This Week’s Sermon…
My mother had power in my life. I am sure that your mother had power in your life. That power came in many ways, in many forms, with many patterns, strategies and results. Nonetheless, a case could be made for everyone in this room that your mother was and is the most powerful person in your life. You might be here this morning simply because your mother wanted you to be here – no one else could get you here, not even God himself, but your mother did.
The title of our family series which will take us through Father’s Day is: “I love God more than my wife.
When I first shared this with staff, and others, they looked at me sideways.
- “How will that make Kelly feel?”
- “You’re joking!”
- “You’re not going to put that on a sign in Nuevo are you?”
The title of this morning’s message is: “I love God more than my mother!” My sister laughed heartily at the title commenting, “That will be a harder sell for people.” The key is this: I am not joking. Another key is this: Both of those women are fulfilled in those statements. They are thrilled emotionally that I love God more than them. They understand the primal importance of this reality. Most people do not, or simply pay this idea lip-service. This is the underlying and foundational principle to not only family but life. It brings health, insight, wisdom, security, discernment, strength, an overall stability that most of us are looking for in life and in relationships.
The text for us this morning is Luke 14:25-35, especially verse 26. Many will find this an odd choice of texts for Mother’s Day and a Family Series. When Jesus gathers his disciples around him here as he nears the end of his life, he calls them to a radical discipleship. In the very near future these men and women would be challenged to their very core in life as they paid the price for following Jesus. Their families would be challenging their commitment. Their husbands and wives and children would turn against them as they dedicated their life to the gospel and the Great Commission. So Jesus gives them this hard verse: 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.
Now a few weeks back I told you that in order to understand the Bible you needed to start with this principle: The Bible was not written to you, although it was written for you. So let’s put this principle to work for this very difficult passage. First, notice who Jesus is talking to: the large crowds of people who were “going along with Him.” Jesus’ popularity was growing. He stood up to the Pharisees. Jesus knows what lies ahead for his followers, very hard days. Days of persecution, division and challenges to the national identity and loyalty of the disciples. So he warns them. Don’t get too excited about following me. The cross is right around the corner. I didn’t come to bring peace but a sword, to set father against son and mother against daughter. Count the cost to follow me. Very soon the disciples of Jesus would be challenged for believing in Jesus. Many would lose their lives, not at the hands of Romans, but at the hands of their fellow countrymen. Possibly even family members. When Paul collected the cloaks of those stoning Stephen, who is to say that the people being stoned were once of the same synagogue. Friends, acquaintances of those who stoned and those who condoned the stoning. It is this radical discipleship that Jesus calls his followers to count the cost regarding. He uses hyperbole to make the point of the radical nature and extent of the call.
This situation is not duplicated for us in identical manner. Some of us are experiencing a level of discord in our families as a result of our relationship with Christ, but it isn’t costing us our life! There have been some eras in history and there are some parts of the world where this is a reality today, but not in Nuevo, SoCal, not for the majority of us. In fact, for many of us it is exactly the opposite. The kingdom of God is now stable enough for the blessing part of the Scripture to dominate our experience. Take my life for example. My parents, mother and father love God more than they love me. They are dedicated to Christ to the extent that they put Him first in their lives. All 3 of my brothers and all 4 of my sisters love Christ. All four of my children are moving along in their knowledge of Christ and commitment to Him. My following of Jesus has been the exact opposite of this verse. My counting the cost was in terms of reward and not suffering. But there is a principal in this passage that relates to both contexts. That principle is that if you are going to be a disciple of Christ you must love Christ more than father and mother and brother and sister.
Here is the beauty of the principle.
All relationships in life are about power. When I was a baby I soon, very early on, began to battle with my mother. I was tired, hungry, wet, uncomfortable – so I cried out. I called for a remedy. I had no patience about it, I cared not if she was sleeping, eating, relaxing, working, bathing, or anything else. I didn’t wait for her to finish her conversations. I concerned myself with nothing other than my own needs and desires and demanded that they be met. This process did not end at 5, 8, 12, 16, 18 or even 21. It just grew in sophistication. I got better at getting my needs met, mostly in well-mannered ways.
When I met Kelly, and when we married – I struggled (as every one of us did and do) to concern myself with her needs over my own. I had needs and desires, and by the way, that is why I got married in the first place: to get those needs met.
Every relationship has to do with power. Getting what we want, when we want it is a constant battle for everyone. Exercising power is not necessarily wrong for believers, in fact the exercise of power is essential, especially for mothers and fathers. There is healthy power and unhealthy power
Example of healthy power: Good leaders, politicians, fathers, mothers. When I mention the name Ronald Reagan, most of you in this audience respond positively because you believe he handled power well. When a judge rightly condemns a guilty murderer, all righteous people rejoice. When fathers and mothers are strong, kind, spiritual, genuine and exercise and practice godliness and discipline their children well – it is a beautiful thing
Example of unhealthy power: Abusive situations, dictators, wicked judges. On the other hand mention the name Stalin and you get the exact opposite feeling. A dictator and murderer, responsible for at least 50 million deaths. When you think of silly, ridiculous and immoral decisions from judges, when murderers go free – we cringe at his unwillingness to use his power. When parents are abusive, mean, belittling, our response is disgust.
