Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:37-39)
Jesus demands our first love and allegiance. He has not come to be one among many loves, but first over all loves. Even our familial ties—the closest of our relationships—must fall lower in priority than Jesus, who is Lord. It is not that Jesus wants to decrease our other loves, but that He wants them to find their right place in relation to the primacy of our love for Him. It is only in light of Jesus and our love for Him that all other people and things find their right place and our love for them is set in order.
Who or what do we love most in our lives? If the decision was before us and we had to choose between that person or thing and Jesus, which would we really choose? We may readily say it would be our Savior, but does our daily life, use of time and money, and all other pursuits show that to be true? Do the inner dialogues of our life reveal something to us about our love?
Jesus calls us to a sacrificial life in pursuit of Him. While this may sound counter-intuitive to the good life, sacrifice is essential to what is good. We all know this from our various life experiences. We know that pursuing a goal requires sacrifice. We know that loving another person requires sacrifice. Why would this be different in spiritual matters? The good life spiritually is one that is marked by Jesus’ Cross. It calls for sacrifice at the center of our being, a sort of death to self, which serves as a gate into the real, abundant life with God. As Jesus said, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). What we often call “life” is not truly life. It will not bring what we hope it will or, at times, what it promises to bring to us. And so, Jesus must be the touchstone of all existence for us, which requires first a dying to self and then a living in Him. When Jesus is that touchstone, we will begin to see what true life and love is all about.
Are we willing to “die” as we turn toward Jesus? What do we still grasp for desperately that we need to release so we can live in Him?