What does Jesus mean by the word hate? It seems so harsh. Isn’t Jesus supposed to be all about love? A few of my Twitter friends and I have been reading Luke (#thebookofluke) this month, and one of them asked me about Luke 14:26. I have had the same question in the past, and probably many others have too, so I thought it would be a good idea to write a post about it.
As with every verse we look at in the Bible, we must consider the context and interpret it in the light of other scripture. Jesus certainly was, and is, all about love. He said that the two most important commandments were to love God and love others. (Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:33 Luke 10:27-28) He even told us to love our enemies. (Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 6:27-31) We have also been told to honour our mothers and fathers. (Matthew 19:19, Mark 7:10, Ephesians 6:2-3) That was important enough to be one of the Ten Commandments--the law. (Exodus 20:12) Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. (Matthew 5:17) So why is He telling us that we cannot be His disciples unless we hate our families and even ourselves? The word here translated as ‘hate’ is a relative term. It means that we must think less of, and, if necessary, disregard our family. Now, if our family members have the same belief system as we do, and are willing to put Christ first, it may never be an issue, but if they disagree with our beliefs and our commitment to God, then we have to choose—God or family? God freely allows us that choice, but if we choose our family over Him, we cannot be His disciples.
Let’s be clear about this. Everyone, without exception, is invited to receive salvation. That is the meaning of the parable of the great banquet. (Luke 14:16-24) People were urged to come to the feast, so that God’s house would be filled. The only ones who did not come were those who chose not to. But there is a difference between accepting salvation and becoming a disciple. Do we really want to live for Jesus? Is He really the most important part of our lives? Luke 14:28-33 talks about counting the cost. Each person who undertakes to build a tower or fight a battle must count the cost to determine if they can complete the task. The same is true for us. We must decide if the eternal rewards of sacrifice for Jesus will be worth the cost of the challenges we face in our few short years on earth.
Jesus, too, counts the cost to determine if we are committed enough to be on His team. Are we worthy of the responsibilities that He will assign to us if we say that we want to work for His glory? Can He count on us to see it through to the end? When He said these words, He had a large crowd of people pressing in all around Him. (Luke 14:25) Many were probably following Him because they wanted to be healed, or because Jesus had a habit of feeding people, or simply because they wanted to see what everyone else was doing. Jesus’ use of direct language would have certainly thinned out the throng. We know that none of them were willing to stick by Him when He faced death; they all fled. (Mark 14:49-50) If we are to be Christ’s disciples, we have to be willing to give up everything else and put Him first. It is your choice to make.