“Do you really love me?” my father would ask. With a smile, my mother would nod.
I felt warm inside when mother replied, “Don’t you know, you come second to God”*
If you had a conversation similar to the above with your spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, best friend, etc., it probably wouldn’t result in a warm and fuzzy feeling between you. After all, who wants to hear the person who is most important to you say that you’re Number 2 in their life? You want to hear that you’re Number 1!
Well, while it’s certainly a good thing to appreciate the people in your life and to let them know how important they are to you, it’s also important to keep your priorities straight as a servant of God, both in your own mind and in the way you interact with others. In short, nobody should come ahead of God in your life.
By definition, if you rank what’s most important to you from Number 1 to whatever number, there can only be one Number 1. So, if God is Number 1, then the highest that any person can reach on your list is Number 2. If you look at it that way, Number 2 is a pretty special place to be!
In today’s world, where God is often considered to be a fairy tale or, at best, something you just think about for an hour on Sunday, the above type of prioritization seems nonsensical to many people. The most important people in your life are Number 2? No way!
Yet, that’s the level of devotion that the Lord seeks from us. Anything less than that is unacceptable. When Jesus sent His Apostles out to spread the gospel, that level of devotion — that prioritization — was one of the concepts he urged them to convey to the people they came in contact with:
“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.” (Matthew 10:37)
Why is it important for us to understand this prioritization? Is it just to make people feel bad by telling them that they’re not Number 1 in our lives? Hardly. In fact, the people who God places in our lives are often indispensable in our service to God as they support us, pick us up when we’re down, and serve as a great blessing to us in many ways.
However, sadly, there will be times when people who are close to us, perhaps even members of our own family, will take a position in opposition to our faith. Perhaps they don’t believe in Jesus. Perhaps they don’t agree with our church doctrine, or perhaps they don’t agree with the concepts we live by from the Word of God.
Depending on the person, they may be respectful of your beliefs, even though they don’t share them. If so, there’s no reason to let your difference of beliefs affect your relationship. There are many other things we can have in common with people in this life and, who knows, perhaps the way you live your life or blessings you share will affect the other person and bring them to a clearer understanding of the Lord.
But what happens when someone who is otherwise close to you totally resents your beliefs? Perhaps they seize opportunities to undercut your faith, trying to change your beliefs or hurt you in some way for believing that way. Perhaps they will even present some type of ultimatum — me or Jesus, me or that church. What do you do?
Well, if you’ve read this far, you know the answer. No matter who the person is, God is still Number 1. So, if you’re really forced into a choice (by the other person) that you have to abandon your faith in order to continue to have a relationship with them, you (regrettably) have to say that you’re going to stick with Number 1.
When Jesus sent out His Apostles to spread His gospel, He anticipated that the above types of situations would arise for new believers. So, He told His Apostles to make sure that the people they preached to understood that:
“I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Matthew 10:35-36)
Hopefully, you won’t have to face situations like the above. But if you do, you’ll know what you have to do.
However, make it your hope and prayer and goal that all of the important people in your life remain so. As much as you can, show them that they occupy a very special place in your heart — second only to God! Let them feel like they can sing this chorus:
Standing second to God by His grace,
Oh, Hallelujah, such a high place.
How happy for me, and how blessed to be
Standing second to God by His grace.*
*Excerpts from “Second to God,” No. 22, in the Songs of Zion, ©1980 Arlene Lea Buffington
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.