Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25-26)
There are many Scriptures that ministers don’t preach on, and this is one. This surely can’t be the same Jesus speaking that told us to: “Love one another.” The statement seems ridiculous, yet there’s no doubt Jesus made it. I’ve been praying since before my North Carolina vacation last week for God to decipher this message for me. I’ve read more commentaries than usual. Some came close, but I didn’t feel any were point on. Many say the Greek word for hate, miseo, can mean to love less. Others disagree strongly saying we should hate people who don’t love Jesus because God hates them. God only wants us to love Christians. (I believe with all of me that isn’t true.)
We can’t take this Scripture out of context. After much praying, God finally posed a question to me. Why do you think Jesus talks about salt at the end of this lesson? I had an Ah Hah! Moment. Salty can be used to describe both love and hate with its aggressive meaning. (More on salt and why we need to love aggressively in that lesson.) This latter Scripture (Luke 14:34-35) also states, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Jesus tells us we must open our minds and read in between the lines.
Jesus used a hyperbole to shock the large crowds and us, and he succeeded. Hyperbole is defined by dictionary.com as a super-exaggerated way of describing something for the sake of emphasis that often borders on the ridiculous. I like the way James Patrick Holding at tectonics.org describes this use of hate: “Hatred here means the truth is betrayed by your actions.”
Jesus said that if we want to follow Him, we must put Him absolutely first in our lives. In my humble opinion, He said it better (without the shock factor) in Matthew 10:37: “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” If your parents and brothers and sisters are Muslim, Jewish, Satan-worshippers, or part of any other non-Christian group, they may disown or hurt you because of your belief in Jesus. It may require you to leave your family and loved ones for a while, essentially to “hate” them, even though you may not. But disciples of Jesus are required to love Jesus first. When we learn to be salty in our love with the power of the Holy Spirit, people will notice the change in us and we may be able to show the families and friends who have disowned us God’s love.
Dearest Father in heaven, help me love aggressively where there is little or no love. Give me the power of Your Holy Spirit to love deeper. Help people see the changes You’ve made in me. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.