What’d Christ mean when He said ‘hate your family’

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Back in the nineties, I was pastor of a church in rural Mississippi. I was leading a group through Masterlife, a special Discipleship program. One night, one of the texts we used was Luke 14:25-35. One man, who was a farmer and lived close to his mother and father asked about this verse. This man was a good man – a deacon in the church and very well-respected in the community. He had questions about this verse; it bothered him that Jesus seemed to be saying we should hate our father and mother.

I explained to him that what Jesus meant was that our love for Him should be so strong that our love for others would look as if we hated them. That seemed to satisfy him.

This is a strong verse, and it may have caused others to wonder what Jesus meant.  Our families are special to us. We love them.

When we use the word “hate” it means a total rejection of someone. But in this instance, Jesus isn’t referring to that. Instead, the word refers to something that is less loved or liked. So, with that translation in mind, Jesus is telling us that if we love Him as we should, our love for our families is going to by nature be less because our love for Jesus is so great. 

That is still somewhat of a tough verse for us. We love our families. We even feel the Bible commands us to take care of our families. So, when Jesus says our love for them should be less, it may still bother us. 

But, that is exactly what Jesus is saying. Our love for Jesus should be so great, that our love for our families will by nature be less.

When my daughter was a senior in high school, I believe, we got her a little puppy for Christmas. She named the puppy Bella. She would often shorten it to Bells. She loved Bells. Bells slept with her. Bells was constantly with Sarah… until she got married. 

Sarah got married last summer. The apartment complex she lives in will allow pets, but there is a fee. Sarah married a young man who is very frugal, and he doesn’t want to pay the fee so, Bells is now with us. Sarah comes by to see her some but not as often as I thought she would. Why? Because her priority is now her husband. Her love for Landon is so great, that her love for her puppy is less. That’s the same way it should be in our relationship with the Lord. 

In these verses, Jesus is telling His followers they should count the cost of following Him. He says, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him…”

Jesus is telling these people, before they decide to follow Him, they should count the cost. They should understand the commitment they are making. 

Years ago, there was a man in a church I was pastor of who, in regards to planning would often say, “Measure twice, cut once.” He was saying, “you need to count the cost.” 

Jesus was saying the same. He is telling these people that before they decide to follow Him, they need to know what’s involved. I fear that maybe we haven’t done that as well as we should over the years.

I love reaching people for Christ and baptizing them just like other pastors. But most churches have lots of members who are nowhere to be found. These are people who at some point, professed their faith in Jesus and joined the church. Maybe we didn’t do as well as we should in explaining the cost of following Christ?

The Christian life is like salt. If it has lost it’s flavor it’s not good anymore. The same is true in the Christian life. Our love for Christ should be so that others will see a person totally committed to the Lord. 

When V. Raymond Edman was a missionary in Ecuador he knew an earnest and effective layman who felt called to the ministry, but his wife would not hear of it. She threatened all manner of reprisal if he should leave his lucrative employment to become a servant of Jesus Christ. One evening he came to Brother Edman with a bundle under one arm, and tears in his eyes.

Edman read to him from Mark 10:29-30: “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.”

After prayer and tears, Edman inquired what the man had in the bundle. “It contains my working clothes,” he replied. “I left my employment today.” He had counted the cost, and had set himself to leave all, and to face whatever persecutions might come – only that he might be Jesus’ disciple.

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