I remember a simple little game I used play with my parents when I was a child. At bedtime I would tell my mom or dad, whoever was tucking me in that night, that I loved them. The response was always, “I love you too,” in which I would reply, “I love you MORE!” That would begin banter ‘ad nauseam’ of “No you don’t, I love YOU more!!!” This would finally end with Mom or Dad saying, “Jimmy, you’ve got school early in the morning, GET TO SLEEP!!!” I would go to sleep with a little smile on my face knowing that I had won the battle of wills. But winning the battle didn’t exactly mean that the sentiment was true. While I did love my parents, I know now as an adult that the love of a mother and father for their child is a love beyond limits or conditions. As I grow older and am starting to see my parents entering the autumn and winter of their lives, roles are switching to the extent they can, and I am concerned with their health and well being. My love grows more and more with the intensity of a parent who is watching their college aged child from afar, hoping that they’re okay and have everything they need.
I was with my Mom and Aunt Mary as they cared for my grandmother in hospice during the final days of her life. The intensity of love and care they had for her as they all made their peace while she was still conscious and the teeming strength they had in holding each other up as they kept vigil after she had slipped into a coma was one of the most beautiful displays of love I have witnessed in my life. They held her hand and whispered in her ear, “We love you. You can let go now, we’re going to be okay.” Many of you may know about this love of which I speak. It’s a love that trumps everything trivial in this life.
So it quite jarring to hear Jesus speak the way he does in Luke’s telling of the gospel. He says, “Whoever comes to me and does not HATE father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” I admit I find Matthew’s telling of this story a bit easier to digest: “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 the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”[i] I think the gospel writers of Luke and Matthew are saying the same thing. God is calling us into a relationship of love that is beyond warm sentimentality. This love is a self sacrificing love, a tough love that spares no cost as Jesus eventually demonstrated through His passion and death and leading and which led to His resurrection. This love is not cheap and Jesus tells us we must consider that cost: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?” “Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand?”
How is Jesus calling you to this extravagant love in your own life? If you’re like me it’s most likely through something broken, something in need of God’s life, light, love and provision. Certainly it is more than you can handle on your own. Jesus’ good news is that you don’t have to. God the father’s love is always more and it will see us through to healing if we will just say yes to Jesus’ invitation to love and more importantly to be loved.
[i] Matthew 10:37-39
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