“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26
No, this is not an error. Jesus really said this. It’s a strong statement and the word “hating” in this sentence is quite definitive. So what does this actually mean?
Like everything Jesus said, it must be read in the context of the entire Gospel. Remember, Jesus said that the greatest and first commandment was to “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart…” He also said to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This most certainly includes family. However, in the passage above, we hear Jesus telling us that if anything whatsoever gets in the way of our love of God, we must eliminate it from our life. We must “hate” it.
Hate, in this context, is not the sin of hate. It’s not an anger welling up within us that causes us to lose control and say mean things. Rather, hate in this context means we must be ready and willing to distance ourselves from that which gets in the way of our relationship with God. If it is money, prestige, power, the flesh, alcohol, etc., then we must eliminate it from our lives. Shockingly, some will even find that they must distance themselves from their own family in order to keep their relationship with God alive. But even in this case, we are still loving our family. Love simply takes on different forms at times.
The family was designed to be a place of peace, harmony and love. But the sad reality that many have experienced in life is that sometimes our family relationships directly interfere with our love of God and others. And if this is the case in our lives, we must hear Jesus telling us to approach those relationships in a different way out of love for God.
Perhaps this Scripture could be misunderstood and misused at times. It is not an excuse to treat those in the family, nor anyone else, with spite, harshness, malice or the like. It is not an excuse to let the passion of anger well up in us. But it is a call from God to act in justice and truth and to refuse to allow anything to separate us from the love of God.
Reflect, today, upon that which is the greatest obstacle to your relationship with God. Who or what tears you away from loving God with your whole heart. Hopefully there is nothing or no one who fits this category. But if there is, hear the words of Jesus today encouraging you to be strong and calling you to put Him first before anything else in life.
Lord, help me to constantly see those things in my life that keep me from loving You. As I identify that which deters me in faith, give me the courage to choose You above all things. Give me the wisdom to know how to choose You above all things. Jesus, I trust in You.
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