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What do you do when the Affair is with the church?

Luke 14:26

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The pictures in Susan's "picture box" range from snapshots of church functions to pictures of our children when they were tiny, but they do have one thing in common--Susan isn't in the picture. Why? She's the official family photographer.

Recently, while thumbing through the pictures, I remembered a story Pastor Dan Rhodes told me. Dan is the pastor of two rural churches in Colorado and stays busy. Like most pastors, he has plenty to do, but by being the pastor of two churches, he has twice the committee meetings, and twice the worship services. 

As Dan tells the story, his daughter's third grade teacher requested a parent teacher conference with him. His wife usually took care of those conferences, but the teacher wanted to see him, not his wife.

At her insistence, he made an appointment to drop by the school in the afternoon. "I wanted you to see this drawing your daughter made of your family." She said. 

Dan looked at the drawing and asked, "Where am I?" "That's why I called you down here today," the teacher responded, "I asked your daughter the same question and she said you're never home so she left you out of the picture."(From FreshIllustrations http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

Dan had been busy doing the Lord's work. It was noble work. Certainly we can excuse his absenteeism, can't we? After all, our text today says, Luke 14:26 KJV If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 

Does following God mean our family gets the shaft?

Bill Hybels is the Pastor of the largest church in America, Willow Creek Community Church, just outside of Chicago, Illinois. His ministry began as an outreach from another church to teenagers during the early 70's. They called the youth ministry Son City. He and his wife Lynne recount the story of their explosive church growth in their book Rediscovering church. Listen as I read an excerpt from the book, this is Lynne speaking:

"In my mind I am walking again along the quiet, tree-lined streets from the church to the tiny home where we had just begun our married life in May 1974. I am sitting at the round kitchen table with the red tablecloth. Another lonely meal. Another empty evening. An hour earlier I had begged Bill to stay home. He had looked at me in disbelief. "Kids are dying and going to hell, and you want me to stay home and hold your hand?" The words echo in my mind, and I hear them over and over in different forms: Don't bother me, Lynne. How can you demand that, Lynne? Six months into marriage, I am convinced I have made a horrible mistake. I love the man I married. I love Son City. But I hate our marriage. I hate the pain of disappointment. I hate mourning the death of so many dreams. And I hate the loneliness." (Hybels, p. 44) (From FreshIllustrations http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

Was Pastor Hybels right? What's more important, holding your wife's hand, or preaching the gospel? Is this what Jesus meant in Luke 14:26? Does our text justify neglecting one's family? 

Few people have the spiritual stature of Billy Graham. His passion for souls and work to spread the gospel endears him to Christians. His kind spirit and gentle demeanor endears him to the world. But Graham would be the first to admit that he's a sinner like the rest of us.

In his autobiography, Just As I Am, Graham doesn't hide his faults or gloss over his mistakes. For instance, there was the time Ruth, his wife, pleaded with him to cancel his speaking engagement in Mobile, Alabama and stay home with her because she was having labor pains. Graham told her she wasn't in labor and left to go to work.

That evening, their daughter "Gigi" was born. (Just As I Am, 97) (From FreshIllustrations http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

Was Billy Graham right in ignoring the pleas of his wife to be with her during the delivery of their daughter? Is this what Jesus meant in Luke 14:26? Does our text justify neglecting one's family? 

Dr. Graham calls the 1949 Los Angeles Crusade the Watershed of his ministry. It was the one that made him a household name and propelled him to the super-evangelist status. But the eight weeks of meetings took a personal toll on his family. Toward the end of the meeting, the Montgomery's, Ruth's sister and brother-in-law came up for the meeting. Billy greeted them and admired a child they were holding. "Whose baby is this?" Billy asked, only to find out it was his own daughter Anne.

(Just As I am, 156-157) (From FreshIllustrations http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

Is this what Jesus meant in Luke 14:26? Does our text justify neglecting one's family? 

Let's re-read the text in a modern translation.

Luke 14:26 NLT "If you want to be my follower you must love me more than your own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, more than your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. 

Warren Weirsbe agrees with the modern translation. He wrote, "The word hate does not suggest positive antagonism but rather "to love less."

Genesis 29:30-31 NLT So Jacob slept with Rachel, too, and he loved her more than Leah. He then stayed and worked the additional seven years. [31] But because Leah was unloved, the Lord let her have a child, while Rachel was childless. 

Malachi 1:2-3 NLT "I have loved you deeply," says the Lord. But you retort, "Really? How have you loved us?" And the Lord replies, "I showed my love for you by loving your ancestor Jacob. Yet Esau was Jacob's brother, [3] and I rejected Esau and devastated his hill country. I turned Esau's inheritance into a desert for jackals." 

Matthew 10:37 NLT If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 

Each of these scriptures show a consistent pattern, one that supports the New Living Translation's rendering of the verse. To put it another way, God wants first place in your life, but He doesn't want you to put your family in last place.
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