By Jason Bowman
Sometimes the words of Jesus do not match my picture of Jesus as a loving, peaceful man cuddling a lamb in his arms. One time, Jesus turned around to face a great crowd following him and said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). Those words shock me. The Bible fiercely supports family. We see this in the original creation, in the the Ten Commandments and in Paul’s words that one who does not provide for relatives has “denied the faith” (1 Tim 5:8). Unless Jesus temporarily lost his marbles, you should not rush out and tell your family how much you hate them so that you can be his disciple.
So what does he mean and what should we do?
The word translated “hate” usually means hate. However, it can also serve to vividly describe preference. In this passage Jesus uses the word in that way. Some in the first century who decided to follow Jesus would have lost their families. The culture they lived in looked down upon Christianity and embracing it would have brought dishonor on the family. Thus, some would have been forced to decide between Jesus and their families. That decision would have been incredibly difficult in a society that revolved around the family. Often multiple generations lived and worked together. Following Jesus might mean turning one’s back on the only way of life one knew and sacrificing everything from one’s closest relationships to one’s inheritance.
With these words, Jesus draws a line in the sand. If anyone would follow him, everything else in their life must take a backseat. This includes our own dreams and desires. As hard as it might be, following Jesus means thinking about anything that might contend with his leading in our lives. This could include our family, but might also mean other relationships, our possessions, our jobs or any of our various affiliations. We have an opportunity to hear the words of Jesus and ask ourselves: am I really letting Jesus call the shots in each area of my life? If not, do I want to change that?
How can we take seriously what it means for Jesus to hold the number one place on our lives? Take any of the areas of your life mentioned above and give careful thought to how you are making decisions in that area and what you want from that area? Does this follow Jesus or do you need to make a change? Can you trust Jesus enough to really surrender it all to him?