Luke 14:26….Am I to hate my own father and mother?
By Tim Bench
Luke 14:26 says, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife, and children, brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."
This verse has been perceived as “harsh”, “excessively demanding”, and for some people, an insurmountable decree for some who read the Bible….can a “loving” Jesus actually expect and demand us to HATE our own parents? Why would Christ say such a thing? What does this verse mean for us today?
There are occasions, in both the OT and the NT, where the Bible uses the term "hate" in a comparative sense. Genesis 29:31 provides one example…”Sane”, derived from the Hebrew (“to show a negative preference (Gen. 29:31, Deut. 21:15, Prov. 30:23…“the key to the meaning of Luke 14:26” as per the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, page 1671). Jacob “hated” his wife Leah, but verse 30 points out that it was actually a matter of him loving Rachel, his other wife, more than Leah. Thus, the word hate is used in a comparative sense to mean "love more than” something else.
The verse in question, Luke 14:26, is also a case where the term "hate" is used in a comparative sense. “Hate” in Greek, the language of the NT, is derived from “Miseo”, (as per the Vine’s Dictionary)…”hate” CAN mean loathing and detesting, as we normally view the word, but note Vine’s third alternative definition, as follows…
“(c) of relative preference for one thing over another, by way of expressing either aversion from, or disregard for, the claims of one person or thing relatively to those of another, Matt. 6:24; and Luke 16:13, as to the impossibility of serving two masters; Luke 14:26, as to the claims of parents relatively to those of Christ; John 12:25, of disregard for one's life relatively to the claims of Christ; Eph. 5:29, negatively, of one's flesh, i.e. of one's own, and therefore a man's wife as one with him.”
Jesus is thus not saying that we are to have malice, ill-will, or spite for our own family members….this would plainly contradict other passages (examples include Jesus making certain that his own mother was to be cared for after his death on the cross, see John 19:26-27 (“When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!”), Jesus plainly NOT “hating” his mother as we would today understand the term. Also see 1 Timothy 5:8 (“But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than aninfidel”)…commands to provide for our own families would certainly rule out “hating” them summarily.
Instead, Christ is clearly saying that we must always put Him before our families. Our love for Christ is to be greater than our love for anyone or anything….that includes jobs, wealth, prestige, and even our most beloved “possessions”, our own families.
Matthew 10:37 helps to explain Luke 14:26, as Jesus said, "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."
In Luke 14:26, Jesus is speaking to multitudes and is trying to make early followers realize that following His way will not always be easy. In fact, at times there will be great sufferings, and hardships, and tribulations, and persecutions….it is an inevitable consequence for the path we as Christians have chosen and we must be prepared to steadfastly bear that precious cross (see Luke 14:27, Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, and Luke 9:23).
“….thousands of people still ignore Christ's warning and undertake to follow Him without first pausing to reflect on the cost of doing so. The result is the great scandal of Christendom today, so called nominal Christianity. In countries to which Christian civilization has spread, large numbers of people have covered themselves with a decent but thin veneer of Christianity. They have allowed themselves to become somewhat involved, enough to be respectable. Their religion is a great soft cushion. It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life while changing its place and shape to suit their convenience.”
Excerpt from “Basic Christianity” by John Stott.
A person can often be gauged by the things and people he/she is “loyal” to….in other words, what is the MOST important facet of a person’s life? What “loyalty” rules that person? That may include loyalty to governments, beliefs, laws, dogma, friends, people….where does your loyalty and love lead YOU? And is that destination MORE important, or even AS important to you as your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?
The lesson for us today is this…We must always put Christ and His Word first in our lives, above any and every thing we will ever have, possess, or love. We are to love Him more than any family relationship or material possession. We are to love Him more than our own parents. We are to love Him more than our own children. We are to be willing to die for Jesus, as we likewise should be prepared to LIVE for Jesus. We are to love him resolutely, even when the world will inevitably mock and persecute us, but more directly when we may be rejected for Christ’s sake by our very family….perhaps the greatest challenge, struggle, and pain a Christian may ever endure…..
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law–a man's enemies will be the members of his own household….”, Matthew 10:34-37.
Are you prepared, truly prepared, to stand fast as a Christian when even your most beloved will turn on you, or even despise you for it? This is often the most challenging and difficult hurdle a Christian may face in this world, but we are warned to expect rejection, even from those we may treasure the most.
We must be willing to sacrifice all that we have….because God sacrificed infinitely more for us, beyond which we can even imagine. John 3:16 is a verse we all know well….(“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”) but those of you who are parents, or grandparents, or even great-grandparents, ponder for just a moment the anguish you would suffer in sacrificing your own child….that is precisely what our Father did, and that incomparable sacrifice is often largely ignored, even by professed “Christians”. If God was willing to sacrifice HIS own son FOR YOU, what then could POSSIBLY be more important to you, what could you POSSIBLY “love” more, than He who loved you to this degree.
Where do you stand today? Is your heart and dedication completely in Christ’s service, or are there earthly distractions which may at times weaken your resolve? Can you truly say today that your love for Christ surpasses anything on this earth? Have you taken up the cross of Jesus Christ, and are you prepared to follow him regardless of the cost?
“The words are important, partly in themselves, partly as explaining the stronger phrase of Luke 14:26-27, which speaks of a man “hating father or mother” as a condition of discipleship. Where two affections come into collision, the weaker must give way; and though the man may not and ought not to cease to love, yet he must act as if he hated—disobey, and, it may be, desert—those to whom he is bound by natural ties, that he may obey the higher supernatural calling.”
From Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers.
John 14:15 reminds us "If ye love me, keep my commandments”….if the commandment to love Him above all else has caused you to stumble, come today,
and make your soul and heart right with God, putting your priorities in the proper (and Biblical) order.