The Love of Family
Those who command warlike armies, and have won for themselves martial glory, whenever the time for battle has arrived, instruct the troops under their orders in what way, arraying themselves manfully against the phalanxes of the enemy, they will gain a triumphant victory. And the Savior of all, imitating the skillfulness of those here mentioned, very clearly shows unto all who would follow Him, the pathway of spiritual vigor; that advancing with unrestrainable impetuosity unto every triumph of piety, and exerting a stern and irresistible earnestness, they may win by a just decree the right of being with Him, and following Him.
This lesson then clearly teaches us, what sort of persons He would have us to be. “For whoever comes unto Me,” He says, “and does not hate his father and his mother, and his wife and his children, and his brethren, and his sisters, even his own self also, cannot be My disciple.”
But some may say, “Then, why, Lord, do You despise the laws of natural affection? Why do You command us to disregard the love that is due to fathers from their sons, to wives from their husbands, to brothers for their brothers? Shall we make those enemies who are members of the same household; and those, whom it is our duty rather to love, must we count as foes, in order that we may be with You, and be able to follow You?”
However, this is not what the Savior means. Perish this vain thought. For He who commands even those who are violent enemies to be gentle, and forgiving to all who would do them wrong. For He says, “Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you.” ((Matt. 5:44)) How could He want us to hate those who are born of the same family, and to disregard the honor due to parents, and think nothing of despising our brothers? And our own children also, and even our own self? For He, Who has pronounced condemnation even upon those who disregard the law of mutual love, could not wish His friends to cherish a savage, and so to speak, a desperate state of mind.
However, what He wants to teach us in these commands is plain to those who can understand from what is said in another place expressly upon the same subject. For “Whoever loves,” He said, “father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me.” By adding then more than Me, it is plain that He permits us to love, but not more than we do Him. For He demands for Himself our chief affection; and that very justly. For the love of God in those who are perfect in mind has something in it superior both to the honor due to parents, and to the natural affection felt for children.
We must explain, however, what the occasion was which directed our Lord’s words to this subject. The passage then read from the Gospel our Lord’s words to this subject. The passage then read from the Gospel at our last meeting described the celebration of a great supper, unto which many were invited by him who gave the feast. But they were men indifferent to it; for they “made excuse,” it says, “with one accord, and said one that he had bought a field, and must go to see it; and anther that he had bought five yoke of oxen: and a third again, that he had married a wife,” and by employing these feigned excuses, they vexed him who invited them. We are, therefore, given most clearly to understand, that when God calls us unto Him, to make us partakers of His bounty, we must disregard the lusts that are of the flesh, and minister to the flesh, and set no value whatsoever upon the things of this world, but exerting all our force must advance unto those things which will never have to be abandoned, and which fill us with all blessedness, as God bestows with plentiful hand upon us His gifts, and like one welcoming us to a costly banquet, admits us to the right of rejoicing with the rest of the saints in the hope of future blessings. For the things of earth, are but of little value and last only for a time, and belong to the flesh solely, which is the victim of corruption; but those things which are diving and spiritual constantly and without ceasing accompany those who have once been counted worthy of receiving them, and reach onwards to unending worlds. ((We are reminded here of the admonition heard at the end of the Catholic epistle in every Divine Liturgy: “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world, for the world passes away, but he who does the will of God shall endure forever.”)) What value, therefore, will men of sense set upon earthly farms, or the love of carnal pleasure, or the respect due to kinsmen in the flesh, if it be laid down that for love’s sake unto Christ, we must disregard all these things that have been named.