“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).
In last Sundays’ sermon I offered three observations on Jesus’ words in Luke 15:26:
Notice first the stress upon one who comes but who does not give full allegiance to Jesus. Already Jesus is anticipating here a warning against false starters or false professors.
Notice second the strong and even harsh language. Jesus says his follower must “hate [miseo: to despise, to disregard, to be indifferent towards]” the members of his own family. Notice the order: father and mother (one’s first family), wife (the one a man leaves his family of origin to cleave unto), children (the precious fruit of the marriage union), brethren and sisters (one’s own flesh and blood siblings), and, finally, he adds: “yea, and his own life also.” If one does not do this he cannot be Christ’s disciple.
Now, what exactly is Jesus saying here? Is he teaching that one must be estranged from his family to be a true Christian? Some cults have taught such things and even twisted passages like this to justify their behavior. That cannot be what Jesus is teaching, because other passages of Scripture teach exactly the opposite and Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35):
The fifth commandment teaches us to honor our father and mother (Exod 20:12).
Paul told Christian husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph 5:25). In Titus 2:4 Paul told Titus to teach the older women in his congregation at Crete to teach the younger women to love their husbands and their children.
Paul told fathers not to exasperate their children (Eph 6:4) and Psalm 127 calls children “a heritage from the LORD,” so they are not to be despised.
As for brothers and sisters, Paul taught in 1 Timothy 5:8: “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
Finally, the Great Commandment teaches that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Implied in this is the fact that we ought to love ourselves (cf. the sixth commandment on the preservation of our own lives).
So, what does this teaching mean? How do we reconcile these two streams (Jesus’ command to hate family; Jesus’ command to love family)? The teaching in Luke 14:26 must be taken as hyperbolic to prove a point. The point is that even the very relationships that are most precious to us, even the dearest bonds within a family, are not to be placed above the bond to Christ. We must not make an idol even of family. If we ever have to choose between family and Christ, we are to choose Christ.
Jesus himself provided the example in his relationship to his human family (cf. Luke 18:19-21).
Notice third, what this teaching implies about Jesus’ self-understanding. Who could possibly demand such allegiance? For any mere man to do so would be the height of arrogance and blasphemy. Jesus takes upon himself the prerogatives of a jealous God who will have no gods before him. As the first commandment teaches that there must be no gods before God, Jesus teaches that he must be above all.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
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