I was a new believer the first time I read Luke 14:26. It was in the King James version:

26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:26 KJV

Wow. I could not imagine hating my parents and my children, and why would God even ask that of us? It seemed pretty harsh.

And then there’s Matthew 10:37-38

He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 10:37-2-38 KJV

Does God really expect us to love Him more than we love our own children? As a young wife and mother, I loved my husband intensely and my kids? I would die for them. I could not even imagine a limit to how much I loved them, so these verses made me uncomfortable.

I hoped as I matured as a believer, I might understand these verses better, and I now do, partly because we have Bible translations in more current-day language and writing style. The King James Bible was first published in 1611, in the same style Shakespeare wrote his plays. Comparing these verses to more current and easily understood translations adds a lot of clarity.

Moreover, the Bible contains many more verses than these two that instruct us to love our parents. Start with the Ten Commandments and work your way forward. Hundreds of verses support our loving our spouses and especially our children. So God wasn’t really telling us to hate our parents or disregard our families.

The Greeks defined five kinds of love. They are Eros, Philia, Storge, Philautia, and Agape.

  • Eros is Erotic love, which is sexual passion and physical intimacy.
  • Philia is the love of friends. It is close bonds with peers and non-family members.
  • Storge is love of family, children, parents, and siblings
  • Philautia is love of self. Jesus said we should love others as ourselves, so it’s not necessarily wrong to love ourselves.
  • And there is Agape love. We have all heard this one many times. This is love undeserved, unmerited, unearned. It is unconditional. It is the love the Father has for us and is most closely associated with mercy and grace.

We think of love as an emotion. It actually is not. Feelings of warm affection may fade, ebb and flow with circumstances and time. Still, love remains when it is understood as commitment in conjunction with emotion.

If you have lived with obstinate toddlers and reticent teenagers, you might also have discovered this truth! Love is a commitment and love is a choice we make. Most of us have had our children accuse us of loving them” because we have to,” to which I have replied, “I love you because I choose to love you.”

Erotic love is certainly not rooted in emotion. It is driven by lust and self gratification. Many young people today confuse loving a friend of the same gender, Philia love, with eros, sexual desire. Sadly, our society condones and even encourages this confusion and misrepresentation of the bond of trust and mutual respect central to Philia love, friendship for friendships sake.

Storge (pronounced Stor-JAY) is the love of children and family, tender bonds of affection, and a desire to protect and cherish. This is where we get confused with these verses in Luke and Matthew. Storge is a different kind of love than the love Jesus was talking about. Jesus would not condone or command us to hate our families. Jesus was instructing the disciples not on degrees of love but on degrees of commitment.

Love is not measured in degrees of more or less. Commitment, however, is. In these challenging verses, Jesus was not talking about loving God more or less. He was talking about prioritizing our love and devotion to Him.

There are countless stories from the persecuted church around the world and throughout history when parents were forced to either denounce their faith in Christ or watch as their spouses and children were killed.

Here in the United States, we have not had to make such a drastic choice. But in more subtle ways, we have.

• If following Christ means a degree of alienation from your family, will you succumb to your family’s will, or will you stand boldly for Christ?

• If friends disapprove of your Christian lifestyle, will you choose to maintain the friendship, go along with the crowd, and keep silent about your faith? Are you willing to maintain your identity as a Christ follower and lose the friendship if that is their choice?

• If your spouse does not agree with your desire to join a church and lead a Christ-centered life, will you choose to put aside your search for spiritual truth in order to comply with your husband’s expectations?

When we choose the will and desires of others over the will and commandments of God, we create false gods in our lives, and we become not Christ followers but idolaters, giving to others the preference, deference, and devotion only God merits from us.

Choosing Christ never means that we stop loving our family and friends who do not agree or support our choices.

Note: 1 Peter 3:1 encourages us that an unbelieving spouse can be won over without a single word, but let’s keep in mind that it is the God-honoring behavior of the believing spouse that might bring about the salvation of the unbeliever.

In Luke 8:19-21 Jesus is in a household crowded with people wanting to hear his teaching or striving for a healing touch when he is told that his mother and siblings are outside and wish to see him.

19 Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.” 21 He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

Luke 8:19-21

Jesus was not lowering the value and status of his natural family. He was elevating the value and status of those who wished to follow him. He was saying that those who would follow and obey him would be family to him, no less important to him than his own natural family.

These strongly worded verses in Luke and Matthew referred to commitment, not emotion. Our spiritual commitment must be more important than any other relationship in our lives. It’s not that we must sever the bonds of family that are so important to us, but our commitment to Christ must come first.

The good news is when we make our commitment to Christ the priority in our lives, we are better parents. We learn from scripture how to raise responsible, kind, obedient children. We are better friends and better spouses as God leads us deeper into agape love, a love motivated by compassion, patience, tolerance, self-sacrifice, giving, mercy, and grace.

Loving God first and foremost, enhances the love I have to give to my family and my children. So yes, I will say I love God more because loving God more enables me to love my family better.

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