Recently, I preached a sermon from Luke 7:36-50, and in it I stated, "We must not just love Jesus - we must love Him more than anyone!" Of course this resulted in many questions, such as, "How can we do this?" "How can I love Jesus more than my daughter, my son, my spouse? And should I ?"
After reflecting on the questions, I'd like to say a little more about this.
First we must understand, the call to love Christ more is among the, so called, "hard statements" of Jesus.
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, "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. ( Luke 14:25-26 , ESV)
At first glance this does indeed sound hard. However, we should begin with asking: What is Jesus saying?
Something I have personally found helpful is to let Scripture be its own interpreter. For example, let's consider a parallel passage:
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. (Matthew 10:37, ESV)
In light of this passage, isn't it clear that the meaning of hate (Luke 14:26) is to love less?
Consider William Hendriksen's helpful comments in his commentary on Luke:
"That the word "hate" in Luke 14:26 cannot have the same meaning which we generally attach to it is clear also from the fact that Jesus tells us to love even our enemies (Matt. 5:44). Then we should certainly love and not hate members of our immediate family."
So we see that we are to love our spouse, our children, our parents, even our enemies, yet we are to love Jesus more. He is to have preeminence in our life.
Someone may ask: "But why should I love Jesus more?" Let's explore this question for a moment.
In Luke 7:41-42, Jesus gives what has been called the "parable of the two debtors." On debtor owes the creditor a debt of 500-pence, the other 50-pence. The creditor forgave them both, so Jesus asked, "Which of them will love the creditor more?" The Pharisee to whom Jesus is speaking answers, "To whom he forgave most."
The point Jesus is making is clear: Receiving extravagant ,undeserved forgiveness, for a debt one is aware they have results in more love. You see, when we are made aware of (convicted of) our great debt, (we are all sinners), and we are made to see that Jesus Christ came and bore our sin, loving us more than anyone has or ever will loves us, won't we now love Him more than anyone? Shouldn't we? While we love our spouse, we know that our spouse cannot do for us what Christ did for us. While we love our children, we know that our children cannot do for us what Christ did for us. No, we love Christ more, for only He is worthy of such pre-eminent love.
Yet someone may say, "But what if I don't love Jesus more than anyone else - what then?" The simple answer is this - you are not yet aware of your sin and your desperate need of forgiveness from God. Otherwise, you would love Him - and you would love Him more than anyone, for He has loved you more than anyone has ever loved you. Why not pray now, "Almighty God, help me to see what I have been unable to see till now. Help me to see my sin, and my need for that which Jesus Christ has done for me."