And the key to exercising power well is to love Christ more than anyone or anything else. I love God more than my mother.
Now mom, don’t take this personally. In fact, if this burdens you. If this statement hurts your feelings, you have some spiritual work to do. This is part of your goal as a mom – to teach your children how to love God more than anything else, and in order to do that you must love God more than anything else.
Today for mothers though the really difficult phrase is: I love God more than my kids!
Here are your challenges as a mother.
You love your children in a way you cannot fully describe or define. They lived inside your womb and the bond that you have with them is deeper than any you have ever experienced in your life to your husband’s chagrin. Yet from the moment they emerge from the womb they begin to separate themselves from you. It is like watching your hand float away from you, and you panic at its leaving. You are tempted and often give in to the temptation to shove them close to you, to hold them close again – for your benefit. You mistakenly have called that love. The closeness of the baby on your breast restored the connection, and you were complete again. The subsequent separations were devastating to you. As much as you cognitively understood their need to grow, to go to kindergarten, to spend the night at a friend’s house for the first time, to go to Jr. then Sr. High School, to drive, to have a special relationship to leave for college, to leave the house, to get married. All those separations were tortuous for you.
How did you handle them? Because you love your kids you don’t want them to leave you because it leaves a gap in you. If you don’t overcome this it will cause you to exercise power in their lives in an inappropriate way. You will hold on to them, sometimes smother them with control in attempting to keep your kids close by. You will make rules, presumably for their “safety” which are really determined by your comfort level. You will ignore their needs for freedom, self-determination because it causes you a level of discomfort as to their success. Do you find yourself helping them too much with their schoolwork under the guise of ensuring their success? I know you do.
How do you know what to do, when to do it? I think there are self-extracting principles: Principles that sort themselves out when you apply the basics. This one has to do with power. In order to allow your children the room they need to grow and separate, you must release power in their lives. You must learn how to influence without controlling and without being in control.
So how does this work?
Some talk of the distinction between horizontal and vertical here, but I want to add some layers to this picture so we will use different terminology.
- A fundamental relationship is the most important relationship that you have.
- Primary relationships are the first tier of relationship in your life
- Secondary relationships are the rest (and you can prioritize these on your own)
Everybody has a fundamental relationship. When we are born, that relationship is ourself. We are the most important relationship that we have. It is the proverbial “me, myself, and I.” Freud’s Ego, Superego an Id. Conversion, being born again is having a change in our fundamental relationship. Our most important relationship is not with ME, it is with God through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.
Primary relationships are those that are first. When we were children, those relationships were with Mom, Dad, brothers and sisters. Quality of life is most influenced by the quality of these relationships. When they are out of whack, everything is out of whack. They cannot be ignored, brushed aside or considered inconsequential. When your primary relationships are damaged, you are damaged. There is no avoiding this. At a real base level, these relationships need health and closure. You cannot simply walk away from primary relationships. You can try, you may be trying, but you will not succeed. As you grow up, other relationships progress from secondary to primary. Essentially one secondary grows into a primary, that is the relationship of marriage. That process is unique and has a unique quality to it. Some relationships approach this transition but they never reach the same intensity or importance.
What is especially hard for mothers is that with our children, this primary relationship moves in another direction. When your children get married, the primacy of the relationship shifts to a secondary relationship.If it doesn’t, you are in trouble. A man must leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife. You must grant this.
That is why there is so much tension around weddings and marriage. This movement is monumental, and daunting.
Secondary relationships are the rest. Now obviously, some of these relationships are more important than others. But we don’t have time to delineate all the intricacies of these relationships. What is important is to talk about the challenge that many have in making secondary relationships of primary importance.
Loving God more than my life, and more than all the different components of my life is primary.
Loving God is more than feeling good about God. It is about submitting to Him, serving Him and obeying Him. Learning this, and explaining this will consume our series on the family. We will examine how loving God will enable us to fulfill our family duties with success and humility. We are constantly battling this in our relationships: Doing what is required of the relationship or doing what makes me feel good. We often make the mistake of saying love = feeling good. Feeling good is one of the many results of being in love, but so is crying and agonizing. Biblical love, demonstrated by Christ is a love that puts others in front of itself. Often that doesn’t feel good.
Submission is not doing what other people want, it is ultimately doing what God wants. When Christians submit to one another, they are to see that as mutual submission to God. When a wife submits to her husband, she doesn’t do what he wants, she still does what God wants, for her and for him. My job in submitting to Kelly is to love God more than her, so that my behavior toward her is determined by my desire to please God – not me or her. Mom, to submit to your kids you must love God more than yourself and them, so that you can function as God’s representative toward them. You love them by directing them into a submissive love relationship with God. That is where your power is directed.
The greatest gift you can give to your children is to submit to them.
Power exerted for personal advancement is ugly. Power exerted for the sake of the person who is on the other end of the action is beauty.
The difference between fundamental, primary and secondary relationships
Mom’s, today your challenge is to: Love God more than your kids