Who do you love more?

September 13, 2020
Sunday, Day 650

“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. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple…So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” (Luke 14:26-27, 33).

When I spoke to Kathie today on the phone, she told me how she hopes I’m home by the holidays. They are very difficult times for her even when I’m home, but me being away in prison makes it even more difficult for her.  She did tell me that she, however, has perfect peace and that God has shown her how she has put me ahead of HIM.  I too have had to repent of putting Kathie ahead of the Lord on numerous occasions. This is something extremely easy to do while we are having to be apart because of sheer injustice out of hatred by some people for the Lord Jesus Christ and God’s Word.

But Jesus Himself predicted such a future. He told His own disciples, “And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22).

We will be hated for righteousness’ sake. This has clearly been what has happened in my case, and I am now sitting in a prison cell because of it, and my wonderful wife who struggles to be alone is home without me (I thank God, however, for our oldest son William who is living at home – what a blessing he is).

The Greek word used here in Luke 14:26 for “hate,” miseō, normally is translated hate, which is specifically attributed to the testing or abhorring something. However, it has a less common meaning, which Matthew’s account depicts Jesus saying, “he who loves . . . more than Me.” In Luke 14:33 Jesus sums up that “no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” But hear the Greek word translated “give up,” apotassetai, literally means “to properly arrange.” It refers to Christians who know how to properly arrange their lives so that Christ is given the preeminence. And this is what the problem was with the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-27), for the wealthy young man’s riches were his idol, something he wasn’t willing to give up for Christ.

Herein lies the secondary meaning of miseō, translated “hate” and Luke 14:26. In this context, it is loving one’s relatives less than the Lord. That is required of us — for us to take up our cross and follow Christ or be his disciple. My dad, in The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, puts it this way, “Here Jesus asserts His deity. Every member of man’s family is a human being, and the love shown to humans compared to the love shown to Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, must be so different that the former seems like hatred. The meaning of miseō as loving less is made clear in Matt. 10:37, ‘He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.’ In His commands for loving other human beings, the Lord never said, ‘Love other human beings as you love Me,’ but ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself’ (Matt. 19:19). When it comes to loving God, however, He is placed in a unique position (Matt. 22:37, 38).”

For Kathie and myself, Rearranging our lives of priorities assuring that Christ is first has been one of God’s purposes in our current travails. This is all part of God’s refining process; a key reason God allows suffering in our lives. Being apart from each other for up to three years is the hardest thing for both of us during the confinement. Without Christ, in our lives, it would be unbearable. Many times, prior to my trial the prosecution offered me plea deals: “plead guilty and testify and you’ll receive no prison time,” they said, even the day before the trial was to begin.  But I truly believed this would be no different than denying Christ.

I truly could not at the time see any purpose for God allowing me to be found guilty, to be sentenced to prison, to lose my appeals, and to be denied home confinement after having served two-thirds of my sentence, as per the law. Yet now, looking back, as difficult as it has been and as hard as it remains especially during the Covid-19 lock-down, I see God’s hand in every bit of it. Making sure our priorities are in the right order, with Christ being the head, is at the top of that list. Both of our lives have been radically turned even more toward becoming more like Christ. Yet even beyond what God has done in our own lives is what He has done in the lives of others, especially within the barbed wire of these prison fences and this unit in particular. God’s Spirit continues to move in miraculous ways. Men are continuing to come to Christ and many more are being dramatically transformed into the image of Christ to the point where it is spreading beyond these walls and the gates of this prison.

And so, I have come to the point where, if I am to stay here until March 6, the date I have been given to leave here and report to the halfway house in Virginia, I am willing to do so. I rejoice for the privilege of being here to witness firsthand the Spirit of God move among men here. I praise Him for being called into His service.

In His service,

Philip Zodhiates

P.S. Kathie, William, Josiah and Janet Stasulli have nearly gotten all of my daily journal up-to-date at http://www.romanseight28.com. Please check it out!

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