Weekly Devotional

September 10, 2019

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

– Luke 14:26 –

We’ve all wondered about this verse. How can the God who gave us all of these blessings, these wonderful people and our life itself call us to hate them? Doesn’t the Fourth Commandment call us to honor our fathers and mothers? Is Jesus contradicting himself as the Word of God?

The quick explanation is that these people can be idols. We can make them more important in our lives than God. We can allow them to sway us from living the way the Holy Spirit calls us to. We might even be tempted to forsake worship or study or other aspects of our lives in Christ in order to keep the peace at home or demonstrate love for these people.

Many Christians would be equally quick to say they would never let this happen. They would never let someone else come between themselves and God and become idols. All well and good and true, I think. Except I’m not sure we really think about how these people could become idols. We aren’t going to make gold or silver statues of them. We aren’t going to worship them. When we make them tea for breakfast or dinner at night, this is not the same as offering food to an idol or a false god. This is how we think idols look and act in themselves and in our lives.

I suspect differently.

Elie Wiesel in his haunting book Night describes in multiple places how his experience living through the Jewish Holocaust at the hands of the Nazis destroyed his faith and trust in God. Seeing the worst mankind could do to one another, and not seeing God step in to stop, to rescue, to save (at least not in the way Wiesel thought He should) meant for Wiesel that God could not exist. Not a good, loving, trustworthy God. Faced with the blackest sinfulness in mankind, Wiesel could no longer hold on to his faith in the God of the Bible. For Wiesel, apparently, the people around him and his own life were an idol he could not let go of in order to cling to God.

We do not have to be the victims of mass genocide to sympathize with him. How many of us have watched a loved one die, sometimes in great pain, and wondered where God is in that moment? A fleeting wondering. How many of us have wondered at one point or another why God continues to sustain our life when we are more than ready to leave, to be with our departed loved ones again, to finally have peace in eternal glory? Is that idle desire idolatrous?

It could be, if we allow it to grow. If we indulge it rather than returning to the Word of God in our lives and experiences, the Word that does not promise us an easy life or a painless life, but promises the eternal presence of God in and through these things. If we are unable to maintain the clear perception that the existence of sin and the sickness and death that spring from it are part of creation for now, the reason the Son of God came into creation in the first place, to rescue us and save us. If we reject the comforting words of God in favor of our pain and bitterness and indignation. Then these loved ones can become the idols that separate us from God.

Keep the gifts of God as that – gifts, not idols. And trust above all in the love of God through Jesus the Christ in those moments of suffering and loss, the assurance these pains are transitory. Dawn is coming.

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