As I reflect upon Sunday’s Gospel from the Revised Common Lectionary, I think that Televangelists with great hair are a better testimony to the majestic power of God,
And even the hairs of your head are all counted,
<<<<< than am I. Oh well. Just a musing, not my main point.
Back to Sunday’s Good News,
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.
It is a troubling passage. After all, the Lord also says that our love of others is part and parcel of the Great Commandment, as necessary as loving God if we are to please God. Sure, he calls love of neighbor the “second” but it is “like the first.”
We can wax glib (which really means we’re on the wane, IMO) and say, God first, family second, work third. But such slogans run the risk of Christ’s rebuke, Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
The Father’s will is revealed in the Greek word for love that Christ speaks here. It is philon, the word for affection between equals, as between siblings or friends. It’s not about passionate feeling or over-the-top sacrifice or miracles, but about the work-a-day bonds of life that manifest our priorities.
This is continued in the Apostolic teaching of James 4:4,
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship (philia) with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend (philos) of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Leading “normal” life attentive only to the people and stuff we enjoy, without attentiveness to Christ as a friend alongside us, is the adulterous friendship with the world against which James is warning.
So our ueber-friendship with God is not to plunge into religious zealotry, manifested in public displays of piety or “spirituality.” Rather, it is to take up the cross (daily, as Luke reveals), walking in sometimes uncomfortable friendship with Jesus with the same attention to efforts, empathy and reactivity that we invest in family relationships and friendship bonds. It is to treat our friendship with Jesus with at least the same intensity that we have for those we enjoy most in this world.
It is to be “on” all the time, not in some “religious” venue apart from the rest of our daily lives. This friendship with Jesus is loaded with honor, support and practical direction supplied by the Word of God,
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends (philouos), for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
I bolded that last love because in this verse Jesus uses the term agapate, escalating from simple friendship to affection that manifests as self-sacrifice. As Sunday’s Gospel puts it, Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
The Good News is that if we walk as friends with Jesus, his power, not our anxious, straining will and effort, can take our love for other people to a supernatural level.