Is Choosing Christ Betraying My Family?

One of the reasons I find it difficult to share my beliefs with my family is because I have close relatives who I love very much who have served in the military. I say served because I know that service was in their hearts. I don’t ever want to leave the impression that I stand over people who have risked life and limb in judgment or condemnation. That is not what’s in my heart. I know that my loved ones who have endured the horrors of war have made sacrifices I can’t even begin to imagine and they did so with love in their hearts for God and for their country. I’m in awe of their strength. This is why it’s so challenging for me when Jesus says:

“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

I love my family and I always will no matter what. But I cannot love them more than I love Jesus who knew that his teachings were so difficult that he was bringing division. Enemy-love isn’t an easier sell today than it was then. Especially when you’re talking to someone who has invested so much blood, sweat, and tears into a different way — a way that feels right and that seems logically right and that that seems just. But feeling right, seeming logically right, and seeming just are not reliable indicators of my alignment with the will of God. This is why Jesus is my plumb line. I can’t trust my feelings.

There’s a lot about following Jesus that doesn’t feel right at all. Not resisting an evil person doesn’t feel right.

There’s a lot about following Jesus that doesn’t seem logically right. If the church is to grow, it doesn’t seem logically right that Christians shouldn’t defend ourselves if people are killing us.

There’s a lot about following Jesus that doesn’t seem just. If someone strikes me on the cheek, turning the other one to him instead of hitting back doesn’t seem just.

One of the reasons people were always so amazed when Jesus spoke was that he was saying things that sounded crazy! They still sound crazy, but we’re not amazed any more because over the centuries we’ve watered them down, narrowed their scope and rationalized ignoring them. But the church grew more explosively in the centuries when disciples fully obeyed those crazy-sounding teachings than it has at any other time. Still, I understand how someone who has made tremendous sacrifices by serving in the military would not want to hear from someone like me that Christ calls us to non-violence. And I can only pray that they understand that I don’t judge or condemn, I only invite them to consider whether they have been caught up in and used by the systems of Empire. I hope that they understand that I’m compelled to act in ways that I believe God wants me to act, even if people I love don’t agree with me.

I pray that there will be no division among us. I will love them either way.

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