Must I Hate My Family to Follow Jesus?

Jesus spoke many beautiful and wonderful truths during his earthly ministry. But he also said some disturbing things.  Perhaps one of the most disturbing statements Jesus made is found in Luke 14:25-27, where he declares that anyone who wants to be his disciple must hate his parents, spouse, children, brothers and sisters.  Not only are these words shocking, they are also uncharacteristic of the many other words Jesus spoke about the importance of loving others.  So, what is going on here?  Are we supposed to start hating our family members in order to prove our commitment to Jesus?  Of course not.  In speaking these words, Jesus is not intending for us to take him literally, but he does want us to take him seriously.

Jesus is employing the language of a first century Jewish Rabbi.  Traveling Jewish Rabbis in the first century were teachers who invited students to “follow” them as they traveled in order to learn.  Rabbis would often remind those who wanted to follow, that the work would be difficult and you need to be willing to make sacrifices.  Rabbis would often use “hyperbole” (making exaggerated statements in order to force people to contemplate).   So here, Jesus is explaining to people that following him would require sacrifice and commitment.

We live in a culture today that almost worships comfort and convenience.  And sometimes we Christians begin to drift into an attitude that allows comfort and convenience to become the values we build our lives upon.  If a commitment becomes too uncomfortable and too inconvenient, we just quit and declare that “it just isn’t worth it.” 

But Jesus wants us to know that a commitment to him will sometimes make us uncomfortable and it will often be inconvenient.  We should not be surprised by this, because the two greatest dangers to the human soul are laziness and selfishness.  Nothing feeds and breeds laziness and selfishness more than a focus on comfort and convenience.   So Jesus calls us to make a deep commitment to him, and to make sacrifices that might be inconvenient.   We don’t have to hate our family to do that, but we do need to understand that there is a cost to being a true disciple of Jesus.  It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

Pastor Mark Miller