“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. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” ~Luke 14:25-27
Hi Jesus. It’s me, Rebekah A. You preach love; did you really, really just tell me to hate my mother and that I can’t follow You unless I do?
We know that Jesus called us as Christians to love unconditionally, and that God in essence is love in its purest and strongest form. To follow Him, we have to preach love and give love no matter who stands before. So, hating in order to love sounds like one heck of a paradox.
Turns out, you don’t really need to hate anyone. Please don’t, in fact. I have read that the middle eastern culture spoke and wrote in extremes, and that actually in Arabic there’s not even a word for ‘like’ – you either have to pick ‘love’ or ‘hate’. I didn’t fact-check that – I just remember reading it somewhere – but given that, it makes sense that the verse would be written that way.
But what’s Jesus really saying, if He doesn’t literally mean to go around hating those who are closest to You? Simple: He means that He comes first. In theory we know that, but how completely do we really practice it? Sure, we pray – after we pick up the kids, after we make dinner, after we do the dishes, after we get all ready for bed – maybe we’ll just pray in bed tonight, it’s gotten so late – Jesus….thanks…..for……<beep>. Oops, that was your morning alarm; you fell asleep during prayer. Sorry, Jesus. Or how many of us do pray, but we multi-task while we’re at it? I myself have definitely thrown up a prayer or two mid-dishes. Sorry, Jesus. And if we are so quick to give things in our day such high priority, how much more do we prioritize people? I have heard people say that they actually plan to devote less time to God upon getting married and having kids, because by default there will be less time to devote.
However, with the above verse in Luke, Jesus sort of draws a line in the sand. We can’t put anything else above Him. It should be easy. He is the Great Provider, the Great Physician, the great I Am. He is everything we need. He’s everything our family needs. Just Him. If we had nothing else but Him, we would have everything we needed. Everything.
With that in mind, it should be easy. We have a savior and a provider? Sweet! Let’s follow! Unfortunately, we are raised in and by the world. Jesus doesn’t always make sense to the world. And His standards are absolute. There is no censoring His call to purity and love. I posted awhile back about Declaring Citizenship – every moment we’re either citizens of Heaven or of the world. They don’t always coexist all that well. Sometimes to be a citizen of Heaven, a follower of Jesus, we have to give up things in this world. Bring on the mental battle: “If I choose Jesus, I can’t listen to this type of music anymore….and I like my music.” “If I follow Jesus, I can’t be with my boyfriend anymore; we might even have to break up….and I like him.” “If I choose Jesus, I may need to change who my friends are….and I like my friends.”
Following Jesus comes with a cost. He tells us all over the Bible that the cost is worth it and that He will take care of us, but the cost is there. In this verse, Jesus tells us exactly how much of a cost there is. He isn’t saying to hate our families; He’s saying that He should be so important in our lives that if it ever came to choosing between Jesus or our spouse, Jesus or our parents, Jesus or our children, we would put Jesus first. Every time. He’s not necessarily telling us to sacrifice these things, but in the deepest parts of our hearts to be willing to. To truly get in the mindset that nothing and no one is as important in our lives as Jesus Christ our King and Savior. It’s a test of faith. We saw it with Abraham, being called to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham brought his own son to be killed, all because his God asked him to. God intervened and saved Isaac, because God is good and acts in our best interest. He will do the same for all of us if we show the same level of faith in Him.
With that verse in Luke, Jesus is essentially telling us to find our inner Abraham, and get to a place spiritually where Jesus Christ is our number one priority. Yes that leaves us vulnerable and possibly needing to give up a few things. But Jesus doesn’t ask these things of us for His own entertainment. He guides our steps only in the best possible path we could be on. He doesn’t forsake us, or fail us, or abuse our trust in any way.
So I invite you readers, to embrace your inner Abraham. Count the cost of following Christ, and ask Him if there’s a price you haven’t yet paid. Ask for His help in doing so; He won’t let you down. And even though the cost seems difficult in the short term, remember what it’s paying for! Each one brings you deeper into fellowship with Jesus.
And as always, I’d love to hear what God is doing in your life, and I’d love to pray for you! So write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.