Without question, one of the most controversial verses in the Bible is found in Luke 14:26 it reads:
26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. (NKJV)
This verse for some, has been a pivot point in their decision to reject a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a weighty statement; seemingly a command to hate one(s) own parents and siblings. This is unconscionable and difficult to comprehend. How can the God of love command one to hate, and even more so, their own parents? This question and aforementioned statement can be be supremely difficult to reconcile. So what do you say we give Jesus a fair shake and explore this difficult verse and see where it leads.
Let’s approach this study by exploring three aspects of the verse:
1.) The foundational text
2.) The historical context and
3.) The contemporary witness.
The foundational text will be scrutinized under the Greek Lexicon. The term, “If anyone comes”,) is transliterated by these two Greek words: (erchetai: arrived and entered.) And (misei: detest, love less, esteem less, to renounce one(s) choice in favor of another.
The thought is of one arriving at a certain destination which brings one to a decisive conclusion about a reality. At the moment the individual arrives at his or her conclusion, (and in this case it is relative to divine revelation, what is referred to as an epiphany); he or she immediately enters into that reality. Consequently that reality contains high points of understanding, enlightenment, illumination and purpose; but it also contains dangers, sufferings, loss and sorrow.
Next: We will study the phrase, “and his own life also.” The Greek word for “life” is (psuchēn: which is where we get our English words “psyche and psychology.” Properly translated, “soul.” The soul consists of three parts: 1.) Mind, 2.) Emotion and 3.) Will, in that order. It is the distinct personality of the individual, self aware, sentient. The sentient being did not exists until the breath of life, (the spirit), was introduced to the flesh body. At that great moment, man/woman became a living soul, a sentient being; who was now experiencing the reality of this world through the five senses.
At this point in our study, Luke draws the attention of the reader to yet another epiphany, that man is created in the image of God and now God Himself was standing before them in human flesh, in the man Christ Jesus. Two divine revelations are merged together in order to bring clarity of who Jesus is and what His earthly mission is and what our response should be in light of this new revelation knowledge.
Finally: We examine the phrase, “he cannot be My disciple.” Two Greek words transliterate this phrase; (dunatai: to show ability, to be empowered, and mathētēs: the mental effort, needed to think things though in relation to the cost of the subject being studied.
Which leads us to the historical context. By now Luke records fulfillment of prophecy through Jesus Birth, His right to the throne of David, the worlds first evangelist (Anna 2:36-380, the confirmation of John the baptist’s ministry, the temptation of Christ (which qualifies Him as our High Priest), miracle after miracle including Jesus’ power over nature and His ability to see into the heart of humanity, knowing their thoughts and reading their minds, preaching discourses on a level beyond human intellect, and His impartation of the Holy Spirit to normal, mortals in order to walk in the supernatural; to perform miracles just like Jesus did.
Now Jesus, in Luke 14:26 our study text, addresses the cost of discipleship for the second time. The first time was alone with the twelve disciples after the feeding of the five-thousand (Luke 9:23-27, and an single person in (Luke 9:57-58) Immediately following that two more individuals are invited to follow Jesus but their response betrayed their lack of fortitude, (Luke 9: 59-62). In other words, I believe in you Jesus and I want to follow you but I still want to be able to live my life the way I want to first, then after I have sown my wild oats I’ll follow you.
Great multitudes were now following Him everywhere He went because of the miracles that He performed in their sight; at this moment He turned not to the individual, but to the masses and made it clear.
Allow me to paraphrase: “Look everybody, I know you are all impressed with these wonders you are seeing, but my mission here is way more than just miracles. And pretty soon I am going to be murdered, in part, because of these miracles. You all are following Me now, but what about when it gets ugly? Do you have what it takes to follow me then? When someone spitting hate and contempt says, ‘Hey, aren’t you one of those Jesus Followers?!?’ Will you really stand with me then, or cheese up and run for the hills? When we first met and I revealed to you, who you really are and who I really am, and who you are in Me and I in you, you entered into this work with Me. But do you have what it takes mentally, to choose me and our mission together, despite the inevitable hardships ahead?”
You see folks Jesus never intended for you to hate your parents or siblings or He wouldn’t have quoted Exodus 20:12 in Matthew 15:1-9. We also know that Jesus deeply loved His mother and provided someone to take care of her after His death even while He was hanging on the cross.
25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:26-27 NKJV)
Now if that’s not loving your mother I don’t know what is . . .
Now for the last portion of our study, the contemporary witness: How do we take a two-thousand year old story and apply what we have learned here today? It is no different for us in our choice really. We meet Jesus and He is revealed in our hearts and we come to the conclusion that He is who He says He is. But do the cares of this world override our desire to follow Him? Do we put other people, places and things above Him? Do we allow what other people think and say to dictate how we act and think, especially when it comes to God’s standard for life application and conduct? We meet Jesus in Sunday School and fall in love with His kindness, but high school’s busy social climate soon pulls us away from worship and study. Within the construct of early life we are introduced to sex, drugs and rock and roll. We still know Jesus is out there somewhere but for now, “I gotta get my issue, I’ll catch up with Jesus a little later, what’s the rush?” we say to ourselves. And Heaven forbid we run into hard times because of Jesus. How many folks I wonder have given up on Jesus the first time someone ridiculed them for their faith? “Hey Jesus freak, thumped any Bibles lately?’ ‘ why can’t you just let people alone Mr/Mrs high and mighty?’ ‘The Bible is a work of fiction written by men with outdated, un-progressive thinking, just leave us alone Jesus freak!”
Yes indeed there are many reasons to reject Jesus but hating our family isn’t one of them. The Bible isn’t a work of fiction; it is a historical record of humanity and God’s revelation of Himself to us. If it is fictional then so are the people, palaces and things therein, like the nations of Israel, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq just to name a few. You can’t take such a thorough historical document like the Bible and hand pick the supernatural portions and call it fiction and still be a critical thinker. Critical thinking demands that the two be reconciled. People choose not to believe in God because they don’t want to be held accountable to any moral authority outside of themselves. They want to be able to act any way they want and it be ok. No Heaven, no Hell, no sin and no consequence. It’s that simple. What will your choice be?
2 Corinthians 6:1-10New King James Version (NKJV)
Marks of the Ministry
6 We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For He says:
“In an acceptable time I have heard you,
Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
3 We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed.4 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, 5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; 6 by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, 7 by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.