached to my loved ones and the things I love in this world. I don’t want to embrace my cross. Instead I want to find a way around it, especially the ones that are very painful. I don’t want to live like Jesus did - it's too hard and too much sacrifice - I can still get to heaven without doing those things because God loves me.
Right? Actually, wrong. The Gospels paint a much different picture of the life God wants us to live and it's in direct contradiction to all the ways our society thinks we should live.
We live in a world where people will go to any cost to have a child of their own these days - even unethical means - because we put the child on a pedestal instead of God. Too often I hear of having children “as a goal to be reached” for the parent’s fulfillment, rather than a gift to be given from above for a special purpose. I'm disturbed by this pattern of thinking. This is a human being created for a God-given purpose, not a “family goal.” But when we think this way, we put the child first above God, just as Jesus alludes to today.
Then when we finally have the perfect family of 2 children that our society typically has, we put them on a pedestal to be who we want them to be. Some parents make their whole world their children and their activities, and forget all the other parts of their life and the Lord in the process. It's easy to do. Our family becomes our world. We have our dream, and that's all we need. Let's forget about God now because He gave us everything we wanted.
As for our parents, how easy it is to put them first too! What they desire of us, their thoughts and opinions about our lives, and their own interests may take precedence in our lives because we want to make our parents happy and pleased with us. We have an attachment to their validation and approval of us. If it’s not your parents, perhaps it’s someone else, like a spouse or significant other, who you have that attachment to. Have you listened to and loved these more than you’ve listened to and loved God? Who are you talking to more than Jesus? Therein lies your answer.
And lastly, sometimes we’ll go to any cost to get rid of our cross instead of accepting it. How often do we turn to anger, addictions, selfishness, other sins, and unhealthy ways of coping because we don’t want to accept the cross God gave us and are suffering inside? We avoid our cross in many ways. We choose easier and more comfortable paths than the ones God calls us to just to sidestep crosses. Why make life more difficult? It's just too hard to walk the way of the cross and the narrow path that God desires. Why bother?
Yet Jesus shows us the way today. Loving God above all others close to us, loving the cross just the same, and being willing to live like He did.
Hard? Yes indeed. But those who do these things are in fact worthy of Him.