What’s Your Answer?

Luke 14:25-33 (Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Psalm 1)

Jesus tells us that we should hate our families – those most dear to us! Is this for real, or is this fake news?
 
“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26)
 
Surely there is a less harsh way of making this point. For sure, Matthew opts for a softer version: Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me…” (Matthew 10:37). Indeed, some scholars have pointed out that misein is a translation of the Hebrew word sane’, which can simply mean “to hold in disfavor, to be disinclined to, to have relatively little regard for.” That’s much nicer, don’t you think?  Yet, Luke uses the Greek word misein frequently, and for him it has the far harsher meaning, which we can tell because of the context in which he uses it:
 
No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth (16:13)
 
Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man (6:22).
 
The larger point is a familiar one: The attachments of the world cannot be more important to you than Jesus is. (See also 8:19-21, 12:51-53, 14:12, and 18:29). However, Jesus is not saying that hate should typify familial relationships. Rather, as one scholar puts it:
 
The choice [that has to be made] is between affection for kin and allegiance to Jesus. In most cases the two are not incompatible; and to hate one’s parents as such would be monstrous… But Christ’s followers must be ready, if necessary, to act towards what is dearest to them as if it were an object of hatred… Jesus, as often, states a principle in a startling way, and leaves His hearers to find out the qualification.
 
You’ll notice that Jesus directs his words toward “whoever comes to me.” These are not words directed to his disciples, but to those who are on the cusp of becoming disciples; who have only just come to listen, or who are in the early stages of “following him.” To such as these, Jesus outlines the cost of discipleship, which may include the end of familial relationships. The cost could also be as high as enduring great suffering and even losing one’s life: “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (vs. 27). The word “carry” means to “take up, or to bear.” The word translated as “follow me” means “to walk behind me.” Discipleship includes bearing the burdens that Jesus bears, and walking in his footsteps.
 
So, just as a builder doesn’t begin to build unless they have sufficient materials with which to complete the job; and the ruler doesn’t set out to wage war without sufficient soldiers to stand a chance of winning; so the would-be disciple must ask themselves if they’re willing to pay the price of knowing, loving, and following Jesus.
 

These words of Jesus constitute a brutally realistic call for self-reflection. What’s your answer?

Shalom,
 

Pastor Ken+