Go to church this week and ask your pastor if he loves his wife, or your best friend if he loves his sister, or your wife if she loves you or your daughter if she loves her dad…what do you think the responses would be? I can guarantee the answers to each of these questions will be a devoted “yes.” And then ask them what Jesus would say in response to them.
What does Jesus say about this? Without hesitation he says, “if anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14.26)
Did Jesus really mean this when he said it? I have heard countless pastors and teachers say that Jesus simply meant for us to love God more. Weak sauce! What a tragedy to weaken the Word of God, especially in light of the fact that this is a text about how to be a follower of Christ.
We also find that God tells us that “as I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13.34-35). Does this contradict the fact that we are told to hate our own father and mother? If we think about the hateful verse, we notice that the relationships are all something which seem to belong to a man. We are also commanded in the scripture to forsake all of our possessions and follow Christ (Matthew 19.21).
Perhaps Christ is concerned with how we treat one another, if I regard my wife as my wife then she is merely my possession and something in subjection to me because she is my wife. However, if I accept the fact that the woman I am married to is a princess of God, then I will begin to love her for who she really is, not some false identity wrapped up in someone else. I ought to always encourage her to realize that her identity is that of a child of God, nothing more and nothing less. If I love someone because of their relationship to me, it will only lead to death. Perhaps Augustine says it best, “It is more inhuman to love a man because he is your son and not because he is a man, that is, not to love that in him which belongs to God, but to love that which belongs to yourself.” (Of True Religion, section 89).
Does anyone know what verse comes after the hateful verse which we have looked at? The following verse more fully describes how to hate, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14.27). So this essentially means that if we actually hate everything we think belongs to us, then we have denied our own selfish pleasures, picked up our own crosses, died to ourselves, and followed Christ.
“He who by excelling obtains what he will grieve to lose, seems to be victorious but is in reality vanquished; and he who by giving way obtains what he cannot unwillingly lose is really victorious though he seem to be vanquished” (Of True Religion, section 92). The world views success so differently than Christ. May we be empowered by the Spirit to give away that which we hold so tightly!
Love your dad because he follows Christ. Love your mom for the tears she has shed for your salvation. Love your wife because she is a princess of God. Love your husband because he serves the Lord. Love your brother because you both have the same heavenly Father. Love yourself because you have been redeemed by the blood of the lamb. Love your enemies because you do not want them to go where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Hate those things which bind you to this world. Bind yourself to the true religion of following Christ and recognizing all things as being created through him and for him. Pick up your cross, pursue Christ, and be his disciple.
I encourage you to read the first paragraph again and actually ask these questions, get people thinking on the subject even if you disagree with me. And I would love to hear how they respond.