Matthew 10 verses 32 and 33 feel terrifying and bewildering. They appear to portray a mean capricious God who will walk away from anyone who does not measure up to an arbitrary standard that is impossible to comprehend.

32 ‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;
33but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

Jesus appears here to be suggesting that believers must “acknowledge” him in the company of other people in order that Jesus might acknowledge us before God. At the same time verse 32 seems to hold out the possibility that, if we “deny” Jesus in the company of others, he will be equally faithless and “deny” us before God. What could possibly cause Jesus to “deny” anyone before God?

What does it mean to “acknowledge” Jesus and to be acknowledged by Jesus before God? And what could it possibly mean for us to “deny” Jesus in such a way that he will “deny” us before God?

The translation here is predictably difficult.

The Greek word translated “acknowledge” is ho-mo-lo-ge’-ō; it is a compound of ho-mos – “the same” and lo’-gos – “a word”.  So ho-mo-lo-ge’-ō means literally “to same  “word,” perhaps “to say the same thing”, “to agree”.

Set in opposition to ho-mo-lo-ge’-ō is the Greek verb är-ne’-o-mī. The correct translation of är-ne’-o-mī is not immediately obvious. Ar-ne’-o-mī may have its roots in the Greek word rhe’-ō which means “to pour forth”, or “to speak”, combined with the prefix ä’l-fä which is sometimes used to indicate contraction. So,  är-ne’-o-mī indicates a withdrawal of language, or more generally a refusal to “pour forth.”

So, Matthew 10:32,33 may indicate that, when we live/”pour forth” without fear (verse 28) and know our true worth (verses 29-31), we are able to live in tune with (ie. “to speak the same language as”) the Love/God who is our source.

Like recognizes like; when we live lives of love, we are recognized by Love. When we refuse the energy of Love, God cannot flow in our lives. When we fail to speak the language of Love; the work of Love in our lives is hindered.

This is the great dividing line; it is the only dividing line. The great fissure in the human community is between those who seek to live in the flow of Love and those who resist the power of Love and who approach life with hearts that are  contracted and shriveled. There is no easy rapprochement between those who live constricted and bound and those who live open to the free flowing spaciousness of Love. Hence Jesus goes on to warn his disciples that they must be aware that, even in the most foundational human relationship, the separation between love and not-love, can cause division:

34 Donot think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

It is where our attachments are that is most important. When we put anything ahead of our absolute unconditional commitment, to living in the energy flow of Love, we become something less than the luminous beings we were created to be. Therefore, challenging our attachment to the material timebound physical realm in the strongest possible terms, Jesus declares,

37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy (ä’-ksē-os) of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37)

It is curious how quickly translators rush to judgment and worth. The word translated “worthy” is ä’-ksē-os. The same word appears in Matthew 3:8, where Jesus says,

Bear fruit ä’-ksē-os of repentance.

It seems odd here to translate ä’-ksē-os as “worthy”. What is “fruit worthy of repentance”? A’-ksē-os can however also be translated as “congruous” – “bear fruit that is congruous with repentance,” that is live a life that flows from repentance, from honesty, contrition, and humility.

If we follow that usage of ä’-ksē-os in Matthew 10:37, Jesus would not be making a moral judgment on those who fail to be adequately committed, he would be saying something more like,

37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not living in tune (congruent with/ä’-ksē-os) with me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not congruent with me.

And so Jesus concludes

whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not congruent (ä’-ksē-os) with me. (Matthew 10:38)

This is not a judgment; it is simply a statement of fact. When I put anything ahead of Love, I am not in tune with Love. The only way to live truly and deeply in tune with Love is to let go of all lesser commitments and lay down all worldly attachments. This is the path to that fullness of life and freedom Jesus came to embody and for which my heart longs.