So, what's going on here?? From what you know about the Bible's teaching, does it really make sense that Jesus is telling His followers to hate someone? Maybe as you're reading this some verses have immediately come to your mind that would make you question whether that's truly what He was saying. For instance, the Bible commands honor for parents, (Exodus 20:12), and even prescribes the death penalty for anyone who cursed their parents, (Exodus 21:17). In fact, Jesus told His followers that contrary to conventional wisdom, they shouldn't hate even their enemies, but should instead love them. (Matthew 5:43-44; Luke 6:27) So, taking some of these other verses into consideration, it's highly unlikely that Jesus' point here is that we should all hate our families. (This is a good example of the need for Biblical Theology AND Systematic Theology!) But, there are some other passages that are helpful. In both Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13, Jesus points out that a person can only truly have one master. "Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." And as it turns out, that's the point Jesus is making in Luke 14:26. He's teaching that in order to really follow Him, you need to be prepared to give up your allegiance to anyone else. He was asking His followers to make Him their Lord...not one of many, but their only Lord. Even if following Him wasn't in the best interest of their family, He was calling them to do it.
Now, even though we can wipe our brow and exclaim "Whew!" at the fact that we're not really supposed to hate family members, the point is still an uncomfortable one, especially when we realize that there are probably ramifications beyond just family. Jesus specifically addresses family with His audience for a reason: In their culture, this would have been the chief hesitation for them in following Him; the biggest barrier to them being His followers would have been their strong ties to their family. So, what He's saying to them is "You want to follow me? You need to understand that my lordship trumps everything else...even your own family! You'll love me enough when you love me even more than your family. That's the cost of being my follower." But if instead of addressing a first-century Jewish audience in Palestine, Jesus was addressing you personally, what would He challenge you about? Because the core truth is still completely applicable. Jesus calls us to follow Him unswervingly; to obey Him absolutely and without question. Remember, the apostles frequently referred to themselves as Jesus' slaves! And being a slave to Jesus means following Him no matter what. He isn't satisfied to be in your Top Ten list; being His slave means He is on an exclusive list that has no other members. Your love and devotion for the Lord Jesus Christ needs to outweigh your love for everything else in a way that, by comparison, you "hate" everything that isn't Jesus.
So, what would Jesus say us or to you today? How would the sentence be completed…"If anyone comes to me and does not hate [fill in the blank], they cannot be my disciple." How would you fill in that blank? Would it be family, or something else? Maybe "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his country, he cannot be my disciple." Of perhaps, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate her job, she cannot be my disciple." Money? Political party? Maybe just yourself?
- Pastor Paul