“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37–38
At first read, this appears to be a difficult teaching of our Lord. But when properly understood, it is clear that it helps us keep our relationships with God and with our family properly ordered in charity and truth. Following this command will never result in a lack of love for family; rather, it will help us to love solely with the heart of Christ.
What does this teaching of Jesus require of us? Simply put, if a family member, or anyone else, imposes expectations on us that are contrary to the will of God, then we must choose the will of God over those other expectations. To understand this more clearly, think about how one might choose to love “father or mother” or “son or daughter” more than God. Say, for example, that a child chooses to go astray in their moral or faith life, and they want their parents to support them in their sin. But the parents remain firm in their moral convictions and, out of love, offer no support for the immoral lifestyle their child has chosen. This would become especially difficult for the parents if the child becomes angry and criticizes the parents, with the claim that the parents are being judgmental and are lacking in love. What the child is actually requesting is “Mom and dad, you must love me more than God and His laws.” And if the parents do not support their child’s misguided lifestyle, the relationship may be deeply wounded. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that Jesus followed this command by saying, “and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Love always involves the Cross. At times, it is a cross of personal self-sacrifice and self-giving. And at other times, it’s a cross by which our love is misunderstood, and we are deemed as “unloving” by those we actually love the most. When parents truly love their child, they will care first and foremost for their child’s eternal salvation and moral living, and they will not choose “friendship” with their child over truth.
Of course this same truth applies to every relationship we will have and even to our “relationship” to society as a whole. More and more, there are those who demand of us all that we support them in behaviors that are objectively disordered and contrary to the will of God. We are told that if we oppose these choices that some make, then we are judgmental and hateful. But this is exactly what Jesus is speaking about. If we choose to “love” others more than God and His holy will, meaning, if our first priority is to make people “feel” supported in the immoral and confused decisions they make, then we are not actually loving them at all. At least not with the love of God. Instead, we are prioritizing their sin over the truth they so deeply need to know so as to be set free and to enter into an authentic relationship of love with the God of Truth.
Reflect, today, upon true love. Love is only true love when it is grounded and centered in God and every moral law He has set forth. Reflect upon your own relationships, especially with family and those closest to you. Do you love them with the pure love of God? Does your love remain firmly rooted in the will of God? Or do you, at times, choose to compromise the truths of faith and morality so as to appease the misguided expectations of others. Kindness, gentleness and compassion must always be present. But moral truth must also be just as present and must be the foundation of every virtue we exercise in our relationships with everyone. Do not be afraid to love others exclusively with the mind and heart of God. Doing so is the only way to have true love for everyone in your life so as to help save their souls.
Lord of All, You call all people to love You with all of their mind, heart, soul and strength. You call us all to adhere to every truth that You have spoken. Give me the courage and love I need to not only love You above all but to also love others with Your love alone. Help me to embrace Your Cross when this is difficult so that I will be a better instrument of the love You have for all. Jesus, I trust in You.