My mom, Janet Calderazzo, passed away two weeks ago on Feb. 2, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Several years ago I wrote a tribute to her on Mother’s Day that I would like to share with you this month.
I like my mom — really like her. She raised my two sisters and me pretty much on her own. She worked full-time as a teacher so she could have the same schedule as her kids. She kept house, helped us with our homework, disciplined my sisters when they got in trouble, carted us around to ball games and friends’ houses, acted delighted when we showed her our artwork and tended to us when we were sick. She laughed with us and cried for us. She celebrated when we succeeded and lifted us when we fell. She talked to us and listened as well, and she prayed and began to show us about the beauty and love of her Savior. There are a thousand other things I could say (and probably you could too about your own mother), but I’ll end with this. Even to this day I love to be with my mom, to talk with her, to sit in her living room and share what is going on with the church or Susan or Hannah or Rachel or whatever else may come to mind. And she always cares — even after a lifetime of giving she is always ready to give more.
So if, like me, you have a great mother, what do you do with a verse like this, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes even his own life — he cannot be my disciple”? (Luke 13:26) These words sound harsh. Are we really supposed to hate our families?
We know the answer must be “No.” Elsewhere God commanded us to honor our parents (Matthew 15:4); to love our wives (Ephesians 5:25); and to care for and show compassion to our children (Psalm 103:13). So what does Jesus mean when he says that we are to hate our mothers and fathers and children if we are to be his disciples?
The Gospel of Matthew gives us some help. For here in a parallel passage, Jesus makes the same point in a slightly different way: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). So Jesus is teaching the same lesson but in a less forceful way. We are to love him more than any member of our family; indeed we must love him more to be worthy of him. But let’s be honest even though this is less harsh than the Lukan verse, it is still harsh. Why must I love him more? Why is God so jealous?
The answer as I see it is this — as wonderful as my mom is, as delightful as she is to be around, as much as she has done for me — there is someone greater. There is someone more wonderful, more delightful, who has done more than I can ask or imagine — indeed it is the one who made my mom. Every good gift that she is and has given was given to her first by him (“For from him, through him and to him are all things” Romans 11:36). The love and comfort that a parent or spouse or friend brings to your life is but a small taste of the love and comfort that is ours in Christ.
In speaking of Jesus, John Piper wrote: “He is wiser, kinder, stronger (more gentle) than anyone you enjoy spending time with. He is endlessly interesting. He knows exactly what to say at every moment to make his guests as glad as they can be. He overflows with love and infinite insight into how to use that love to make his loved ones feel loved.” So love your mothers, but love them realizing that Christ is even more wonderful.
James Calderazzo is pastor of Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church in Destin. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.