>Last weekend, two of my five granddaughters came to visit us. My wife Donna and I enjoy our grandchildren because, as you should know by now, they are the most precious grandchildren in the world.
When our grandchildren come to visit, they like to play games with us, and this time was no exception. One of my granddaughters (she is only six years old) was playing a game in which we had to answer her questions. We had to answer the questions in one minute or less or else we would lose points.
The questions began simply enough: “What is your favorite color?” I had no problem answering that question and the two that followed. Then, my granddaughter said: “Now, the questions will be harder.” I was kind of expecting that. What I did not expect was the question she addressed to me.
“Vovo,” (my granddaughters call me “vovo” which is Portuguese for “grandfather”), “who do you love most: the church or your grandchildren?”
That question stunned me. How could a young lady, six years old, come out with such a profound theological question? And I had only one minute to come up with an answer that was faithful to my commitment to Christ and my love for my grandchildren. All of a sudden, I was confronted with a very profound theological question for which I was struggling for an answer.
Immediately, the words of Christ came to my mind: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children [and I would add, grandchildren] and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).
People misunderstand the word “hate.” In the Old Testament God said: “I loved Jacob. I hated Esau” (Malachi 1:1-3). In this context, as well as in Luke, the words “love” and “hate” are technical words, used to describe covenant relationship in which the word “love” and the word “hate” are used to mean “choose” and””reject.”
I doubted that my granddaughter could understand covenant vocabulary. She just wanted a simple answer. So, I gave her a simple answer.
I said: “Since the church is only a building, of course I love my granddaughters more than I love the church.”
I love my granddaughters but I was not very happy with my answer. When my granddaughter is older and understands the concept of heilsgeschichte and the shibboleth of covenant terminology, I may give her a better answer.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary