While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
- Matthew 9:10-13
“God didn’t look at our frazzled lives and say, ‘I’ll die for you when you deserve it.’ No, despite our sin, in the face of our rebellion, he chose to adopt us. And for God, there’s no going back. His grace is a come-as-you-are promise from a one-of-a-kind King. You’ve been found, called, and adopted; so trust your Father and claim this verse as your own: ‘But God shows his great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners’ (Romans 5:8). And you never again have to wonder who your father is – you’ve been adopted by God and are therefore an heir of God through Christ (Galatians 4:7).”
- Max Lucado, Traveling Light
We quote Romans 5:8 from a concept that it merely applies to God’s love for us, but let’s go a different, difficult direction.
Let’s suppose that you are a Christian parent, and your daughter rebels, rejecting God. Do you still love her?
When she sees that you still love her, she starts getting bold in her rebellion – attracting attention, especially yours, doing things of which you disapprove. Do you still love her?
When she starts to do things that there is no turning back from, things that will leave her scarred for life. Do you still love her?
At what point in her hell-bent rebellion do you stop loving her?
Oh? You don’t? Not ever? Luke 14:26 says that to follow Christ, we must ‘hate’ our mother, father, sister, brother, wife and children. How does that fit into this scenario?
It is simple to state, hard to carry out, and very, very painful. To follow Jesus, we sometimes must let go. I have said it before that I love my family, but when the gates of Heaven are open and Jesus beckons me to come to Him, I will run faster than humanly possible – right now, running is nearly impossible. You never know when the gates might close, and loving Jesus is that important. That’s what Jesus is talking about when He says ‘hate’. For if you maintained an attached love for others who are not destined for Heaven, you would hesitate when the gates are opened. You will have something on earth too important – possibly more important than Jesus, for you did not place Jesus first.
This sounds harsh, but remember that we do not know who will repent, turn from their rebellion, and believe and trust in Jesus, or when they will do so. We must love everyone, for they may end up our next-door neighbor for an eternity. But there is a limit to our human love for one another. For the Christian, we have an endless supply of love from an infinite source, God. But when the time comes, we may have to choose to love from a distance.
As I said, it becomes excruciatingly painful. When you read Bible verses about choosing God or choosing the ‘things’ of this world, we think of things. You know, your smart TV, your cellphone, your house, your garden. But what if God says to choose between your mother and God? What if God asks you to choose between your children and God? You say, “He would never!” But what is Luke 14:26 saying then? We are wholly accountable to God for us, each of us individually. We cannot get to Heaven on our brother’s purse strings, and we cannot grab our niece, rebellious as she is, and drag her to Heaven against her will, even though it would be for her best interest.
Absorb the pain of walking alone. For we are never really alone with God in our heart.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.