“He who loves 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. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:37-39).
With the recent release of the first two books in my new Extreme Devotion fiction series, plus working on three other novels with similar themes, I can’t help but be focused on the message of losing one’s life for Christ’s sake. In addition to the four-book series based on true-life accounts of modern-day martyrs of the faith, I have written a stand-alone third-century historical novel with Susan Wales, based on true events and titled Valeria’s Cross. However, the original title was First Allegiance, which so aptly summarizes the heart of all these books. It should also summarize the heart of all believers. But does it?
The above passage of scripture from Matthew has always been a hard one for me, particularly the part that has to do with family. The concept of laying down my own life for the sake of the gospel isn’t all that difficult to grasp; it goes with giving my life to Christ. Because I know that I no longer live once I’m His, but rather He lives in me, makes the commitment to self-sacrifice a given. But my family? A bit tougher, don’t you think?
Yet Christians around the world face not only personal persecution but persecution of loved ones as well. Can you imagine being a parent faced with the choice of denying Christ or condemning your child to prison or torture—or even death? Admittedly that’s far beyond our personal ability to comprehend, let alone yield to in our own strength. But the Scriptures promise that through Christ we can do all things—even the unthinkable.
I pray we are never faced with such a choice, but I also pray that today, right now, in whatever situation or circumstance we find ourselves, we will make a commitment to hold fast to our “first allegiance,” regardless of the price to do so—and to trust God for the strength to do it. “Well done, good and faithful servant” will surely be our reward.