After reading my post “The Cost Of Being A Disciple” yesterday, my wife asked me to follow up on the idea of “hating” your family and your life. She believes that because it’s such a strong word it could be misunderstood and thus requires further explanation; I agree. So let’s try to discover what Jesus meant when He said:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, even their own life — such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26, NIV)
Let’s start with the context of the book. The Gospel of Luke was written primarily for second-generation Christians, probably in the last quarter of the first century. Luke was a physician who both interviewed and had personal contact with some of the eye witnesses to the ministry of Jesus Christ, and he seems to direct his Gospel at a Greco-Roman (i.e. Gentile) audience. Luke 14:26 is mirrored here:
“Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25, NIV)
In both verses the Greek verb “miseo” (Strong’s G3404) is translated with the following meanings: 1) To hate, pursue with hatred, detest; 2) to be hated, detested. “Miseo” is used 40 times in the New Testament, usually in reference to the attitude the world has for Jesus and His disciples, and vice versa. Some examples include:
John 15:18-19 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (NIV)
John 15:23 “Whoever hates me hates my Father as well.”
John 17:14 “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.”
1 John 3:13 “Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.”
I think a lot of people get hung up on the idea of “hating” our families because our culture places a strong emphasis on family ties. To some of us it might even sound “un-Christian” for Jesus to tell us to “hate” our fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters. But again, note that the word “miseo” is used almost exclusively when discussing the antagonistic relationship between the church and the world. Also note the following verse:
“‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.'” (Mark 3:33-35, NIV)
Here Jesus concludes for us that our biological relationships should no longer govern us when we become disciples of Jesus; family relationships dissolve before Christ.
I believe that because our “true” family is the body of Christ (the church) rather than our biological family members (the world) it is completely consistent for the Gospel writers to use the word “hate” to describe the relationship between believers and their biological families. Again, the word “miseo” is never used to describe relationships within the church, only the relationship between the church and the world. If your father, mother, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, or cousins also happen to be active disciples of Christ and members of His body, so much the better! But just because someone is biologically related to you does not mean you have any allegiance to them once you take on the role of disciple.
Thus in Luke 14:26 I believe Jesus is telling His followers there is an absolute (i.e. black & white) difference between His church and everyone else, even one’s own family. If your parents do not serve the Lord, they are serving some other “god”, perhaps money, family, or even themselves. You should hate them if you love Jesus, because you cannot love them both.
Think about it this way: You don’t really love your wife if you regularly use pornography or have an affair. You don’t really love your kids if you spend your family’s money at the casino or the racetrack. Sure, you like the idea of loving your wife and kids because it sounds nice and it makes you feel good when you fool yourself into believing you love them, but you really don’t. In the same way you don’t really love Jesus if you capitulate to your worldly family on issues of faith and discipleship. Sure, you like the idea of loving Jesus because it sounds nice and makes you feel good when you fool yourself into believing you love Him, but you really don’t. You love yourself. You love your parents. You love your security. You love your cable, internet, and cell phone. You love your retail therapy. But you don’t love Jesus.
How can you believe that you are a disciple of Jesus when you won’t even give up cable TV to support His kingdom?
“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. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27, ESV)